Japan Student Visa: A Guide to Requirements and Application Procedures

Unless you are a Japanese passport holder or have some other valid status of residence (i.e. visa) allowing you to stay in Japan you will need to obtain a Student Visa before you enter Japan to commence your studies. Obtaining a Student Visa is therefore an important part of University Admission in Japan.


Thankfully, obtaining a Student Visa to study in Japan in 2023 is a relatively straightforward process, as long as you answer the questions asked on the Certificate of Eligibility form truthfully and have sufficient financial support. The university, senmon-gakko or language school you are enrolling in will apply for the Certificate of Eligibility on your behalf and therefore will have staff well versed in the application process.

You will be asked to provide your financial sponsor’s details and proof of their income. Typically they will need to evidence a year’s worth of your tuition fees and living expenses.

The processing time for a Certificate of Eligibility application is typically 6-8 weeks, but can take up to 12 weeks or longer. This is the primary reason university application deadlines in Japan are so early.

Once the COE is ready to be sent to you the admissions department will confirm your address so it can be couriered to you and in many cases, including at iCLA, this is when you will need to pay your first semester’s tuition fees.

Once you have received your COE you will need to make an appointment to visit your nearest Japanese embassy or consulate to convert your COE into a student visa. You will need to give them your passport and in some cases, pay a small application fee. Processing takes about a week, after which, you will be free to enter Japan.

Types of Visas

Whether you are studying at a University, Technical School or Language School, you will be on a Student Visa. All will allow you to work part-time up to 28 hours per week once you have applied for and received a working permit. Typically you will either be given a student visa for the length of your course or for an initial period of two years if you are entering a university course.

Student Visa Requirements

In order to apply for your student visa you will first need a Certificate of Eligibility, or COE for short. Your university will apply for the COE on your behalf but they will need you to answer some questions and submit some relevant documents. In the past you were also required to submit a health check that included a tuberculous examination result, however that has not been the case for a number of years.

Importantly, you will be asked to provide your financial sponsor’s details and proof of their income, so please have this information ready. Typically your sponsor will need to evidence a year’s worth of your tuition fees and living expenses, taking into account any scholarship offer you may have received. iCLA’s recommendation is to evidence 2,000,000 yen of annual income and savings if you have not received a scholarship.

This can take the form of:

    • Bank Statements
    • Income Statements
    • Previous year’s tax return
    • Proof of stock holdings, rental receipts or other sources of saving/income
    • Scholarship award letters

Any documentation not in Japanese or English will need to be translated into either language.

You will also need to submit the following:

    • Copy of the photo page of your passport
    • 4×3 ID photo, taken against a solid white background, showing a clear view of your face. The guidelines for this photo are the same as for a passport photo, so please follow those. The photo should be sent as a jpeg.

Steps of Application Process

1. Accept the offer, submit your financial supporter’s documents and pay the enrollment fee.

Once you have confirmed that you would like to accept your offer to study at iCLA, we will unlock a new “Visa” section of the application system for you and direct you to complete it and send us your financial supporter’s information. The new visa section asks all of the questions needed for the Certificate of Eligibility application form. In this section we will ask for if and when you have visited Japan before, if you have any relatives in Japan and most importantly, if you have applied for a COE before. We cannot stress the importance of answering these questions truthfully.

2. iCLA submits your COE Application to the Immigration Department

Once you have completed the new Visa question section of the application system, our staff will check your answers and generate your COE application form, which we will then submit to the Immigration Department.

3. The Waiting Game

Once your application has been submitted, it typically takes 6-8 weeks for your COE to be delivered back to the University, however post COVID, unfortunately we have seen COE’s take 10-12 weeks to come back to us. If there are any issues with your application, or the Immigration Department seeks more information they will contact us, and we will follow up with you. The speed at which you reply to our communications will go a long way to reducing the amount of time it takes to have your COE issued.

