Visa experts?

A friend of mine emailed me the following question, and since I don’t actually have a clue I thought I would toss it out here, for people who actually know to take a stab at it.

A friend of mine in Tokyo (hes there until may, but may be going back later this year) may have the opportunity to work at a friends bar starting from next April but neither he nor his friend knows anything about getting a working visa, and to top it all off he’s always worked in insurance so there’s no way of demonstrating any bar experience, unless of course he can make it up.

So, what kind of visa might he apply for, and what sort of documentation/qualifications might he need? And what IS the deal with all those European guys working in bars? Are they all just married to Japanese ladies and residing on spouse visas?

15 thoughts on “Visa experts?”

  1. In my experience, a lot of the loafing bartenders come on working holiday visas, although you have to be of the right nationality to get one:

    Besides that, there are a few options:
    1) Have your employer sponsor you for a visa
    2) Marry a Japanese person (not recommended unless you really know them)
    3) Claim to be a refugee (not recommended unless you’re legitimately persecuted)
    4) Work illegally (they’ll deport you and fine your employer if you get caught, so also not recommended)

    As far as getting a legit working visa goes, the employer just has to apply for a certificate of eligibility from the immigration bureau. This takes a few weeks to issue. Then you take the certificate to an embassy or consulate outside Japan and get a visa (which can happen same-day in many places provided you book in advance). Alternatively, you can change your immigration status without leaving Japan, but this takes a few extra weeks to process so it’s usually easier to just take a short trip somewhere.

    It isn’t a horribly complicated process but the employer has to file a lot of stuff

  2. Just to give some more info,
    He’s Italian so a working holiday visa is out. I was under the impression that even with a CoE your visa still must fall under one of the categories as defined by the MoFA (i.e., the only one that seems to come close to bartending is “skilled labor”, which requires all sorts of prior work documentation and 10 years (!) of experience in the specific skill (not to mention the fact that it’s highly dubious that being able to pull pints is considered an “industrial technique”, no matter how long you’ve been doing it).
    If on the other hand a CoE grants a “green card” for the work he plans to do then he’s set because that shouldn’t be a problem.

  3. Humanities and international services is an easy visa to get if you have a college degree (I assume this guy would have one, being in the insurance biz and all). The employer would just have to come up with a plausible “legit” job function for an Italian guy–marketing or translation, maybe?–and then bartending could be ancillary. Or something like that.

    Another option which I forgot is to enroll in a school which sponsors student visas. Then the student visa qualifies the holder to work up to 20 hours a week (with an additional work permit that’s very easy to get).

  4. Ditto to Joe, with one added option — if the applicant does not have enough prior relevant work experience, but if the company/bar in Japan has an affiliate/group company in another country (i.e. “MF Bar Japan K.K.” in Japan holds 20% of the shares of “MF Bar Inc.” in Michigan) and the applicant works for the Michigan entity for 1 year or more, he can apply to come to Japan on an intratransferee visa (企業内転勤). But that seems like a long stretch under the present circumstances.

  5. You would assume he has a college degree wouldn’t you….ehm…
    So that strikes off the international services entry…
    Student visa is an option, he was approached by some guy offering a very shady “enrollment” in a possibly ficticious school, but I would immagine that is a very distant last place for now.
    Intratransferee would have been good but sadly it’s a one-off bar owned by the Japanese guy’s dad. I suppose he could set up some kind of dodgy fake activity in Italy that could acquire a stake in the bar, but it all seems very complicated and I doubt neither party would want to foot the expenses.
    So basically no college degree = kinda screwed on most fronts, right?
    Thanks for the info, couldn’t do this on my own!

  6. Actually, Joe, the working holiday visa does not allow you to work in bars, clubs, cabarets or pachinko parlours so those bartenders you know are working illegally. However, while someone working as a hostess might easily be caught in a raid and deported, the police haven’t really bothered nabbing working holiday visa bartenders unless their place of work is known for drugs. The risk of being caught is likely to be slightly higher in the cities but probably low in places like beach and ski resorts.

    There are also restrictions on the type of work you can do with a work permit based on a student visa. Interestingly, however, in March this year, a Chinese student successfully challenged a deportation order which had been issued because she had been working as a hostess and Immigration decided she had earned more money than necessary for her to live in Japan. The judge said “The woman was studying as much as average university students, if not more. Education, separate from her night job, was valuable for her.”

    Most of the long-term foreign (white) bartenders are on spouse visas or even hold permanent residence. There are also some civilians working for the US military who own and work in bars although I believe their military contracts forbid this and the old “blind-eye policy”has been tightened up considerably recently.

  7. “I suppose he could set up some kind of dodgy fake activity in Italy that could acquire a stake in the bar, but it all seems very complicated and I doubt neither party would want to foot the expenses.”

