There are various types of status of residence in Japan, but the second most common status of residence obtained by foreigners working in Japan is the “Engineer/Specialist in Humanities/International Services”.
In this article, we will explain what the “Engineer/Specialist in Humanities/International Services” status of residence is, and how to apply for it.
- What is “Engineer/Specialist in Humanities/International Services”?
- Requirements and Scope of Activity for “Engineer/Specialist in Humanities/International Services” status of residence
- Required Documents
- Number of New Foreigner Arrivals and Holders of Residence Status in Japan
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1. What is “Engineer/Specialist in Humanities/International Services”?
The “Engineer/Specialist in Humanities/International Services” category is one of the 29 types of status of residence stipulated in the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act (hereinafter referred to as the “Immigration Control Act”). This is a status of residence for foreign nationals that have an academic background, such as a university degree, or with a certain level of work experience, who wish to engage in work that requires a certain level of expertise and skills acquired by the education received in school or their prior work experience. or to engage in activities that require thinking or sensitivity based on foreign culture.
Another way to obtain this status will be from an industry that seeks a skilled foreigner for their outside perspective. Many Japanese companies are shifting towards globalization, hence looking for foreign influence.
As of the end of December 2020, there are approximately 280,000 foreign nationals living in Japan with this status of residence, the second largest number of residents among the 19 types of work-related status of residence, only second to the 370,000 holders of the “Technical Intern Training” residence status. The “Engineer/Specialist in Humanities/International Services” is often abbreviated to “Gijinkoku” because the name is long, difficult to pronounce and hard to remember. You may have heard of it at least once.
“Engineer/Specialist in Humanities/International Services”or “Gijinkoku” is an integrated residence status.
The “Engineer/Specialist in Humanities/International Services” status was originally two independent statuses, “Engineer” and “Humanities/International Services“.
However, due to a partial revision of the Immigration Control Act in June 2014, it was integrated into the ” Engineer/Specialist in Humanities/International Services” status, which came into effect the following year in April 2015. There are four types of residence periods: five years, three years, one year, and three months.
The following notice is posted on the Immigration Bureau’s website regarding the enforcement of the revised Immigration Control Act.
“In order to flexibly respond to the needs of companies and other organizations regarding the acceptance of foreign nationals in specialized and technical fields, the categories of “engineer” and “specialist in humanities/international services” based on the category of knowledge required for the work (science or humanities) will be eliminated, and the comprehensive status of residence “engineer, specialist in humanities, and international services” will be the result of such integration. Since this is not enough to understand the history of the amendment, the following is a partial list of how the “Engineer” and “Specialist in Humanities/International Services” residence statuses were handled before the amendment.”
Classifying the Nature of Work into Two Fields: Sciences and Humanities
If a Japanese person graduates from a university in the field of science and works in an office environment to carry out desk-work duties such as a career-track position, or from a university in the humanities field and works as a system engineer, he or she can find a job without any difficulty. These typical scenarios remain the same.
However, when foreign students applied to change their status of residence from “Student” to “Engineer” or “Specialist in Humanities” to find a job in the above cases, they were not allowed to do so. The Immigration Bureau made a clear distinction between science and humanities in terms of the skills or knowledge required for the work the foreigner intends to engage in. Some foreign students were not able to obtain “Engineer” or “Specialist in Humanities/International Services” status because they were required to have graduated from a liberal arts university for clerical work and from a science university for information processing related work.
These restrictions were then revised and some of the restrictions have been eased. Graduates of liberal arts colleges have been permitted to engage in information processing-related work with the “humanities/international services” status of residence. However, some foreign students were still unable to obtain a status of residence and could not find a job, so the law was revised again due to requests from companies that
The Applicable Scope of Activity
The activities that can be carried out under the “Engineer/Specialist in Humanities/International Services” status, which was integrated as a result of the amendment to the law, are defined as follows.
Activities to engage in work that require knowledge in the field of science, technology, engineering, natural sciences; or in the field of humanities such as jurisprudence, economics, sociology, etc., or work that requires foreign influence. All based on a contract with a public or private organization in Japan.
2. Requirements and Scope of Activity for “Engineer/Specialist in Humanities/International Services” status of residence
The activities that can be performed under the “Engineer/Specialist in Humanities/International Services” status of residence are as described above, but the following types of work are generally permitted under this status.
Translation/interpretation, language teacher for private companies, merchandising/ sales, overseas business, technical development, trade business, design, public relations/publicity, education, accounting, designer.
For typical examples of activities recognized as “Engineer/Specialist in Humanities/International Services,” the Immigration Bureau of the Ministry of Justice (at the time) published a document in March 2008 (revised in March 2015) titled “Specifications of ‘Engineer/Specialist in Humanities/International Services’ Status of Residence, etc.” Please refer to this document.
