If working remotely in Japan for six months as a digital nomad sounds like your idea of heaven, we have some good news. Whether you want to get cosy in a tiny Tokyo apartment, go full Totoro in an old house in the countryside or something in between, Japan's new digital nomad visa program is the perfect way to do it on your terms. Lonely Planet's resident Japan expert John Walton digs into what we know so far.

The details of Japan’s 90-day digital nomad visa are still somewhat fluid since most of the information available is coming from social media posts by Imaeda Soichiro; by Japan's Ministry of Education, Sports, Culture & Science (MEXT); Unseen Japan; the Japan Digital Nomad Association; and the Japan Times. Imaeda notes that the government will be listening to feedback during a period of public consultation throughout February, and then expects to launch the program in March 2024.

Imaeda suggests the program is likely to be a six-months-in, six-months-out system, with eligibility resetting six months after the digital nomad departs Japan. I’d expect the detail of this to eventually state 90 days rather than six months, largely for purposes of where your tax residency ends up (see below).

Details of how to apply and what documentation will be required have not yet been published – keep an eye on Japan’s Immigration Services Agency for more details.

A woman working on her laptop outside a guesthouse in Japan
Leave the city buzz behind and work from Japan's stunning countryside © Taiyou Nomachi / Getty Images

Passport-holders of visa-exempt countries with tax treaties can apply, but you won’t be an official Japanese resident

Eligibility for the digital nomad visa looks set to be aligned with passports issued by countries that are part of Japan's visa-free stay program. That includes the US and Canada, the EU, several other European countries, Australia and New Zealand, Singapore and Hong Kong, and many more.

Imaeda notes that a secondary requirement is for the passport holder’s country to also have a tax treaty with Japan, which is standard to avoid double taxation. The lists are different in some ways (Lesotho, Barbados and a few other countries don’t appear on the tax treaty list, for example) so do check your eligibility carefully.

Note that you won’t be eligible for resident records, which likely means that you won’t be establishing Japanese tax residency either. You’ll also need to have private health insurance.

It’s aimed at high-income remote workers, with a ¥10 million salary requirement

Imaeda highlights that an income of ¥10 million – around US$68,000 or €62,000 of income at the time of writing – will be required for the program. There’s little detail available on this topic but I’d expect digital nomads will have to prove this through forward-looking contracts and/or past-year documentation.

Only certain kinds of workers will be eligible, largely to prevent the digital nomad visa from being used as an end-run around Japan’s immigration system.

Specifically, he mentions that the visa is for contracted workers remunerated by foreign public or private organizations. For sole proprietors (in other words, independents and freelancers), Imaeda states that they will need to have concluded a contract with a non-Japanese public or private company, and from the sounds of it this will need to be done before applying rather than afterward.

Keep an eye out for details about whether spouses and children are eligible in some cases – there's a lot of conflicting information around this point of concern. In particular, LGBTIQ+ travelers hoping to bring families along should read the details carefully when they are published: Japan does not have nationwide marriage equality or civil partnership registers for same-sex couples. Some municipal and prefectural bodies do operate couple registries – but these are unlikely to have an impact on immigration matters.

A young Black woman using her smartphone on the street in Tokyo, Japan
Some digital nomads can already work in Japan for three months © AzmanL / Getty Images

Your passport may already mean you can work for three months in Japan

If all this sounds a little complicated, or you’d like to wait and see how it all works out in practice, an easier option might be to try a three-month visa exemption in Japan. This is already available for quite a few countries and it permits tourism and business travel.

Most travelers with a passport from one of the 70 countries on the eligibility list are already granted a 90-day (so just under three months) visa exemption on landing – that’s the little sticker that goes into your passport when you arrive in Japan.

Exceptions include Brunei, Indonesia, Qatar, Thailand and the UAE (who get less time) and Austria, Germany, Ireland, Liechtenstein, Mexico, Switzerland and the UK (who can renew their 90-day visa exemption by applying to the Japanese authorities before their 90 days is up).

Japan also has a working holiday program for younger residents of 29 countries.

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