Guidance

Living in Japan

Advice for British people living in Japan, including information on health, employment, benefits, driving licences and more.

Introduction

This guide sets out essential information for British nationals residing in Japan, including advice on health, benefits, residence requirements and more. We are unable to provide any guidance on general lifestyle enquiries apart from the information and links listed below. See our information on what consulates can and cannot do for British nationals.

The Foreign Residents Support Center (FRESC) is a one-stop consultation centre which hosts the offices of eight public organisations which includes the Immigration Services Agency of Japan, the Japan Legal Support Center, the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO), Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) Visa Information desk, Tokyo Labour Bureau Consultation and Support Office for Foreigners. The centre is open from 9-5 on weekdays, provides consultation services on issues of Visa & Immigration, Legal Support & Employment, in English, Chinese and 9 other languages, utilising remote interpreters when necessary via videolink.

Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Please refer to the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare’s coronavirus page for an overview of the current situation in Japan.

We are not advising British people who are permanent residents overseas to return to the UK. You should follow the advice of the local authorities in your host country. You can also read our coronavirus specific travel advice for our latest guidance.

For information on getting a COVID-19 vaccine as a UK national in Japan, see our coronavirus travel advice.

British nationals who have resident or student status in Japan should consider their own personal circumstances and take into account all of the information available, when making a decision on whether or not to return to the UK. You may consider the following factors:

  • Financial support: do you have sufficient funds to support yourself without going back to the UK for an undetermined number of months? Check the Finance section below for more information.
  • Health Insurance: If you were instructed by the authorities to undergo COVID-19 PCR testing, all testing and COVID-19 related medical costs are borne by the Japanese government. The government however does not bear any non COVID-19 medical costs. Do you have medical coverage? Taking your own personal health condition into account, are you confident in receiving the necessary support you need in Japan? Check the Health section below for more information.
  • Legal & employment support: do you understand the kind of support available to you in the case of unemployment or economic hardships due to COVID-19? Will these support mechanisms be sufficient for you to support yourself for an undetermined number of months? Check the Legal and Employment section below for more information.
  • For students: do you understand the arrangements your host university has in place? Particularly access to medical facilities, accommodation and online learning options. Keep in contact with your UK university too (if applicable) about their advice.

If you have COVID-19 related concerns on entering Japan and returning to the UK, please refer to our coronavirus specific travel advice for more information.

Health

British nationals resident in Japan should consider contacting their local ward or city office about what healthcare options may be available and/or refer to JNTO’s guide to accessing medical facilities in Japan.

See also, list of medical facilities in Japan.

For non-residents, see our Travel Advice for further information.

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected the lives of many individuals in unforeseen ways. If you are under mental duress, TELL (click here for daily service hours for both chat and phone services) provides support and counselling services to Japan’s international community. Befrienders Worldwide also offers emotional support services worldwide. So, if you would like to speak to volunteers in the UK instead, see information on available 24/7 UK helplines.

If you are experiencing or know of someone who is a victim of domestic violence and abuse, non-profit organisation DV Soudan+ supports victims by operating a hotline available in 10 different languages, provides professional consultation services as well as shelter. Another organisation HELP (House in Emergency of Love and Peace) supports women and children regardless of race, visa status and nationality. They provide shelter with English consultations available. Lastly, Tokyo Women’s Plaza also runs a free telephone consultation service in multiple languages.

Coronavirus

If you suspect you have COVID-19, the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare has published a multilingual guide on actions to take. Also included are information on precautions to take to prevent the further spread of the virus, as well as information on local call centres. More detailed guidance on preventive measures published by the same ministry can be found here as well.

The government of Japan have stated that they are currently covering all costs related to hospitalisation for COVID-19, regardless of nationality. The Japanese authorities expects patients to follow the formal reporting process in place.

If you have not been approved for the PCR test by Japanese health officials, some private clinics are now offering PCR testing for a fee. Should you test negative, you will have to bear the full cost for this test but if you test positive, the government will cover the cost of this test and subsequent COVID-19 related medical costs.

Please be aware that Japanese government expects residents no longer covered by Japanese national insurance and unable to go back to the UK, to pay for non COVID-19 medical costs themselves.

Visa & Immigration

Please check the validity of your visa and if you have any concerns with your visa status in Japan, and see information regarding visa and immigration as published by the Ministry of Justice.

With visa renewal, length of extension is assessed case by case by the Japanese authorities. Please check with your regional immigration office regarding specific requirements before starting on any application process. Due to the high volume of inquiries, it may take some time to reach the relevant authorities. We would recommend you to enquire by phone at the first instance as the Immigration Services Agency advises customers to avoid coming in unless necessary.

See contact information of local immigration authorities.

