working holiday visa

March 17th, 2012 / by / in: travel / 32 Responses

I figured I’d blog a bit about the whole working holiday visa process, because it’s probably useful for anyone else applying or even thinking about applying. Working holiday visas are meant to allow you to work while also travelling. To apply, you need to be between 18-30, but it’s up to 35 for some European countries. The requirements vary by country, but they’re generally pretty similar. The visa is often for a year, but for some countries it’s longer. If you’re Canadian, there are a lot of choices: Australia, Hong Kong, Taiwan, the UK, Turkey, Poland, Japan, South Korea*, Denmark, and the Czech Republic are just some of the many delicious options in the working holiday visa buffet. (If you’re American — I’m sad for you. Your country has working holiday agreements with no one.)

* If I was for some reason rejected for a Japanese visa, my next stop would have been the South Korean Consulate.

It’s a pretty cool thing, because there are few visas that allow you to work in a foreign country — besides a work visa, of course.

As for the process of applying for a Japanese working holiday visa, it was pretty easy. Here’s a link to the requirements on the Japanese Consulate in Toronto’s website, but keep in mind that these are for Ontario only. These vary slightly depending on where you are. For example, here’s the link for the Vancouver Japanese Consulate — in Toronto, you have to bring an airline ticket and proof of funds when you pick up your visa, but in Vancouver you need them when you apply.

To apply in Toronto, you need:

  1. valid Canadian passport;
  2. application form (included in information package);
  3. one photograph (approx. 45mm x 45mm);
  4. personal history (included in information package);
  5. detailed itinerary in Japan proposed by applicant (included in information package);
  6. letter explaining your motive for a working holiday visa (typed on letter-size paper);
  7. note from physician stating that you are in good health.

The passport and application form are pretty self-explanatory. The application form does ask about a guarantor in Japan, but you don’t need to have one (I didn’t). The photo doesn’t have to be exactly the specified size — they’ll cut it to fit if they have to. I had a spare passport-sized photo from when I applied for a Chinese visa so I just used that.

The personal history isn’t a big deal either. It’s basically a really simple resume.

The itinerary needs to provide some detail on what you plan to do in Japan. You can see someone else’s example here, but mine wasn’t nearly as touristy. I don’t think it really matters, honestly. I put down some places I wanted to visit and live, and most of my activities were working and Japanese language study.

For the letter, you just need to write a couple paragraphs on why you want to go to Japan. Mine was fairly short, and I wrote about wanting to see more of Japan, improving my Japanese, that kind of thing. I also wrote about how this was a good time in my life to move to Japan — I have work I can do remotely, I don’t own a house, I have money, etc. But that’s probably not necessary.

The doctor’s note was easy as well — I asked my family doctor for a note and she wrote me one.

And that’s all you need to apply! You take all this stuff to the Japanese Consulate (you have to go in person) and a week later, you go back and pick up your visa. The Japanese Consulate in Toronto is pretty tiny and was empty both times I went.

When you pick up your visa, you need:

  1. actual return airline ticket back to Canada;
  2. minimum $2,500 ($3,500 for married couple) in travellers cheques (or equivalent amount of other foreign currency travelers cheque) or a bank account statement.

I had a printout of Air Canada tickets and Mike had a printout of his bank account balance. I’ve read that the Consulate wants to see much more than the minimum, but I have no idea if that’s true or not. They hardly even looked at it. (If you’re bringing a bank account printout, make sure that your NAME is on it somewhere — some online banking stuff doesn’t show your personal information on the screen/printout. And obviously if it doesn’t show your name somewhere, they have no way to confirm that it’s actually your bank account.)

When I picked up the visa, they also gave me a some information about how to get a re-entry permit (the visa is single entry) and some other stuff, but I knew it would all be outdated by the time I get to Japan. (Japan is starting a new alien registration system starting in July.)

And that was it!

Now I have the visa in hand, and so begins the process of trying to find somewhere to live in Tokyo that isn’t 150 square feet.

32 Comments to working holiday visa

  • Katie says:

    Hi, I’m wanting to apply for a working holiday visa, but on the application form you need to fill in a guarantor that already lives there, and give their name, Japanese number and address. Do you know if you can still get the working holiday visa without knowing anyone already there?

  • Khalil Omar says:

    Hey there,

    Awesome article and thank you for the info! I’ll be travelling south east Asia and then making my way to Japan. I intend to work there and then after leave and go to Tokyo to continue my travels.

    This begs the question,, what return ticket exactly I provide them? I have a return ticket itinerary from a travel agency that shows my flight to Korea but not return to Canada.

    Thanks for your help in advance


  • Elvin Dante says:

    Wow it only took you one week? Crazy. Any interview or anything like that?

