What is Highly Skilled Foreign Professionals Visa?

In 2012, the status of residence for Highly Skilled Professionals was introduced by Japanese government to invite highly skilled workforce overseas.

Japanese government set the target to increase the number of Highly Skilled Professionals up to 20,000 by the end of 2022. The target has already been achieved by the end of 2019 thanks to the benefit of this status.

In this article, Japanese lawyer explains (i) what is Highly Skilled Professionals Visa? and (ii) Who are qualified?

What is good about Highly Skilled Professionals?


There are many preferential treatment granted for Highly Skilled Professionals as follows.

Benefit 1: Longer Period of Stay

Other status of residence for work lasts for certain period selected by Immigration Bureau from (3 months, 1 year, 3 years, 5 years).  So, Non-Japanese residents need to renew of their status of residence like a driver’s license.

Highly Skilled Professionals are permitted to stay for 5 years from the beginning. Besides, after 3 years of stay in Japan as Highly Skilled Professionals, you can apply for the second stage of Highly Skilled Professionals, which lasts for indefinite period.  Highly Skilled Professionals can avoid annoying repetition of the renewal process.


Benefit 2: Shortcut to permanent residence

To apply for permanent residence, 10 years of stay in Japan is usually required.   However, Highly Skilled Professionals can apply only after three years. If you have over 80 points under Point-based system, you can apply after one year.


Benefit 3: Permission for calling your parent(s)

It is hard to take care of your child without your parent’s support.  But non-Japanese residents are basically not permitted to call their parent(s) to Japan for long period to receive their assistance for childcare.

Highly Skilled Professional are permitted to call either one couple of your parent(s) or your spouse’s parent(s).

They can stay in Japan while you or your spouse have a child under 7 years old or while you or your spouse is pregnant.

To call parent(s), your household annual salary (= sum of your salary and your spouse’s salary) must be 8 million yen or more and the parent(s) need to live together in your house.


Other Benefits

There are many other benefits for Highly Skilled Professionals.

(1) Broader Activities

Highly Skilled Professionals can engage in broader activities than other status of residence for work. For example, researcher type Highly Skilled Professionals may conduct research about some technology as her main job and at the same time she may run business related to such technology as her second job.        


(2) Many career options for Spouse of Highly Skilled Professionals

When a foreign national staying in Japan under the status of residence of “Spouse” intend to engage in activities covered by status of residence for work such as “Instructor”, “Engineer”, “Specialist in Humanities/International Services”, he or she must satisfy certain requirements with regard to academic background, work experience and other conditions and obtain the relevant status of residence.

But a spouse of Highly Skilled Professional may engage in these activities even if he or she does not have the required academic background or work experience, etc.


(3) Employment of housemaid:

Highly Skilled Professionals can hire non-Japanese housemaid under certain conditions such as sufficient amount of household income, working history of the housemaid and circumstance where assistance by housemaid is necessary.


Who can apply for Highly Skilled Professionals?


To apply for Highly Skilled Professional, you have to get 70 points in the so called “Point-based system” established by immigration bureau. In the Point-based system, points are calculated based on your academic background, career experience, annual salary, age and many other conditions.

Only limited people can reach 70 points and enjoy the preferential treatments for Highly Skilled Professionals. But Japanese government relaxes the requirements from time to time aiming at increasing the number of Highly Skilled Professionals. Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications reports, some of the people who have status of residence of Engineer/Specialists in Humanities are also eligible for Highly Skilled Professionals but many of them  have not noticed their eligibility.

Highly Skilled Professionals are classified into 3 types.


Highly Skilled Professionals are classified into the following 3 types according to the difference of activities permitted. Point-based System allocates points differently to those 3 types. So, you, first, need to check which type is suitable for you.

(a) Advanced Academic Research Activities,

(b) Advanced Specialized/Technical Activities, and

(c)Advanced Business Management Activities.


(a) Advanced Academic Research Activities are activities related to advanced research to be conducted under the contract with private or public institution in Japan. Professors of universities and researchers of research institutions fall under this type.

For convenience of explanation, let me call highly skilled professionals who are allowed to do this type of activities, “Researcher-type HSP“.

(b) Advanced Specialized/Technical Activities are activities which require specialized knowledge, skills or experience in the fields of natural sciences or humanities (e.g. laws, economics, social science, etc) to be conducted under the contract with public or private institution in Japan.

Engineers, programmers, lawyer, legal officer, business consultant, doctor, manager and officer of companies and many other jobs can fall under this category depending on the level of expertise required for the job.

For convenience of explanation, let me call Highly Skilled Professionals who are allowed to do this type of activities, “Specialist-type HSP“.


(c) Advanced Business Management Activities are activities of operation or management of Japanese public or private organization.

This type are intended for directors, officers and managers who hold upper managerial position in organizations.

