Tokyo Dev

by Paul McMahon

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Getting a Japanese Visa for a Programming Job with an English Major

I occasionally get questions about being a developer in Japan from readers of this blog, and recently got an interesting one:

I'm looking for a web development job in Tokyo. I majored in English, and currently teach English in Tokyo (with a humanities visa). But during college and after, I've always been doing freelance web development on the side.

I don't have a Computer Science degree. Is it possible for me to get the appropriate visa should I find a programming job in Tokyo?

When I had to renew my visa after founding mobalean, I received a lot of conflicting information about what visa I should be on. To ensure my renewal went smoothly, we engaged Nakai Immigration Services, who were kind enough to also respond to the reader's situation:

A suitable solution provided he finds the new job may to remain under "Specialist" type and pursue engineering related work by mainly using English language skills. The emphasis should not be too much on technical development, as for this he would need suitable educational and/or professional background for a certain amount of years.

As you can see, there is a lot of ambiguity with regards to immigration law. If the reader was to have explained his situation to Japan's Immigration Bureau, they would have told him that, no, he can not get a programming job without having an engineering background. But this doesn't mean he cannot get a job that involves development.

If you have an unusual visa situation, I'd recommend getting help from a professional with handling the renewal, as their job is to look for possibilities for you to get the proper visa, whereas the Immigration Bureau's is to look for a reason to deny you one.

Want to work as a developer in Japan?

I run a job board that exclusively lists jobs for English speaking developers in Japan. Most companies are willing to hire developers who are looking to relocate to Japan too.