  • Amanda says:

    Hey Melissa:
    I’m wondering were you able to open an bank account in Japan when you were working holiday there? Which bank did you use? Thanks

  • Harvey says:

    Thanks again Melissa, I just got my Visa, and it was so much smoother than that I thought it was going to be.

  • Harvey says:

    I just applied for Working Holiday Visa at the Japanese Consulate in Vancouver. It only took about 5 or 6 minutes. The worker just asked me a few questions about my interest in Japanese culture and spoke a little Japanese with me (Don’t worry, not mandatory, I’m just currently studying the language and had it on my resume).

    He asked me to correct a few errors I had made on the application and then said I could return to pick up my Visa in 2 weeks and that if anything came up before then, they would contact me by phone.

    Thanks Melissa for your overview though, it definitely bolstered my own confidence when I went in haha

  • Sarah says:

    Hi there! I’m also applying from Toronto.
    What’s the difference between the guarantor and the inviter? Do I need to complete both sections? What if I haven’t formally arranged work yet for the last section of the application?
    Thank you in advance! Your article has been most helpful.

    • melissa says:

      My application only asked about a guarantor, not inviter. But I didn’t have a guarantor and you don’t need one. You don’t need to arrange work before you leave either (I didn’t work in Japan at all).

      • Sarah Wei says:

        Thank you so much. About the itinerary, I called the consulate and they told me to be very specific on my travel plans like down to the point of what festivals I wanted to attend and tourist attractions. I know i’m landing in Kyoto and that’s about it.I wanted to develop and gain info once there on my next destination.

        Also, how can I fill out the ship or airline and port of entry into Japan when I haven’t even bought my ticket yet? and entry date? should I just estimate?

        • melissa says:

          I wasn’t very specific in mine — I just listed a few cities and estimated dates. My activities for each place were basically the same: working, Japanese language study, etc.

          You need to have bought an airline ticket before you fill out the application and they need to see it when you pick up the visa. You could always buy a refundable ticket and refund it after you get the visa, though.

          • Sarah Wei says:

            So I have to show them my ticket when I hand in my application? and again when I go to pick it up?

            When you handed in your application, how long was the process at the consulate? I’m on a tight schedule so if I arrive around 1:30, would I be done by closing time?

          • melissa says:

            No, I showed the ticket and bank account stuff only when I picked it up.

            You should be fine time-wise — it doesn’t take very long to drop off the application.

  • Kraura says:

    Hi There! I’m going to be applying for a working vacation visa in a few days and found your article very helpful! I had a question: On my application (I’m also applying from Ontario) it asks for the addresses of the places I’ll be staying at while I’m in Japan but I wont have my address until about a month before I leave. What did you fill out for this section? Did you have a hotel or other accommodation set up?

  • ryan says:

    Hi, what did you do for your guarantor? it asks for a reference or guarantor in Japan yet I have noone in Japan I can use, what did you do on the application for that?

  • Will K says:

    Wow awesome guide Melissa! I stumbled upon it because I am just about to hand in my application tomorrow and I am just getting my papers together!! I hope the process goes as smoothly as you described in your post. I hope your trip went well!

  • Steph says:

    I’m in Japan now visiting from Canada. I don’t have any sort of visa. I helped out at an English speaking preschool and they told me they would hire me full time if I stayed in |Japan. Is there anyway to get a work visa now being in Japan without returning? I have a ticket to go back in march but will change the date if I can get a visa. Any ideas?

    • melissa says:

      It used to be that you had to leave the country in order to change your visa status (for example, from tourist to work), but as far as I know, you can now do it while you’re in the country. Of course, I am not an immigration lawyer and I have no idea about any of the specifics.

  • connie says:

    Just wondering about the medical checkup, did you happen to go to an Panel physician, or did you get your family doctor to write the notice of good health for you. I’ve tried to book appointments with Panel physician and they say they don’t do it for working holiday visa (i’m planning to go to Korea). What would be the best way around it?

    • melissa says:

      I didn’t even know what a Panel Physician was until I Googled it, so no, that doesn’t matter. I used my family doctor.

  • Jenika says:

    Hey I’m going tomorrow for my interview.. was it difficult? Im nervous and kind of psyching my self out. How long did the interview take? What kind of questions do they ask?

  • Saku says:

    How do you get a return airline ticket if you won’t know when you will be back? I was planning on getting a working holiday visa for Japan next year, and I am also from Canada. If I got the Visa in February 2014, and say planned to leave June 2014, how the heck am I supposed to have a return ticket for 6 months or even a year past that? Can you cancel the ticket or something?

    • melissa says:

      Yes, you can get a refundable ticket and cancel it, or just plan to change the dates of your ticket once you know when you’re leaving. But they need to see that you have a ticket out of the country.

  • Cheryl F. says:

    I am really excited for you! I love reading your blog and following you on twitter and I can just imagine how great your posts will be from Japan. :)

Leave a Reply