Once you have been granted a status of residence, the next requirement is that you must comply with the Ministry of Justice’s Ministerial Standards Ordinance. The basic items stipulated in the Ministerial Ordinance are as follows. Please note that the requirements differ depending on whether the work you intend to engage in falls under the category of ” Engineer/Specialist in Humanities” or “International Services”.
Activities that require foreign influence in natural sciences, humanities, or foreign cultures that are performed under contract with a public or private organization in Japan.
(“Contract” includes not only employment but also delegation, consignment, commissioning, etc., and it must be continuous.
Requirements for “Engineer/Specialist in Humanities” category
In addition to the following job descriptions, either the educational background or work experience requirements must also be met.
Nature of work
Activities that require knowledge in the field of natural science or humanities.
Educational background requirements (one of the following applies)
- A person who has graduated from a university majoring in a subject related to the job. University graduates include those who have graduated from junior colleges, graduate schools, or research institutes affiliated with universities in Japan or overseas, in addition to universities.
- However, those who intend to engage in information processing work and have qualifications related to information processing technology as specified in the Minister of Justice’s public notice do not need to meet the academic background requirement.
- Those who have completed a professional training course in Japan majoring in a subject related to their work, and have been granted the title of “Professional Engineer” or “Advanced Professional Engineer”.
The applicant must have at least 10 years of work experience and have acquired the necessary knowledge.
If the applicant has majored in a subject related to the work at a university, technical college, etc., that period can be included in the work experience.
It is required to engage in work that requires expertise, knowledge, and skills in the field of natural science or humanities, instead of simple or physical labor. Therefore, if the work is done in a factory or workshop, it is necessary to provide evidence that the work requires a certain level of knowledge and skills so that the immigration authorities will not suspect that the work isn’t just simple labor.
In some large companies, in order to give candidates a broad experience of the company’s operations, they may be required to do simple work in the field as part of their initial training. If this is the case, a career and training plan should be prepared, and it should be detailed in writing that the simple work in the field will be limited to a short period of time immediately after joining the company, and that the employee would need this work for future career development.
The same goes for small companies which may be a bit difficult to provide convincing evidence. For more information on this point, please refer to the document “Specifications of Status of Residence for Foreigners Working in Hotels and Japanese Inns” prepared by the Immigration Bureau of the Ministry of Justice in December 2015.
Requirements for “International Services”
The applicant must meet all the following requirements for work description and experience. In the case of those engaged in translation, interpretation, or language instruction, even if they do not meet the work experience requirements, they are eligible if they can meet both the work description and educational background requirements.
Description of Work
Work that requires influence based on a foreign culture. Specifically, the work must be translation, interpretation, language instruction, public relations, publicity, overseas trading, design related to clothing or interior decoration, product development, or other similar work.
At least 3 years of work experience related to international business.
Must be a university graduate. University graduates include those who have graduated from junior colleges, graduate schools, or institutes affiliated with universities in Japan or overseas, in addition to universities.
Requirements for Remuneration (Salary)
In any of the fields of “engineer,” “humanities,” and “international services,” the remuneration must be equal to or greater than that received by a Japanese national.
3. Required Documents
In the “Engineer/Specialist in Humanities/International Services” category, both the company’s information and the foreigner’s personal information will be reviewed based on the documents submitted. It is important to prepare the necessary documents for each situation before applying, as any incomplete or unclear information will result in immediate rejection.
Please note that the following are the minimum required documents, and that there may be additional documents that need to be submitted depending on the company’s situation, the foreigner’s background, the job description, and other factors. Please also refer to this page for the flow of each procedure.
Application for a Certificate of Eligibility
An application for a Certificate of Eligibility is a procedure to allow entry for a foreigner living abroad to Japan. The company that decides to hire the foreigner submits the application to the local immigration office. After receiving a certificate of eligibility, it is sent to the applicant in the foreign country. The applicant will then apply for a visa at the Japanese Embassy or Consulate-General of Japan in that country with the Certificate of Eligibility attached. The required documents are as follows:
(a) Application Form for Certificate of Eligibility
(b) Photograph (4cm in length x 3cm in width)
※ A clear front photo (any form of head coverings or background excluded) taken within 3 months prior to application.
(c) A self-addressed stamped envelope (for registered mail) attached to a standard-sized envelope.
(d) A copy of the total list of statutory records such as the withholding slip of salary income of the employee for the previous year (with a seal of acceptance).
If you are filing electronically, please send a copy of the following documents. (In the case of electronic filing, attach the “Email Details”)
In the case of a listed company, a copy of the quarterly report or a document certifying that the company is listed on a Japanese stock exchange (copy) is acceptable.
