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So you want to start a business in Japan?

by Keiji Senoo

Reader VS writes: “I am a Spanish national interested in getting information about how to start a business in Japan. What is the minimum required to invest for this purpose and how is this linked to obtaining a residence status? Any information — in English — or links where I could get this information would be highly appreciated.”

In Japan, there are various kinds of residence status. These can be divided into two types — those that allow a foreign national to work in Japan, and those that don’t.

Examples of the former include “specialist in humanities/international services,” “engineer,” “entertainer,” “professor” and so on. Basically, the type of work permitted is limited to a specific area of expertise.

However, a foreign national registered as a “permanent resident,” “spouse or child of Japanese national,” “spouse or child of permanent resident” and “long-term resident” can work in any field.

Examples of the type of status where working is generally forbidden include “temporary visitor,” “college student,” “dependent,” “designated activity” and so on. (However, those with “college student” or “dependent” residence status might be allowed to work up to 28 hours per week if they apply for permission from the Immigration Bureau.)

If you want to start a business and live in Japan, applying for “investor/business manager” status would seem to be the obvious choice, unless you have the possibility of acquiring any of the visa statuses listed above that allow you to work in any field.

To acquire investor/business manager status, you are required to invest at least ¥5 million (the amount varies depending on the scale of the business) in your venture in Japan. This total investment figure is calculated by taking into account not only the stock value of any company involved but also costs such as office rental fees, employees’ salaries, expenditure on office equipment and so on.

It is not absolutely necessary to establish a company in order to acquire investor/business manager residence status. However, it will be easier to prove you have invested enough and fulfill other requirements regarding the business if you do. A minimum capital requirement (at least ¥10 million) for establishing a company was until recently enshrined in law, but this system was abolished in 2006, meaning starting a company is a lot easier than it once was.

Applicants have to be able to assure Immigration of the stability and future prospects of the business. The authorities will thus be looking at not just the amount of investment involved, but also sales, profit, employee numbers and so on.

Supporting documents you should submit vary according to the size of the business. If you are starting a small firm, you will need to submit a business plan, copies of the company registration documents, estimates of profit and loss, blueprints of the office premises, documents certifying the amount of investment involved, and so on.

The Immigration Bureau’s Foreign Residents Information Center can provide more in-depth information about these matters to foreign nationals over the phone in various languages, including English, Korean, Chinese and Spanish.

It might also be worth checking out the following sites: the Immigration Bureau, at www.immi-moj.go.jp/english/tetuduki/index.html, and JETRO, at www.jetro.go.jp/en/invest/setting_up/.

Keiji Senoo is an attorney with the Foreigners and International Service Section at Tokyo Public Law Office, which handles a wide range of cases involving foreigners in the Tokyo area (www.t-pblo.jp/fiss) FISS lawyers address readers’ queries on the second Tuesday of the month. Phone 03-6809-6200. Send your questions to lifelines@japantimes.co.jp.