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:
- valid Canadian passport;
- application form (included in information package);
- one photograph (approx. 45mm x 45mm);
- personal history (included in information package);
- detailed itinerary in Japan proposed by applicant (included in information package);
- letter explaining your motive for a working holiday visa (typed on letter-size paper);
- 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:
- actual return airline ticket back to Canada;
- 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.