(e) For those who have graduated from a vocational school and have been granted the title of a specialist or senior specialist, a document certifying that they have been granted the title of such. (one copy).
In addition to the above, the following documents are required for smaller companies.
- Employment contract or notice of working conditions
- Certificate of graduation of the applicant (in some countries it may take several weeks or months to be issued, so it is advisable to inform the foreigner in advance that a certificate of graduation is required if the applicant is planning to apply for “Engineer/Specialist in Humanities/International Services”)
- Corporate Registry
- Detailed information of the Company History, Executives, Organization, and Business Activities of the company (including major clients and business results).
A copy of the financial documents for the most recent fiscal year can be found on the Ministry of Justice website. In addition, although it is not considered a required document, it is common to prepare a statement of reasons for employment, in which you explain the background of the employment and the applicant’s duties. It is also recommended that you submit a daily, weekly, monthly, or yearly work schedule, as well as your future career plans.
In some cases, the Immigration Bureau may ask you for additional documents after you submit your application. In that case, make sure to submit the documents as instructed within the deadline. If you are unable to meet the deadline, you can ask the Immigration Bureau to extend the deadline by informing them. According to the Ministry of Justice, the standard processing time is one to three months. However, this is only a guideline. The actual length of time it takes will vary depending on the individual case. The actual examination processing time is published on the website of the Ministry of Justice.
Application for Permission to Change Status of Residence
An application for permission to change status of residence is a procedure for foreigners who are already living in Japan and wish to change their current status of residence.
For example, a foreign student who has graduated from a vocational school or university in Japan must change his or her status of residence from “Student” to “Engineer, Specialist in Humanities, or International Services” in order to work at a company. The required documents are as follows:
(a) Application Form for Change of Status of Residence
(b) Photograph (4cm x 3cm)
(c) Passport and resident card (to be presented)
(d) A copy of the withholding slip of salary income for the employee from the previous year (a copy with a seal of acceptance)
※If the company is listed, a copy of the quarterly report or a document certifying that the company is listed on a Japanese stock exchange (copy) is acceptable.
(e) For those who have graduated from a vocational school and have been granted the title of “specialist” or “highly-skilled specialist”, a document certifying that they have been granted the title of “specialist” or “highly-skilled specialist”.
If the applicant has changed jobs, the same documents as those required for the application for a certificate of eligibility and the application for permission to change status of residence mentioned above will be required.
For more information on the application for extension of stay, please refer to the Ministry of Justice website. The standard processing time announced by the Ministry of Justice is two weeks to one month. However, this is only a guideline, and the actual length of time it takes will vary depending on the individual case.
4. Number of New Foreigner Arrivals and Holders of Residence Status in Japan
The graph below, which was created based on statistics from the Ministry of Justice, will explain how the number of new arrivals and residents has changed as a result of the 2014 amendment to the Immigration Control Act (enacted in 2015). The graph shows the annual changes in the number of new arrivals, changes in status, and residents from 2014 to 2019.
New arrivals are those who have been issued a visa by a Japanese embassy or consulate and have entered Japan for the first time. “Change of status” refers to those who have been granted a change of status from “Student” to “Engineer/Specialist in Humanities/International Services”.
“Resident” refers to foreign nationals residing in Japan as of the end of December.
The number of new arrivals, changes in status, and residents have all been on the rise since the 2014 amendment to the law. Comparing 2014 and 2019, the number of new arrivals has tripled over the past five years, while the number of residents has doubled. The number of those who changed their status has also doubled when compared to 2014 and 2018.
From the above, it can be seen that since the enforcement of the revised Immigration Control Act in 2015, the number of both new arrivals and residents has been steadily increasing, which suggests that the revision of the Act has had a certain effect.
As mentioned at the beginning, “Engineer/Specialist in Humanities/International Services” is a status of residence that allows a foreigner to perform work that requires a certain level of expertise or skill. If a foreigner obtains an “Engineer/Specialist in Humanities/International Services” status under the false pretense of being allowed to do specialized work, but is actually engaging in simple labor, that foreigner is considered to be working illegally.
If the foreigner works illegally, not only will he or she be subject to punishment, but the employer will also be charged with “encouraging illegal employment” and may be imprisoned for up to three years or fined up to three million yen, or both. Therefore, when hiring foreign nationals, it is necessary to carefully consider their background and the work they will be engaged in, and to be extremely careful not to violate these rules.
In this article, we have introduced the details of the “Engineer/Specialist in Humanities/International Services” status of residence. There are some complicated aspects to the status of residence, but if you do not proceed with a thorough understanding, you may be subject to punishment in some cases.
In addition to administrative scriveners, we have several staff members who are familiar with the status of residence and employment of foreigners, including foreign employment managers. If you have any questions about the types of status of residence, please feel free to contact us.