Japan to introduce six-month digital nomad visas

Japan is set to introduce a six-month visa for remote workers or digital nomads who earn at least 10 million yen (£53k) annually.

The Immigration Services Agency of Japan (ISA) announced the initiative earlier this month which is scheduled to launch by the end of March.

Remote workers from 49 countries and territories are eligible under this initiative, The Japan Times reported.

Eligible individuals, including the self-employed, can stay in Japan under the “specified activities” visa category, provided their home countries have tax treaties and visa waiver agreements with Japan, such as the US, Australia, and Singapore.

The newly introduced six-month visa for digital nomads in Japan will not allow for immediate extensions after expiration.

According to Travel Daily Media, individuals wishing to reapply can do so six months after they depart from Japan.

Visa holders are allowed to bring their spouses and children with them to Japan. However, they must have private health insurance. Furthermore, individuals on this visa will not be issued a certificate or residence card in Japan, ISA stated.

Japan has become part of an expanding group of countries and territories, including Estonia, Mexico, Portugal, and Taiwan, offering similar programs for digital nomads.

The Strait Times reports that this move by Japan is aimed at drawing in more remote workers and stimulating its tourism sector as part of a wider strategy.

Japan envisions that digital nomads will contribute to innovation and invigorate the nation’s ageing workforce.

Meanwhile, the announcement of the digital nomad visa by Japan has sparked a lively discussion on Reddit, especially in the r/DigitalNomad subreddit and the r/Japan page, attracting hundreds of comments.

However, many prospective digital nomads also noted that this new visa, similar to other digital nomad visas, imposes significant eligibility requirements.

The Japan Digital Nomad Association has been advocating for the government to adopt a more proactive stance and formalise practices that have gained popularity since 2020. Ryo Osera, an executive officer of the association expressed support for the newly introduced digital nomad visa, according to ABC News, but is advocating for the reduction of restrictions in light of more lenient policies available in other Asian countries.

“It’s not competitive at this moment … but Japan is now a really like popular destination,” Mr Osera said.

“We are still talking to the government. It is a really big step but it’s not yet enough.”

According to data from Nomad List, a website catering to remote workers that analysed over 300,000 check-ins in its database, Japan emerged as the top-growing destination for remote work in 2023, as reported by CNBC.

“They don’t have wholesale, open immigration that we are used to or that we would recognise,” Shiro Armstrong, director of the Australia-Japan Research Centre at Australian National University told ABC News.

“But there are about 2 million expats or foreigners living on various visas in Japan — and 2 million is not insignificant.

“They’ve got such huge public debt. Government debt dwarfs anything we have ever seen,” he said.

“They need to raise revenue. So if they bring in foreigners on [a lower tax rate], it would be pretty interesting to see how the population responds.”

In South Korea, digital nomad visa applicants must have an annual income exceeding 84.96 million won (£52k) and be employed by a foreign company, allowing them and their families to stay for up to two years.

Malaysia offers a “nomad pass” for up to two years to individuals earning over $32,500 (£25k) annually, provided they work in digital fields such as IT and digital marketing and have health insurance.

Taiwan’s “Gold Card” is not explicitly a digital nomad visa but grants unlimited entry, work, and residency rights for three years, with applicants evaluated on their professional skills.

Thailand’s “Long Term Resident Visa” can accommodate digital nomads for up to 10 years.