Student visa for Japan: An overview


Are you interested in studying in Japan? Whether it’s for an undergraduate degree, to extend your higher education, or for a shorter course, there are options galore. And you have the Japanese government on your side: their aim is to attract more international students. As a result of that, there are ever more courses taught at least partly in English, and the possibility of starting courses in September, rather than April, as is generally standard in Japan.¹

However, you can’t just walk straight in. Australian citizens wanting to study in Japan will need to get themselves a visa first. This article is your guide to how to do it: what the requirements and visa conditions are, and how you should go about the process.

Visa types for Japan

Australia and Japan have an agreement which means that Australian passport holders don’t need a visa to enter Japan if they’re staying for 90 days or less.² So if you’re just going there on holiday, there’s a lot less paperwork you need to do.

For any Australians planning to stay in Japan for a longer period of time, however, the following visas are on offer:

  • General visa. This is the type of visa required by students, trainees, people doing “cultural activities” like academic research or learning about Japanese culture, and dependents such as a spouse or child.³
  • Working holiday visa. Primarily intended for young holidaymakers, this visa allows you to work to support yourself during a long holiday in Japan.⁴
  • Employment or working visa. As the name suggests, this is what you need if your plan is to work in Japan.
  • Other visas. There are a few other categories, including visas specifically for spouses or children of Japanese people, people doing activities that specifically have to be done by foreigners, and long-term residents.⁵

This article is only intended for people who want to study in Japan for a significant period of time, which means the visa in question is the general visa.

If you’re only studying for a short while - less than 90 days - then you should be OK without a visa at all, because of the visa waiver agreement between Japan and Australia.⁶

Which countries are eligible for a student visa in Japan?

Pretty much anyone is able to apply for a Japanese visa, regardless of where they’re from. Australians are certainly eligible.

In order for the visa request to be granted, though, you’ll need to have somewhere to study.

How to apply for a study permit

The process for getting a Japanese student visa is a little unusual by international standards. In a nutshell, it falls into 2 parts: first, you need to get a Certificate of Eligibility (COE). The institution where you’ll be studying applies for this on your behalf. Then, you apply for a visa yourself at a local embassy or consulate.[1] Let’s break it down into steps.

  1. Get accepted by an institution. The first thing you need to do is actually get a place to study in Japan. This needs to happen before you can apply for the visa - so months and months before the start of the course. To get accepted, you might well have to take tests.¹,⁶
  2. Submit documents so that the institution can apply for your COE. The institution, not you, will apply for your Certificate of Eligibility.¹,⁶ As the name suggests, this certificate proves that you’re eligible to apply - but it isn’t actually a study permit. The documents you’ll need are in the table below. The process of getting a COE will likely take between 1 and 3 months.⁷
  3. Apply for a visa. Now you’ve got the COE, you can apply for a visa at a Japanese embassy or consulate in Australia. You’ll need to take along a few documents, again listed below.

If you do everything correctly, you’ll stand a very good chance of being accepted - it’s something like having a serious criminal record that’ll put your application at risk. Still, it’s a good idea to allow plenty of time, and you may want to hold off on booking your flights until you get the official acceptance from the authorities.

Where to go in Australia to get your Japanese visa

When the time comes to apply for the visa, which embassy or consulate you should go to depends on where you live. Here’s a summary.⁸

Place of residenceEmbassy/consulate
Australian Capital TerritoryEmbassy of Japan, Canberra
New South Wales, Northern TerritoryConsulate-General of Japan, Sydney
Western AustraliaConsulate-General of Japan in Perth
QueenslandConsulate-General of Japan in Brisbane
Cairns areaConsulate-General of Japan in Cairns
Victoria, Tasmania, South AustraliaConsulate General of Japan in Melbourne

Student visa requirements

You need to submit documents at 2 points during the whole process: firstly to get the Certificate of Eligibility, and later to get the visa itself.

Certificate of Eligibility requirements

For the COE, as already mentioned, the university generally handles the application for you. But don’t get too excited: that doesn’t mean less paperwork.

Universities all have their own procedures for this, so you’ll need to wait for them to tell you exactly what they want. The list below is what the government requires for a Certificate of Eligibility application, but it’s unlikely to match precisely with what the university asks you for. You may additionally have to write an application essay, and supply extra copies of photos, your medical history, and so on.⁷

On the other hand, some items on the list below might be handled directly by the school. For instance, they might be able to get hold of an envelope by themselves.

Completed application formThe university should supply you with the form to fill out. If you want a look in advance, it will be this form, or based on it.⁹
PhotoIt should show you alone, facing the camera with no head coverings, with a plain background. It should be sharp and clear, and taken within the last 3 months. The size should be 4 x 3 cm.
Stamped envelopeIt should have JPY 392 worth of stamps on it, so that it can be sent recorded delivery.
Document proving the status of a representative or agentWhen submitting on your behalf, the university will need to prove its own status.
Certificate of admission from the educational institutionIf you’ll be studying as a research student or auditor, documents are also required concerning the substance of your research or the nature of the course.
Proof that you can support yourself financiallyThis should show that either you or another person have enough money to support you during the studies.¹⁰
Diploma and other documents certifying your careerOnly for pre-college students.¹⁰

Don’t forget, though: your university should give you its own list of what documents and forms it needs from you, and it’ll vary from place to place.

Visa application requirements

Once the COE is sorted, the visa application itself should be easier, at least as far as paperwork is concerned. You’ll need the following:⁶

  • Your COE
  • Your passport
  • Another passport photo
  • A completed visa application form.

On the application form, you’ll need to supply details of a “guarantor” in Japan. Check with the university, but you should probably give their details here.⁶,¹¹

Can I work and study at the same time?

You can, but only if you have a work permit. You’ll need to apply for one once you’re in Japan: it’s a sort of add-on to your existing visa status. You might be able to get it directly at the airport on arrival.⁶

Student visa fees

Australian citizens don’t have to pay a fee for a Japanese visa, although nationals of other countries may have to pay a fee in the region of $36 for single-entry.¹²,¹³,¹⁴

Paying for your studies: the best ways

Once you’re all set up, you’ll doubtless be looking forward to getting on with it and beginning your period of study in Japan. You probably won’t be looking forward to handling your finances in Japan - not just because it’s hard to gauge how much things are worth if you’re not used to dealing in yen, but also because you’ll need to set yourself up with a Japanese bank account and probably transfer some money from back home in Australia.

The most cost-effective way to get your money into a Japanese account probably isn’t by using your Australian bank. Specialists in international transfers can offer cheaper solutions with favourable exchange rates.

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Now, back to what you came here to read.

Studying in Japan should be a unique, magical experience, and well worth the complex paperwork it takes to make it happen. Good luck with the application, and enjoy your stay in Japan!










9., PDF accessed via






All sources correct as of 30 March 2019

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