The Digital Nomad Visa in Japan: Thanks for Nothing

Earlier this February, The Japan Times surprised readers with the news that the Kishida government would launch a digital nomad visa in March 2024. This visa would allow remote workers to stay in the country for up to six months: citizens of 49 countries with visa-free entry and double taxation agreements would be eligible for Japan’s digital nomad visa, and applicants could bring their spouse and children with them to Japan.

To be eligible for Japan’s digital nomad visa, applicants must meet several requirements such as having a valid passport, working remotely, earning at least 10 million yen (approximately 62,000 euros or 68,000 dollars), and having international health insurance coverage during their stay in Japan. Despite these requirements, digital nomads will not be considered residents in Japan, will not be eligible to apply for a residence certificate, or rent long-term accommodations, according to this English-language Japanese outlet, and when the six-month period ends, nomads must leave the country – at least for six months – to reapply for this type of visa with no possibility of renewal.

For now, despite the imminent launch of these types of visas, it is unclear how the application process will work or how much it will cost. Although Japan is the latest country in Asia to implement a digital nomad program, almost 50 countries currently offer programs for remote workers to live abroad for extended periods, including Italy, Croatia, and Portugal.

The Japanese government’s initiative, as is often the case in situations like this in a country where technology and innovation are supposed to go hand in hand with public administrations, is late and poorly executed. South Korea, for example, allows stays of up to two years, and Taiwan allows three, with the possibility for them to apply for permanent residence after three years. In Japan, they invite nomads to leave; a stark difference and very unfriendly to business.

But beyond this detail, which says a lot about the open-mindedness of the Japanese authorities, the truth is that – without knowing the details of citizens from which countries could apply for this type of visa – we could say that this type of visa is as useful as a window on a bicycle: any citizen of these visa-exempt countries (Europeans, North Americans, Mexicans, etc.) can already stay in Japan for up to six months a year without it and without any administrative requirements.

Some of our clients (Europeans, North Americans, Mexicans, etc.) who bought a property or a house in Japan spend between three and six months in the country, in their own homes, working online from them, and enjoying a pleasant life in their respective places. And when they are not residing, some rent out their residences for months, short periods, or days to make an economic return and pay the resulting bills, without any need for permission or requirement.

Some digital nomads have already responded to these “smart” lawmakers of the Japanese government: thanks for nothing. A fair response to something that seems like a joke.