There are plenty of things people who hope to move to Japan to try out the English teacher life have to consider, from visas and companies to what to bring and where to live. But before you get ahead of yourself, there are some basic eligibility questions you’ll need to clear. First off: do we need a degree to come to Japan and teach?
Short Answer: Yes
For most people in most countries, the answer is YES. You will need a Bachelor’s or higher college degree to be eligible The immigration bureau has set this as a minimum for the typical kinds of work visa you’ll be pursuing to teach in Japan. So if you’re in college now and thinking about coming to Japan, finish up that degree first!
The best way to get around this: Working Holiday
For those of you lucky enough to live in a country with (and qualify for) a Working Holiday Program agreement with Japan, this program is an easy way to get to the country and start teaching without any diploma! This is probably best way, but it does come with some limitations. For example, it’s mostly aimed at a younger crowd (topping out at age 30). Check out the requirements at MOFA website below to figure out if you’re eligible.
These visas are inherently limited in time. If you take a liking to Japan and want to stay longer, you’ll have to convert your visa into a working one with mostly the same requirements as a fresh application.
Are there other ways that will let me teach in Japan?
Technically, the Bachelor’s degree requirement can be substituted with 10 year’s experience in your field. This means you’ve been employed as a (legit) English teacher for 10 years in your home country, and can prove it. That seems like a long time, but if you’re considering coming to Japan later in life as a change of pace this may work out for you.
Coming to Japan primarily to study at a school, you can get a Student Visa which will allow you to apply to do work as a teacher — but only for limited hours per week. Look into language schools or international programs in Japanese universities. It’s possible to change into to a work visa after finishing a substantial study program.
If you have a husband or wife already working in Japan, you can also get a Dependent Visa with similar limitations to how much you can work.
If you’re married to a Japanese national, or your spouse has permanent residency here, you can also get a Spouse Visa which will allow you to do any work freely. Of course, we do NOT recommend trying any kind of sham marriage to get a visa (for a multitude of reasons)!
What about an Associate’s degree?
Unfortunately, Associate’s degrees, technical diplomas, and other certifications don’t fulfill the Immigration Bureau’s requirements for the typical work visa. There are visas for specialist qualifications, but they often limit the types of work you can pursue.
However, when converting your other visa to a work visa (ex., Working Holiday or Student to Specialist in Humanities) there actually is a small chance they will look at your collected experience, your Associate’s degree, and your (hopefully spotless!) employment and tax status, and they’ll grant you the conversion even without a Bachelor’s.
Come on…is there any other way?
Are you super rich, a famous and renowned artist, highly decorated expert in your field, member of a royal order, or other really exceptional person? If so, yeah you can probably come here easily, talk to an immigration attorney. Japan is definitely always looking to people it sees as a boon to the economy, but honestly if you fit these descriptions you probably aren’t going to be teaching at any old eikaiwa…
For the rest of us, there may be some illegal and shady ways (which I wholeheartedly discourage) that will not be discussed here. Instead, look into college to finish that degree (pricey, I know)… or better yet, just come to Japan on vacation! Even if you’re only making friends and teaching them English over drinks during your visit, that can be the realization of a big dream in itself.
In any case – never give up hope! Keep on working toward your goal, and we’ll see you here in Japan, one way or another!