What types of visa are required to work as a chef in Japan?

Outline

According to the report of “The Employment Situations of Foreigners” issued by the Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare in October, 2018, 1.46 million foreigners are working in Japan (including full-time and part-time workers). Among them, 185,000 people (12.7%) are working at restaurants or accommodation facilities.

It is said that 10 to 20% of the restaurants in Japan have the staff who can speak English, and so you need to have more than basic Japanese skills as well as a proper visa for employment. Some restaurants may not require your proficiency in Japanese, if they have more customers from abroad or if you are a chef specializing in certain cuisine.

I will explain about different types of visa in the following part.

Visa Types

Student Visa

学生ビザ- Student Visa

This type of visa is given to students from abroad who go to Japanese language school, professional training college or university for 3 months to 4 years. Currently 300,000 people stay in Japan with this visa. After you come to Japan with the eligibility to “study” for more than 6 months, you can go to a nearby regional immigration bureau and request for permission for activities other than that permitted under your status. Once the permission is granted, you can technically work part-time up to 28 hours per week. It is said that most of the foreigners working at restaurants are students. A student visa will be provided if you go to government-approved professional training colleges for culinary arts (Chorishi Senmon Gakko), but you cannot obtain this visa by going to private cooking schools.

For more details of student visa

Interview of students from abroad who were working part-time while going to professional training colleges for culinary arts with a student visa.

Working Holiday Visa

This type of visa is issued to 15,000 people per year. You need to have a passport issued by a country or region that has arrangements with Japan. The visa is issued for 18- to 30-year-olds in general, whether you work full-time or part-time, and valid for a year. Many people work with a working holiday visa in such areas as Niseko and Hakuba, since they are frequented by European tourists and the kitchen staff may not be required to speak Japanese fluently.

For more details about working holiday visa

Countries/AreasNumber of visa issued per year
AustraliaNo Limit
New ZealandNo Limit
Canada
6,500
Argentina
200
Chile200
UK1,000
Ireland400
Spain500
PortugalNo Limit
France1,500
GermanyNo Limit
Austria200
NorwayNo Limit
Iceland30
Poland500
Slovakia400
Hungary200
Czech400
Lithuania100
South Korea10,000
Taiwan10,000
Hong Kong1,500

Interview of an Australian chef who was working at a ramen restaurant in Japan with a working holiday visa on Japan Working Holiday.com

Skilled Labor Visa

技能ビザ – Gino Visa

This visa is issued for 3 months to 5 years for chefs from abroad who specialize in non-Japanese cuisine. Not only a chef but also a sommelier, pilot, or athletic trainer can apply for and about 40,000 people currently work with this visa. You need to have at least 10 years of experience in cooking French, Italian, Thai, Indian or other international/fusion cuisine. There is no requirement of Japanese fluency. Note you cannot apply for this visa if you work at Japanese restaurants.

For more details of skilled labor visa

Article about a chef from abroad who works at a fusion restaurant in Japan on metropolis magazine

Article about a French chef working in Japan on Foodion web magazine

Specified Visa: Designated Activities

特定活動ビザ – Tokutei Katsudo Visa

(Cultivation of Personnel for Overseas Promotion of Japanese Cuisine)

If you graduate a professional training college for culinary arts in Japan with a major in Japanese cuisine and acquire a cooking license, you can apply for a visa to work in Japan up to 5 years (Specified visa for the Cultivation of Personnel for Overseas Promotion of Japanese Cuisine). This visa started in 2014 and it is estimated that 10 to 20 students from abroad completed professional training colleges and are working at Japanese restaurants in Japan.

For more details of Specified visa: Designated activities

Article about this visa, published in the Japan Times on December 3, 2013

Specified Visa in Kyoto city

特定活動ビザ – Tokutei Katsudo Visa

(International Promotion Program of Kyoto’s Traditional Cuisine)

This visa is issued to a foreign chef delegated for the business of an overseas organization (restaurants) or a foreign chef who is qualified as a Silver or higher level in Certification of Cooking Skills for Japanese Cuisine. You can work at restaurants in Kyoto city for up to 5 years. You are not required to have Japanese proficiency for this visa. This is a new visa that started in 2013 and about 10 to 20 chefs from abroad have worked with this visa so far. You cannot use this visa to work at restaurants outside Kyoto city.

For more details of specified visa in Kyoto city

Article about a French chef who works at kaiseki (traditional multi-course meal) restaurant in Kyoto on Ouest France (All texts in French)

Specified Skilled Visa 

Specified skilled worker (1)

特定技能ビザ – Tokutei Gino Visa

This specified skills visa was newly started on April 1, 2019, which allows foreign chefs to work at restaurants in Japan. There are specified skilled worker (1) and (2), and you need to apply for (1) to work at restaurants. To be eligible, you need to pass a written exam of Technical Skill Assessment and to have an intermediate level of Japanese fluency. Meet these two requirements and you can apply for specified skilled worker (1). The visa is valid for 4 months through 1 year and can be extended up to 5 years. It is planned that the visa will have been issued to 53,000 foreigners by 2024.

For more details of Specified Skilled Worker visa

Summary of “Guidelines for the Operation of the System Regarding the Eligibility to Stay in Japan with Specified Skills in the Food-Service Industry” (All texts in Japanese)

Technical Skill Assessment

The multiple-choice scantron test checks your knowledge of hygiene management, food preparation, and customer service. You can imagine it is similar to Food Handler Certificate in the United States. The exam took place in Tokyo in April, 2019 and was conducted in Japanese. The exams in Japan are conducted in Japanese, but more are also planned in Asia, Europe, or North America. These exams will be operated in the country’s language (English in UK, Thai in Thailand, etc.). Of course, you have a better chance if you take the exam in your native language.

More details about Technical Assessment

Article about this examination in 2019 on the Japan Times

Certification of Japanese proficiency

You need to pass Japanese-Language Proficiency Assessment (Tentative title) or N4 of Japanese-Language Proficiency Test hosted by the Japan Foundation. N4 requires Japanese proficiency for daily conversations and it is said about 300 hours of study is needed to pass the level.

For more details of Japanese-Language Proficiency Assessment

*The information above is provided as of April 15, 2019. Specified skills visa just started in April 2019, so the eligibility may change in the future. I will update any changes here.

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