For convenience of explanation, let me call Highly Skilled Professionals who are allowed to do this type of activities, “Manager-type HSP“.

Points are allocated differently for each type.

The Point-based System allocate points differently to each (a) Researcher-type HSP, (b) Specialist-type HSP, (c) Manager-type HSP, although 70 points or more are required for either type.


Basic Points

Basic Points are allocated based on the academic background, professional career, annual salary and age.

Academic Background

Chart 1

For the calculation of the basic points for academic background, only the most recent academic history counts. So, an applicant who has doctor’s degree and master’s degree in the same academic field only gets points for doctor’s degree.

However, if an applicant has multiple degrees (doctor’s degree, master’s degree or professional degrees) in the different academic field, such as doctor’s degree in science and master’s degree in economics, she get 5 points in addition to the points for doctor’s degree in science.

Career, Annual Salary and Age

Chart 2

Chart 3

These charts are a little tricky. As you can see from the chart 2, for Manager-type HSP, length of career and amount of annual salary are highly valued, but there is no point for age. On the contrary, for Researcher-type HSP and Specialist-type HSP, age is highly valued since basic points are allocated according to their age. Besides, as chart 3 shows, there is a age limitation for basic points based on annual salary.

Please note that:

  • the career has to be the job experience related to the job which you plan to do in Japan; and
  • the amount of annual salary has to be at least 3 million yen to be eligible for Specialist-type HSP and Manager-type HSP.

Bonus Points

In addition to the basic points above, there are various bonus points subject to certain conditions.

Bonus Point 1 (Research Achievement)

For Researcher-type HSP and Specialist-type HSP, an applicant can get bonus points if he or she have some research achievement.

Applicant for Researcher-type HSP get 20 points if he or she have only one achievement listed in the chart above and get 25 points if he or she have two or more achievements.

Please note that you need to be the corresponding author to get bonus points for research papers.

Bonus Point 2 (Position)

Applicants for Management-type HSP can get 5 to 10 points, depending on their position.

Bonus Point 3 (Japanese national qualification)

Applicants for Specialist-type HSP can get 5 to 10 points if they have following qualification related to the work which they plan to do in Japan:

  • Japanese national qualifications (e.g. attorneys, physician, certified public accountant, certified engineer, etc.); or
  • record of passing examination or license listed in the IT notification.

Applicant who has one of the qualifications, records of passing exam or licenses described above can get 5 points and an applicant who has two or more of them can get 10 points.

Bonus Point 4 and 5 (Organization)

There are bonus points allocated not to you but the organization hiring you.

An applicant for Highly Skilled Professionals may be able to obtain 10 to 20 points as bonus points 4 if the organization hiring him or her receives the financial support listed in the notice.

Also, an applicant maybe able to obtain 5 points as bonus point 5 if the organization hiring him or her is small or medium sized enterprise and they spend more than 3 % of total revenue for R&D.

It is hard to judge the applicability for bonus point 4 and 5 without asking your employer.

Bonus Point 6 (Foreign Qualification)

Holders of certain foreign qualification can get 5 points, if such qualification is related to your work.

Bonus Point 7, 8, 9 (Education in Japan or Japanese Language skill)

There are bonus points based on applicant’s education in Japan or Japanese language skills as below.

If an applicant has degree in Japanese institution of higher education (e.g. doctor, master, professional, or bachelor degree of Japanese university) , he or she get 10 points as Bonus Point 7.

Also, if an applicant has N1 level in Japanese Language Proficiency Test, or graduated from foreign university where he or she majored in Japanese language, he or she can get 15 points as Bonus Point 8.

Only in case neither Bonus Point 7 nor Bonus point 8 is obtained, an applicant can get 10 points as Bonus points 9 if he or she has N2 level in Japanese Language Proficiency Test.

Scores on Business Japanese Language Proficiency Test can be substitute of N1 or N2 level in Japanese Language Proficiency Test.


Bonus Point 10, 11, 12 and 13 (Others)

Bonus Point 10

Applicant who will engage in one of the advanced projects in growth fields designated by the Minister of Justice can get 10 Points. Like bonus point 4 and 5, it is hard to judge applicability for this points without asking your employer.

Bonus Point 11

Applicant who has graduated from universities specified by the Minister of Justice get 10 points.

Such universities can be checked from this world university ranking.

Bonus Point 12

Applicant who completed the training course conducted by JICA as part of Innovative Asia Project implemented by Ministry of Foreign Affairs may be able to get 10 points.

Please be aware that if applicant took the training as a part of the class of university or graduate school of Japan, he or she cannot get this bonus point 12 in addition to the bonus point 7.

Bonus Point 13

An applicant for Manager-type HSP who has invested 100 million yen or more in the Japanese organization he or she manage can get 5 points.

DISCLAIMER: The article has been written on September 2020. Immigration law changes quickly. So it is vitally important to be aware of the current situation.