Can I get a work visa to teach English in Japan?

Japan is often regarded as one of the major world destinations for teaching English abroad due to the large number of potential jobs on offer and the large number of people who want to fill them. People come from all over the world to live and work in this most unique of environments and you can join them providing you meet the criteria necessary to gain a work visa. Whether you are drawn by the history and culture, the safe and friendly atmosphere, or the sheer number of things to see and do, Japan is unlikely to disappoint. If you think Japan could be the right choice for you, read on to see what requirements you need to meet.

What are the requirements for teaching English in Japan?

The following represent the basic requirements for teaching English in Japan. However, it is important to know that some of these requirements are not set in stone and exceptions can be made depending on your level of qualifications and your previous teaching experience.

  • A bachelor’s degree
  • A TESOL certificate
  • Native-level English proficiency
  • Eligible for a work visa
  • A clean criminal record
  • Aged between 20 and 60
  • Teaching experience
  • A clean health and drug test

Do I need a bachelor’s degree to teach English in Japan?

Although a bachelor’s degree is seen as a requirement, it is not absolutely essential. Teachers with a degree will be seen as a more professional job applicant in many situations and they will often be prioritized over those without. However, if you do not have a degree all is not lost as many employers will ignore this requirement as long as you have teaching related qualifications and some relevant experience. Teachers without a degree are strongly advised to gain a TESOL qualification as this can go a long way to compensate for not having a degree. If you can show employers you have a TESOL certification, especially a high level one such as a Diploma in TESOL, and some classroom experience then you should still have plenty of options in the job market.

Do I need a TESOL certification to teach English in Japan?

A TESOL certification is not seen as an official requirement when applying to teach English in Japan, but it can make a difference to your chances of securing more sought after positions in the more popular locations. Completing a teacher training course will improve your options as it will provide you with the knowledge and skills necessary to walk into a classroom on day one with confidence in your own abilities as an ESL teacher. Potential employers will be well aware of the importance of this knowledge, both for you as a teacher and for the students in your future classrooms. Completing a relevant training course will also demonstrate to employers that you are serious about teaching and are not just there on a paid vacation.

Our 120-hour online TESOL certification course is a very popular choice with teachers heading to Japan.

We also have an in-class TESOL course that runs throughout the year in Tokyo.

Do I have to be a native English speaker to teach English in Japan?

As most Japanese students have a high level of English language skills, most employers will expect their teachers to be native English speakers. You will be expected to teach in a clear and precise manner, using correct grammar and sentence structures at all times. This applies to both written and spoken English. Non-native speakers can still be hired in some situations provided their language abilities are exceptionally high. Once again, a high level of teaching qualifications and previous experience will certainly help in this situation.

How do I get a visa to teach English in Japan?

Now that we have worked through the main requirements for being an ESL teacher in Japan, it is time to look at how you actually get a work visa to make it all legal. One option is to apply to the national recruitment scheme known as JET (Japan Exchange and Teaching Program). This option has a few requirements you must meet and if you do then it offers a great way into teaching in Japan. One of the major benefits of this route is that all of the paperwork is taken care of for you.

If you find a suitable job outside of the JET Program, you can apply for a work visa in advance via the Japanese embassy in your own country. Your new employer should be able to offer plenty of help with the application process, but you should be aware that you may need to provide some or all of the following documents:

  • A valid passport
  • A bachelor’s degree or higher
  • A teaching certificate (such as TESOL)
  • A clean criminal record
  • Health insurance
  • An employment contract with a Japanese school or company
  • Proof of financial security (bank statement)
  • A resume and photo
  • A sponsorship letter from your employer in Japan

The exact documentation required can vary from one nationality to the next, so it is best to contact the embassy to see what is required in your situation. The visa application process can also be somewhat unpredictable, so it is best to get the ball rolling as soon as possible. Provided you have met all the criteria and have supplied all the paperwork asked for, you should receive your work visa that allows you to begin your exciting new ESL teaching adventure in one of the world’s most fascinating countries.

For information on salaries take a look at our post: How much can I earn teaching English in Japan?

Register for your TEFL/TESOL Course!

  • 1The registration process is free and does not commit you in any way.
  • 2Anyone fluent in English and aged 18+ is eligible for our courses.
  • 3No previous experience or qualifications are required.
  • 4Register today and receive a free e-guide covering the basics of TEFL/TESOL.
  • 5All online courses are entirely flexible and self-paced. Work at your own pace in your own time!

Personal data
Choose your course
   Online Course
   In-Class Course
   Combined Course
The personal information we collect on this page will be treated in accordance with our privacy policy.
By submitting this form you declare to have read and agreed to the Terms & Conditions.