Guide to Moving to Japan

Guide to move in to Japan

Moving to Japan? Find out what to expect and some administrative steps you may need to know about in our guide below.

Entry/Visa Procedure


An example of a residence permit

Certain foreign nationals who plan to stay for less than 3 months are exempt from applying for a visa. Certain foreign nationals who plan to stay in Japan longer than 3 months must apply for a long-term visa with a valid passport. The requirements for a Long Stay Visa are different depending on your citizenship so make sure to check the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website to find your exact requirements. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs also has specific information about Working Holiday Visas and eligibility requirements on website.

In addition to a visa, expats in Japan need to have a Residence Permit in order to live in Japan. A residence permit guarantees that you are a legal and proper resident in Japan. There are 27 different categories of a residence permit. They depend on the applicant's employment status, duration of stay and activities in Japan. The more common types of residence permits for expats in Japan are: Working Holiday Visas, Specialist in Humanities Visa (commonly used for teaching English in Japan), College Student Visa and Cultural Activities Visas. You will usually receive this card upon arrival, at the airport. However, you will need to register your address on your residence card at your local Ward Office.

Health Insurance

Japan offers a universal health insurance to all residents in Japan, including foreign nationals who stay in Japan for over three months. If you are planning to stay for over three months, you must register for public health insurance. You can do this either through your employer (kenko hoken) or as someone who is self-employed or unemployed (kokumin kenko hoken). Check with your employer how to apply for health insurance if you are applying for Employees Health Insurance (kenko hoken). If you are applying for National Health Insurance (kokumin kenko hoken), you must file the paperwork at the National Health Insurance Division of the local municipality with which you are registered (for your residency permit). 

In general public health insurance covers approximately 70% of total medical expenses, though some examinations, surgeries, or medicine-bills may not be covered. You must pay a premium for public health insurance, this will depend on your income level, the number of people in your household, your age, and the area you live in.

National Pension Plan

All foreign residents of Japan between the ages of 20 and 60 must enrol in the national pension plan (Kokumin Nenkin), regardless of their nationality. If you are already enrolled in pension insurance by your employer, you will automatically be enrolled in the national pension plan. Otherwise, you can apply for the national pension plan at the pension plan window in the municipal office for your area.

Special Case Students on a student-visa are exempt from this requirement. However, if you later engage in full-time work in Japan, you might be required to retrospectively pay the pension insurance that you were exempt from as a student.

Driving Licence

What is acceptable as a Driving Licence in Japan?

  • A driver's licence issued in Japan
  • An International Driving Permit (IDP) based on the Geneva Convention on Road Traffic
  • A driver's licence from Switzerland, Germany, France, Belgium and Monaco, Estonia and Taiwan, with an official Japanese translation

An official translation can be obtained from JAF (Japan Automobile Federation). You can check  JAF's page dedicated to applications for translations.

How to Open a Bank Account in Japan

You can choose to open a bank account in a private bank (like Citibank Japan, Shinsei Bank, or Mitsubishi), as well as in the post office. You will need the following documents to open a bank account:

  • Your residence card and passport
  • A small deposit of 1000 yen
  • Your inkan or hanko stamps (these are stamps which you can use instead of having a handwritten signature, you can make one at your nearest hanko store)
  • An official proof of residence, for exaple a recent utilities bill (e.g. electricity, water, gas, etc)/li>
  • A marriage certificate or work certificate, if applicable 

It might be tricky to open a bank account at some banks due to translation difficulties. We suggest Shinsei Bank or the post office for a foreigner-friendly service.

How to Start Utilities in Japan

Utilities such as electricity, water and gas are crucial for your everyday life, and a utility bill is necessary for opening a bank account in Japan. You should try to open your utility accounts as soon as possible after your arrival in Japan. We explain this procedure in our guide: How to Start Electric Utilities in Japan?


Example of a Japanese plug socket

Type of Sockets/Plugs used in Japan

Electricity voltage in Japan is 100V, and the sockets used are known as type A. This is a different standard for electricity compared to most countries in Europe, America and Australasia. If you are bringing electronics purchased outside of Japan, you will need to use adapters and converters in order to be able to use your appliances properly. See our guide Voltage & Electricity in Japan for more information on whether you need an adapter, a converter or both. 

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