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.

Covid-19 Coronavirus

Please refer to our coronavirus specific travel advice if you are seeking information specific to the current Covid-19 pandemic 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.

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?
  • Health Insurance – The Japanese National Health Insurance covers Covid-19 testing and medical treatments. 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.

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.

You can also find sources of medical information here.

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

The government of Japan have stated that they are currently covering all costs related to hospitalisation for Covid-19, regardless of nationality. Please consult with the nearest consultation centre if you have any potential exposure to Covid-19. The Japanese authorities expects patients to follow the formal reporting process in place.

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.

If you suspect you have covid-19 but have not been approved for the PCR test, the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare has published a guideline of precautions to take at home if any member of the household is suspected to have covid-19.

The Covid-19 pandemic has affected the lives of many individuals in unforeseen ways. If you are under mental duress, TELL 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, information on the 24/7 UK helplines are available here.

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.

If you have further Covid-19 related concerns, please refer to our coronavirus specific travel advice for more information on multilingual hotlines, local medical services, what to do if you develop symptoms, and ways to obtain further information.

Visa & Immigration

The Ministry of Justice has extended the application period for extensions of all visa types.

Specifically, if your visa expires in March, April, May, June or July:

  1. You can apply for an extension within 3 months after your visa’s expiry date;
  2. If your planned departure from Japan is after your visa expiry date, you must also apply for an extension before your departure. This application must be done within 3 months after your visa’s expiry date.

You will not be able to leave Japan without a valid visa.

Please click here for information regarding visa and immigration as published by the Ministry of Justice. The 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.

Please click here for contact information of local immigration authorities.

For mid to long-term residents who have already applied for permission to change their status of residence or an extension of the period of stay, the period for receipt of examination results (e.g. issuance of a residence card, etc.) is normally for 2 months from the date of expiration. This will be extended for a further 3 months instead. In order to prevent the spread of covid-19, the Immigration Services Agency advises customers to avoid coming in unless necessary. The official notice is available here.

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 apply for a Japanese licence, 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.

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, you can also find a list of English-speaking lawyers and legal services here.

The Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare has published information that is specifically relevant to foreign workers in Japan. You can find information about your employment rights during the Covid-19 pandemic as well as who to consult. In addition, you can also find help via the counselling services and hotlines in select prefectures as operated by the same Ministry. 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.

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.

Foreign residents who have legally resided in Japan for more than 3 months and is registered as a basic resident as of April 27, 2020, are eligible for the 100,000 yen handout that the Government of Japan is providing for all residents as part of the coronavirus economic response package. Further information on how to apply is available in English here.

Please note that it is up to municipal authorities to decide on when to start accepting applications and distribute money. Also, at this point in time, it is unclear whether the application form will be made available in languages other than Japanese. For further inquiries, please contact your local municipal office. Alternatively, you can call the call centre of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications at 0570 066 630 or 03 6436 3605 where assistance in English is available.

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 FCO 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 15 May 2020 + show all updates
  1. Visa & Immigration information updated

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

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

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

  5. Legal Support & Employment section updated

  6. Visa information updated

  7. Updated in response to Covid-19

  8. First published.