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Japan to Relax Rules for Startup Visas, Seeking Foreign Talent

May 18, 2023 Japan Events & Announcements

TOKYO — Japan aims to foster its startup market by relaxing rules for foreigners seeking startup visas, including by letting private companies handle part of the screening process.

The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry will revise the rules as early as summer. Startup visas are intended for foreigners who expect to open a business in Japan within one year of arriving.

Until now, Japan has authorized only local governments to act as intermediaries in startup visa issuance, such as by reviewing business plans and supporting the livelihoods of entrepreneurs. Sixteen municipalities including Fukuoka and Tokyo’s Shibuya ward have been designated.

The planned rule changes also would let venture capital firms and startup accelerators recognized by the government review applicants’ plans and issue preliminary documents. Adding the private sector to the screening stage is intended to speed visa issuance.

Foreigners need a business manager visa to start an enterprise in Japan. Conditions include having employees and capital of at least 5 million yen ($36,750), making it difficult to apply for after arriving in the country.

Japan introduced the startup visa in 2018. In addition to relaxing the conditions, it allowed a one-year preparation period.

Globally, at least 30 countries and regions have introduced visas for entrepreneurs. In many cases, the degree of innovation and impact on society are among factors considered before a visa is issued.

Japan’s startup visa has been criticized as complicated, with a short period of stay. Visa holders can stay in Japan for a maximum of one and a half years, after which they must return to their home countries. Revisions to the length of stay are being considered.

On Tuesday, the economy ministry presented guidelines for support measures benefiting startups. In addition to expanding the number of visas, the plan includes a request for revisions to the taxation system for stock options in order to secure highly skilled human resources.

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