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What You Should Know Before Hiring Foreign Employees in Japan


Hiring international talents in Japan can be a great way to bring a diverse perspective and unique skills to your company. However, it also comes with its own set of challenges and considerations. From visa requirements to cultural differences, you should know a few key things before bringing on foreign employees to Japan.

This article will explore the ins and outs of hiring foreign employees in Japan, including the legal requirements, cultural considerations, and best practices for making your international team successful. Whether you’re a seasoned manager or a new business owner, this guide will provide the information you need to make informed decisions about hiring foreign employees in Japan.

Understand the legal requirements

First and foremost, it is important to understand the requirements for obtaining a work visa for foreign employees in Japan. You have to know which visa type is needed and ensure your candidates meet the qualifications, such as having a certain level of education or work experience. There are some popular working visas:

  • Engineer/Specialist in Humanities/International Services Visa for foreign professionals in engineering, IT, business management, or private language schools.

  • Skilled Labor Visa for foreign workers with specific technical skills and experience, such as food preparation, construction, shipbuilding, and manufacturing (chef of foreign cuisine, sports instructor, aircraft pilot, craftsman of precious metals, such).

  • Specified Skilled Workers for workers in 14 selected industry fields.

  • Professor Visa for foreign lecturers, researchers, and other academic professionals.

  • Business Manager Visa for foreign business managers and executives.

  • Instructor Visa for instructors of foreign languages or other education at elementary, junior high, and high schools.

  • Artist Visa for foreign artists, writers, musicians, and other creatives.

Japan Visa issuing process usually take 5-10 days

If your candidates are located outside Japan, you can start by applying for a Certificate of Eligibility to the immigration office on their behalf. If your candidates already have a Japanese visa, you need to check whether they need to change their visa category for the job. Assist your candidates through the visa sponsorship procedure when needed. After the hiring process is finished, report the employment to Hello Work (ハローワーク), the Japanese government’s Employment Service Center.

Provide the same employment regulation and rights

Foreign employees in Japan are under Japanese employment law, so they have the same circumstances as Japanese employees. It means there are no differences in working hours, annual leaves, social security, taxes, accident compensation insurance, and other labor systems. The company is responsible for enrolling its employees in the national insurance and pension system, even though there is no guarantee that they will retire in Japan.

Here are some essential Japanese labor laws and regulations:

  • It is prohibited to discriminate against an employee’s nationality and country.

  • In the employee’s contract, employers must clearly indicate wages, working hours, and other regulations.

  • It is prohibited to force labor against employees by violence or intimidation and exploit them.

  • It is prohibited to describe the payment of a penalty and damages for non-fulfillment of a contract fixed in advance.

  • Employers cannot dismiss injured or sick workers due to workplace accidents during their absence for receiving medical treatment and 30 days after.

  • Employers must give notice of dismissal at least 30 days prior.

  • Employers must pay the employee’s salary in full and on a fixed date.

  • Employees’ salary is not under the minimum wages determined by the Minimum Wages Law.

  • The permitted working hours are 8 hours a day or 40 hours a week ( certain sizes and types of industries get 44 hours a week). Employees must have at least one holiday a week or 4 days in 4 weeks.

  • Employers must give extra pay for overtime (minimum 25% of regular wages), midnight work (minimum 25%), and work on holidays (minimum 35%).

  • Employees working in a company for six consecutive 6 months are entitled to annual leave.

Create an inclusive culture in the workplace

Building an inclusive culture in the workplace is essential for promoting diversity and fostering a positive and productive environment. Inclusion means ensuring that all employees feel valued, respected, and heard, regardless of their background.

Key to inclusive culture is building a sense of belonging to the team and company. To start, provide opportunities for employees to connect with one another, such as employee resource groups, mentoring programs, and networking events. These opportunities help to build relationships and foster a sense of community among employees from diverse backgrounds.

Hanami party (picnic under cherry blossom tree) with colleagues

Creating an inclusive culture in the workplace is an ongoing process and requires commitment and effort from all employees. Therefore, companies should provide training and education for all employees on topics such as unconscious bias, cultural sensitivity, and diversity. This training will help employees understand and appreciate their colleagues’ diverse perspectives and experiences and create a more inclusive environment.

Leaders in the workplace also play a crucial role in creating an inclusive culture. They should set an example by modeling inclusive behavior and actively promoting diversity and inclusivity. They should also create an environment where employees feel comfortable raising concerns and speaking up when they witness or experience discrimination or bias.

Listening to international employees’ opinions can be done before hiring them. Check out Tokhimo Reviews, a company review platform focusing on building global companies. By reading reviews and understanding what employees are saying about their company, you can take valuable insights to apply in your company and attract top talent.

Be mindful of language barriers and cross-cultural differences

The biggest challenge for foreign workers is to adapt. Japan has unique mannerisms, business etiquette, communication style, and cultural norms. It’s understandable for foreigners to take some time to adjust to all Japanese customs and fit in. What great employers should do is be patient and encouraging.

Language barriers and communication gaps are major challenges in global companies. Even if all company members speak the same language, misunderstandings are still possible. Japanese language, specifically, is a high-context language whose real intentions are hidden under ambiguous words. Therefore, speak slowly and clearly. You may repeat your words a couple of times or phrase them differently to make sure your employees are on the same page.

It’s better to give direct instructions to foreign employees because they most likely can’t read between the lines (kuuki wo yomu) like the Japanese do. For example, specify when the employee needs to turn in a report rather than using “soon”, “urgent”, “when you are done with the previous task”, and so forth.

Encourage foreign employees to ask you questions if they don’t 100% understand the instructions or feedback. Then, answer them warmly and elaborately. It takes time and energy, but it will really help them to settle and adapt quickly.

Provide support and resources

Giving living support is crucial, such as assistance during house renting or opening a bank account. If your employees are not fluent in Japanese, they will need assistance in bureaucratic processes. Some fluent employees may still need help because the language used in legal documents is complicated.

Unfortunately, it’s hard for foreigners to rent a place on their own despite the increasing number of international residents. Many landlords won’t accept foreigners without a Japanese guarantor. Many of them said the reason is the language barrier.

Japanese business etiquette training

Language and cultural training are also forms of company support for foreign employees. Arranging classes in your own office is the best option as you can ensure their attendance and progress. The other way is to give information on where to take these classes, such as private schools and volunteer classes like Tokyo Nihongo Volunteer Network (TNVN).

Employers can also introduce Japan’s government institutions that can help international workers. For instance, Tokyo Employment Service Center for Foreigners in Foreign Residents Support Center (FRESC), Shinjuku Foreigners’ Employment Assistance and Guidance Center, and Hello Work. Some of these institutions offer consultation in English, Chinese, and other languages.

Hiring foreign employees may seem like much preparation. However, a well-structured recruitment process and a supportive environment can help attract and retain the best talent from around the world. Employers should take the time to understand the legal and cultural considerations involved in recruiting foreign employees and provide the necessary support to help them integrate into the workplace and community. Proper planning and support will allow employers to reap the benefits of a diverse workforce, including increased innovation and productivity, while fostering a more inclusive and welcoming workplace.





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