If you require further information and support, the Foreign Residents Support Center provides consultation services in English and other languages.

Benefits

The Tokyo International Communication Committee has detailed information on pensions in Japan. To find out about any benefits you may be entitled to in Japan, British nationals should contact their local ward or city office.

See the information on benefits you might be able to get while being abroad and how to claim them.

You need to tell the relevant government offices that deal with your benefits, pension and tax that you are moving or retiring abroad.

New policy on proof of ‘Life Certificates’

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has changed their policy on who can now sign these ‘Life Certificates’. This now reflects the list of people who can countersign a passport photograph. Please read the DWP’s guide state pension if you retire abroad.

Given the restrictions on courier services worldwide due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the time period for Life Certificates to be submitted has been extended to 16 weeks (with the potential for further extension). However, at present, no pensions will be suspended for customers who have been issued a Life Certificate.

Additionally, the International Pension Centre is now able to approve Life Certificates over the telephone. Applicants must pass some basic security questions regarding their account, such as how much they receive and when. If you are unable to call on your own, a three-way call can be initiated by family, friends, or the British Embassy. In these cases, the relevant third party should contact the International Pension Centre and they will add you to the call (interpreters are available if required). If you are unable to get through to the International Pension Centre, you can email them and request a call back.

Driving licences and vehicles

See our Travel Advice for general information on driving licences in Japan. If you intend to stay in Japan for longer than one year, you should apply for a Japanese driving licence. For more information and details of offices where you can convert your UK driving license to a Japanese license, visit the Japanese Automobile Federation website.

See our information about renewing UK driving licences.

Finance

The Tokyo International Communication Committee has detailed information on taxation in Japan.

Coronavirus

If you are a resident of Japan and in need of financial assistance due to the covid19 pandemic, the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare has published English information on monetary assistance programs that are relevant to foreign residents. Click here for further information on loan eligibility and here for further information on housing benefits eligibility.

Guidance on bringing medication into Japan

See our Travel Advice for general information on bringing medication into Japan. The Japanese Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare also has information on medication for personal use.

Multilingual information on the Japanese legal system, bar associations and relevant organisations are provided at no cost by the Japan Legal Support Centre.

In addition, if you need legal representation or if you’re seeking legal advice, see our list of English-speaking lawyers and legal services.

If you’re looking for advice on general working conditions and standards in Japan, you can find help via the counselling services and hotlines in select prefectures as operated by the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare. There are also local NPO organisations, such as POSSE, providing free labour legal advice in English. Check with your city or prefecture if such NPOs exist in your area.

If you are seeking consultation about finding new employment, multilingual assistance is available at Hello Work offices. Please find the contact information and languages available at each Hello Work office and familiarise yourself with this checklist before seeking consultation.

If you are looking for information on support measures for companies during the COVID-19 pandemic, please refer to materials published by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry. Due to the rapidly changing situation, some of the latest measures can only be found in Japanese.

For individuals with Employment Insurance in Japan, English information on unemployment benefits can be found on JETRO website and Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare website.

If you require further information and support, the Foreign Residents Support Center provides consultation services in English and other languages.

Coronavirus

You can find links to English information about government support programs that are relevant to foreign workers affected by the covid19 pandemic, on the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare’s simplified Japanese homepage here.

Natural disaster preparedness 101

Knowing how to prepare for and react to a natural disaster is essential during your stay in Japan. We have compiled a list of key tips to get you started. For more information, please check our travel advice page and subscribe to receive updates in your inbox.

Natural disaster preparedness 101

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Coronavirus

It is important to follow evacuation instructions when disaster hits. However, due to potential risks during the current coronavirus pandemic, you should take additional considerations into account based on your personal circumstances. Please refer to this guidance published by the Cabinet Office of Japan to help you in making your decision.

Disclaimer

This information is provided as a general guide and is based upon information provided to the embassy by the relevant local authorities and may be subject to change at any time with little or no notice. The FCDO and the British embassy will not be liable for any inaccuracies in this information. British nationals wishing to obtain any further information must contact the relevant local authority.

Published 28 May 2013
Last updated 4 August 2021 + show all updates
  1. Natural disaster leaflet updated

  2. Coronavirus section added with a link to guidance on vaccines.

  3. Added Coronavirus information to Natural disaster preparedness section

  4. COVID-19 related information updated

  5. Added new section 'Natural disaster preparedness 101'

  6. Added info about FRESC

  7. Visa & Immigration information updated

  8. Information for a victim of domestic violence and abuse added

  9. Health, Benefits and Legal Support & Employment sections updated

  10. Updated information for students on Covid-19 Coronavirus section.

  11. Legal Support & Employment section updated

  12. Visa information updated

  13. Updated in response to Covid-19

  14. First published.