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Japan is known for its wealth of cultural activities and opportunities to partake in them, both on a daily basis and in special occasions. This led to a special visa that allows foreigners from different countries to take part and gain insights from the diverse traditions and practices of the country. Familiarize yourself with the application and eligibility requirements needed and you could be next!
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Nowadays, Japanese culture is flourishing more than ever in terms of its reach around the world and a lot of foreigners are interested in engaging and learning more about it. To help you do so in the country of origin itself, learn more about the Japan Cultural Activities Visa right here in this article:
The Japan Cultural Activities Visa is a type of Visa that you must acquire if you are interested in closely studying Japanese Cultural Activities or 文化活動 (bunka katsudou in Japanese).
These activities include the study and practice of
Japanese sports such as Judo
Religion such as Shinto and Zen Buddhism
Japanese performing arts such as dance, music and musical instruments, theater
This visa allows you to learn Japanese Cultural Activities supervised by an expert but without payment or salary. Basically, you become an unpaid intern, research assistant, or disciple that will learn and/or research your chosen Japanese Cultural Activity for about 12-18 hours per week until the end of your visa.
Anyone who is interested in studying Japanese cultural activities like the ones mentioned above is open to apply for the Japan Cultural Activities Visa. However, there are certain requirements that you must fulfill before you can be eligible enough to apply for the visa.
First, the activity of your choice must not include any salary (as we keep saying, this is key) and must be either an academic, artistic, or professional activity indigenous to Japan with an expert supervising it (the other main key). And unfortunately, you can’t just pick one and say you want to learn it; you will need to provide proof that you have some sort of background in said activity, whether academic ties (such as it being the topic of your thesis) or experience in the activity itself. Remember, someone or a group of people are going to take time to teach you over an extended period of time, so this isn’t a visa for amateurs.
Second, you must be able to support yourself financially while living in Japan without making a living. The period of time is anywhere from 3 months to yearly increments, so you have to provide proof that you will be able to survive financially for that amount of time while doing your activity of choice.
Third, you must have a sponsor that can help you with your visa application. This not only separates it from simply being a glorified tourist visit as well as shows that not only are you serious about learning about this topic, but that someone is willing to teach you.
Do you qualify for all of the above? Once you've managed to fulfill the eligibility requirements, let us move on to your actual application. Here are the important requirements that you must prepare in applying for your Japan Cultural Activities Visa:
Certificate of Eligibility
For every visa to come and stay in Japan, you need to get a Certificate of Eligibility. For this, you will need to apply for it beforehand through a sponsor since Certificate of Eligibility can only be obtained in an Immigration Office in Japan. The following requirements are:
Your Certificate of Eligibility Application Form
A recent passport-size picture for the application
Documents about your connection to the chosen Japanese Cultural Activity, such as proof of taking lessons in your home country, achievements in said activity, letters of rec from your academic institution, etc. Basically, the more you provide, the better.
Documents that can prove that you can support your living in Japan like scholarship grants, bank slips, etc. or if someone is going to financially support you, you'll need their financial documents about them like tax certificates and bank slips
Documents about the expert that you will study under like their license, portfolio, and resume, and proof or agreement of enrollment, internship or apprenticeship
There are certain documents required for certain countries so make sure to check with your country's Japanese Embassy to make sure that you're not missing any.
You'll need a Japanese translation of all your documents that aren't originally written in Japanese. All documents must be issued within 3 months of the application date. Also, you won’t be getting back any of the submitted materials, so make sure you have copies.
※ Embassy of Japan in the United States of America, "Cultural Activities"
Okay, so now you know that you’re eligible and everything you need to acquire in order to apply.
The steps to get your cultural activities visa is like most other visas.
Send all the necessary documents to your visa sponsor.
They will apply for the Certificate of Eligibility, which should get to them anytime between a month and 2 months if approved.
Your sponsor will send you the Certificate of Eligibility which you need to take with you with other documents to your local Japanese embassy or consulate. They may ask for additional documents so make sure to bring everything you can think of that they may ask for the first time. Check the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan to find the list of their embassies and consulates in different countries around the world.
If everything goes smoothly, you’ll be able to get your Cultural Activities visa in about a week (whether in the mail or in person).
You’ll officially be granted your status of residence when you arrive in Japan as well as your residence card.
And if you’re already in Japan with a different visa status and you’d like to apply for the Cultural Visa status, things may go even smoother because it’ll take less time for you to send and receive all the documents you need. Just remember to apply for a change in visa status.
※ Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, "Procedures Chart for Short-Term Stay"
Here are additional information that you must know when applying for your Japan Cultural Activities Visa:
The standard visa fee for the Japan Cultural Activities Visa is about 3,000 yen.
This fee could still change depending on the duration of your visit and your nationality so make sure to check with your country's Japan Embassy or Consulate about visa fees.
※ Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, "Visa Fees"
You can expect that the entire processing time of the Japan Cultural Activities Visa can last about 3 months from obtaining your Certificate of Eligibility to picking up your own visa, especially if you’re applying from overseas.
Make sure to plan your schedule ahead of time instead of doing things last minute so that you don’t have any conflicts before your arrival in Japan.
For the duration of your stay you’re granted with the Japan Cultural Activities Visa, it can vary up to 3 months, 6 months, 1 year, or 3 years.
This duration of stay is mainly handled by the Immigration Office who will also process your residence card. Of course you can apply to stay a certain period of time in your application, but it’s up to the actual Immigration Office to make the final decision. So you may get more or less time than you anticipated, but you can apply for an extension and you don’t have to stay the whole time. After all, you’re not getting paid and the agreement is between you and the person you’re learning from.
※ Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, "General visa: Cultural activities"
So...we’ve said multiple times that you can’t get paid while having this visa. But as long as you don’t include this in your proof of financial stability when you first apply for the visa, you could apply for “Permission to engage in activities other than permitted under the status of residence”, which allows you a certain amount of hours of part-time work per week. However, this visa was specifically created so that non-Japanese citizens can learn about Japanese culture - so this visa can be revoked (or an extension rejected) anytime the immigration office feels that your priorities lie elsewhere. So just keep that in mind.
Japan's culture is rich and preserved well by its people. Thanks to Japan's international recognition, more foreigners are interested in learning Japanese culture as well which helps in flourishing and preserving it. If you are one of those foreigners interested in learning, researching, and preserving different Japanese cultures, then the Japan Cultural Activities Visa can help you in achieving those goals.
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