4. COE arrives back at the University

Once your COE has been issued by the immigration department an electronic and/or physical copy will be sent to us. At this time we will contact you and ask you to pay the first semester’s tuition fee and to confirm the address you wish the COE to be sent to. Once your payment has been confirmed, we will send you both the electronic (via email) and physical (via DHL or Fedex). Increasingly, many Japanese embassies only require the electronic copy of the COE to apply for the student visa and in those cases, we will not courier the physical copy to you.

5. Book an appointment at your nearest Japanese Embassy or Consulate

You now need to convert your COE into a Student Visa. You do this by applying for a Student Visa at your nearest Japanese Embassy or Consulate. Most will not allow walk-ins and in some countries, the Embassy may have outsourced scheduling and applications to VFS. Check your local Embassy’s website for more details. Some require an interview, some charge for student visa applications, you will just need to check. Once you submit your passport, COE, student visa application form and fee, if applicable at the embassy or consulate nearest you, it will typically take them a week to process it.

6. Get to Japan

Congratulations! You now have a student visa in your passport, you can finally enter Japan. We would only ever recommend booking your flight at this point because we cannot be held liable for any delays in processing, shipment of the COE, availability of student visa application appointments at your local embassy, etc. If your university is like iCLA there will also be specific dorm move-in dates on which you should arrive.  


Can’t I just come to Japan on a Tourist visa and change my visa status to student once I’m here?

No, you may not enter Japan as a tourist and switch to a student visa once you are here. The Japanese Immigration Department does not recommend entering Japan on a tourist visa if you will ultimately be under another visa type. There is always the possibility that Immigration will deny your application for a student visa, and in that case, you would have to leave Japan before your tourist visa expires. This is the reason why the Japanese Department of Immigration recommends that people only enter Japan with the correct visa for their intended activity in Japan. iCLA strongly encourages you to do the right thing and get your student visa at your nearest Japanese embassy or consulate before entering Japan.

What to do if your application is denied or delayed?

A better question is, “How do I prepare myself so this doesn’t happen to me?”

The answer to which is: 

    • Monitor your email account daily and respond to communications from the university ASAP
    • Prepare your financial supporter’s documentation well ahead of time
    • Accept your offer as early as possible
    • Pay your enrollment fee promptly
    • Answer the COE application questions promptly and truthfully

Having done all that, please accept that COE processing times are out of the university’s hands but in almost all cases, COE’s are issued in time for the start of the semester.   

How to extend or change your student visa status?

Typically your first student visa will only be valid for two years but don’t worry, it’s very simple to renew. Your university, technical, or language school will provide all of the documentation and instructions required to renew it if you are still enrolled. You will then take that to your local immigration office, pay the 4000 yen renewal fee (as at Oct 2023) and you will be issued a new residence card that shows that your student visa has been extended.

Do I have to be a full-time student?

Yes, you do. Being on the status of residence of “Student” means full-time student only. I.E. your main purpose for being in Japan is to study. For undergraduate students at iCLA, full-time enrollment is defined as taking 12-18 credits worth of classes in the fall and spring semesters. 

Can I work part-time on a student visa?

Once you have applied for and obtained the work permit, you can work up to 28 hours a week during the semester, and 40 hours a week during vacations. You can apply for the work permit either at the airport when you first arrive, or at an Immigration department office anytime afterward. Check out our article on part-time jobs in Japan for Students for more information.  

I’m going home for the winter or summer break, do I need to tell Immigration?

No. The immigration department phased out the re-entry permit system some time ago. When you depart Japan, just make sure you complete the re-entry card at the airport and tick the box stating you will return within a year. This shouldn’t happen but most importantly, don’t let anyone hole-punch your residence card!


iCLA’s Admission’s team comprises people with experience in International education from around the world at it is our solid opinion that compared to many other G7 and G20 nations, securing a Student Visa in Japan and the requirements for a Japanese student visa are very simple in comparison. This is yet another reason why studying in Japan is increasingly attractive to international students.