    Well, set up a partnership agreement, or establish non-voting shares in an Italian company, or anything that establishes what looks on paper to be a real relationship between the two cross-border entities. I’ve seen worse — a music-degree holding “engineer” from a 2nd world country, with a Japanese K.K. run by 2nd worlders, with a ridiculous share transfer agreement between the KK and a 2nd world entity, used to bring workers into Japan.

    Visas under the category of “research” or “Entertainment” don’t really work…

  8. What do you mean by Second World? IIRC that used to mean the Soviet/Communist block, which today I suppose could include DPRK and Cuba, and maybe China under a rather loose definition.

  9. The Humanities/International Services seems to be the way to go for now, can anyone clarify the following from the necessary documentation page:

    A diploma or a certificate of graduation with a major in a subject relating to the activity of the person concerned, and documents certifying his or her professional career.

    Would this be an actual degree? He has a 3 year diploma (not technically a degree) in Japanese from a fairly well-know Italian college, and should be getting the Italian equivalent of the TOEFL this year.

  10. Also worth noting that student visas disallow work in “風俗”, like the working holiday visa. But I actually don’t know if conventional bars (i.e. not a host/hostess club) count in there, since most they are providing no special entertainment and in Japan usually have full food menus. I am almost 100% sure that foreign students can legally work in izakaya here (if not, where WOULD most of them work?) so I would assume that the Irish pub selling Guinness with fish and chips falls under the same category.

    BTW, students are allowed to work up to 8 hours per day during certain vacation periods.

  11. Yeah Roy, you’re thinking what I’m thinking. The legal definition of “fuuzoku eigyou” ([restricted] nightlife business) is really complicated but I reckon the bar in question is probably exempt…

    一  キヤバレーその他設備を設けて客にダンスをさせ、かつ、客の接待をして客に飲食をさせる営業
    二  待合、料理店、カフエーその他設備を設けて客の接待をして客に遊興又は飲食をさせる営業(前号に該当する営業を除く。)
    三  ナイトクラブその他設備を設けて客にダンスをさせ、かつ、客に飲食をさせる営業(第一号に該当する営業を除く。)
    四  ダンスホールその他設備を設けて客にダンスをさせる営業(第一号若しくは前号に該当する営業又は客にダンスを教授するための営業のうちダンスを教授する者(政令で定めるダンスの教授に関する講習を受けその課程を修了した者その他ダンスを正規に教授する能力を有する者として政令で定める者に限る。)が客にダンスを教授する場合にのみ客にダンスをさせる営業を除く。)
    五  喫茶店、バーその他設備を設けて客に飲食をさせる営業で、国家公安委員会規則で定めるところにより計つた客席における照度を十ルクス以下として営むもの(第一号から第三号までに掲げる営業として営むものを除く。)
    六  喫茶店、バーその他設備を設けて客に飲食をさせる営業で、他から見通すことが困難であり、かつ、その広さが五平方メートル以下である客席を設けて営むもの
    七  まあじやん屋、ぱちんこ屋その他設備を設けて客に射幸心をそそるおそれのある遊技をさせる営業
    八  スロットマシン、テレビゲーム機その他の遊技設備で本来の用途以外の用途として射幸心をそそるおそれのある遊技に用いることができるもの(国家公安委員会規則で定めるものに限る。)を備える店舗その他これに類する区画された施設(旅館業その他の営業の用に供し、又はこれに随伴する施設で政令で定めるものを除く。)において当該遊技設備により客に遊技をさせる営業(前号に該当する営業を除く。)


  12. BTW, I had to look up the term “ルクス” in order to realize that they categorize the business for purposes of item 5 based on the level of light inside!

    According to Wikipedia, civil twilight is about 3 lx and a family living room is about 50 lx, so I suppose the regulatory cutoff is in the “pretty dark” range–i.e. club dark, not bar dark.

  13. I did know the term “lux” is a unit of luminance but I couldn’t tell you how bright one is. 10 sounds pretty dark- maybe back in the day bars or cafes that dark tended to have prostitution or drugs at the table or something?

    BTW, I’m reminded now of a very strange Frenchman I once met at a party in Osaka, a corpulent fellow who had been working as a fake wedding minister for 13 years, and claimed to have never paid any taxes in his entire life. He also claimed to have spent none of that time in Japan on a legitimate visa, with one of his scams having actually gotten a work visa claiming to be a butler to his friend who worked at the French Consul in Osaka. His friend lived alone in a 4 tatami room in a dormitory, but noone checked that…

  14. The place is a standard bar, nothing special (soon to be remade as an Italian bar, hence the required italian presence to give it the neccessary authenticity…just ignore the fact that the name has nothing to do with Italy and the slogan’s in Itarian), so it hopefully it avoids any of the 風俗 grey area.

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