S.E. has been working at the same English school for 16 years but is thinking of leaving her job and moving to another part of Japan.

“My visa is ‘Specialist in Humanities’ and will expire in October 2013. I don’t have a job but a friend of mine is going to open an English school and I plan to work there.”

S.E. asked several related questions, two of which we’ll cover in future columns, but the questions we’ll address here are: “How will moving and leaving my job before my visa expires affect my status? Will the visa become void? Can I keep my visa status until it expires without getting another job?”

If you change jobs before your visa expires, how it affects your status depends first on the type of job you change to. For example, if you teach at an English conversation school now and plan to work at a different school, you will, in most cases, keep the same visa. So given that you want to work at another school, you would probably keep your current visa rather than get a new one. So you would only need to report your new employment information to Immigration — nothing else would, in most cases, change.

If you change job types, such as going from teaching at an English school to a public elementary school, or if you go from a working visa to a dependent or spouse visa, you would need to get a new visa (permission for change of status of residence), and your other visa would become void.

That said, if you leave your current job and don’t have a new one lined up, you generally have 90 days to start before Immigration begins the process of revoking your visa. However, if you’ve lost your job but have proof you are actively trying to find something, such as by using a recruitment agency or Hello Work, Immigration will consider giving you more time before they revoke your visa.

Keep in mind that you still must report employment changes to Immigration within 14 days of leaving your job, even if you don’t have a new job lined up yet.

In other words, let’s say you leave your current job on Aug. 1, 2012, but don’t have your next job lined up. You need to report the change in your employment status by Aug. 15. You’ll then have 90 days from Aug. 1 to start a new job, up until Oct. 30.

Generally, you can’t keep your visa until it expires if you’re not working, or as Immigration puts it, not “engaging in authorized activities.” Ultimately, however, Immigration will make decisions on a case-by-case basis, so the examples above are only a guide.

K.K. asked if there is a limit to the number of hours someone with an “Instructor” visa can work.

“I’ve heard somewhere that we’re restricted by law to working only 35 hours per week, but I can’t for the life of me find it.”

Immigration doesn’t determine the maximum working hours for those with working visas — this is decided by the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare. As such, the workweek in Japan is, by law, 40 hours a week, divided into eight hours per day (this doesn’t include overtime; see our Aug. 9, 2011, column, “Scant legal justification for unpaid overtime,” for more about this). However, a lot of employers, particularly public schools and English conversation schools, have working hours less than 40 hours a week, such as 35 or less than 30. This varies by employer, as each can decide their employees’ working hours.

All that said, if you’re here on an Instructor visa, other than the maximum 40 hours a week and possible overtime, the number of hours you work each week will be determined by your employer and set out in your contract. Some firms will not allow any outside paid work, in which case you are limited to the hours determined by your contract, which will be 35 hours in many cases.

Many thanks to David Thompson for his research assistance. Ashley Thompson writes unique how-tos about living in Japan at www.survivingnjapan.com. Send questions to lifelines@japantimes.co.jp

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