How to set up a company or start a business in Japan for a foreigner?

翻訳外注ノウハウ

There are three ways for a foreigner who is managing a corporation overseas to develop business in the Japanese market:

  1. establish a representative office
  2. establish a Japanese branch office
  3. establish a subsidiary (or Japanese corporation)

A representative office is for conducting market research in Japan and is prohibited from conducting business activities (profit-making activities).

In addition, if a foreigner wishes to start a new business in Japan, he/she must establish a corporate company and obtain a visa. The newly established “Start-Up Visa” can be applied for at designated administrative offices (see below), making the process relatively easy for foreigners who wish to start a business in Japan.

Below is a list of visa types (4-month Business Administration Visa, Start-Up Visa), what is required to establish a company, types of corporations, where to register a company, and other information necessary for foreigners to establish or start a company in Japan.

What you need to do to start a business (register a corporation) in Japan

Register your company address

It is basically difficult to use a virtual office, rental office, or home address for registering a company address, so it is preferable to register an office address with a firm lease agreement.

Note that JETRO offers furnished office space, which can be used free of charge for 50 days if the conditions are met.

Must conform to one of the following conditions

  • The business is operated by two or more full-time employees residing in Japan other than those engaged in the management or administration of the business.
  • The amount of capital or the total amount of capital contribution is 5,000,000 yen or more.
  • The business must be of a scale equivalent to the above two items.

※From the Ministerial Ordinance establishing the criteria set forth in Article 7, paragraph (1), item (ii) of the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act.

For further details, please contact the following organizations.

What kind of visa is required for a foreigner to start a business in Japan?

A visa is required for foreigners to start a business in Japan. If you do not already have a Japanese visa, you will need a “4-month business administration visa” or a “Start-Up Visa” issued by some areas such as Tokyo and Fukuoka City.

If you already have another visa, you need to find out in advance whether you can establish a company with your current visa or whether you will need a new visa.

It is possible to conduct preparatory activities for a business even with a 90-day visa for a short-term stay, as long as the activities are not profit-making.

For more information, please visit the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan.

What is a 4-month Business Management Visa and Start-Up Visa?

How to obtain a 4-month business administration visa?

The “4-month Business Management Visa” is a newly established visa in April 2015.

If you can provide solid proof that you are prepared to start a business in Japan, and if approved, you can obtain this visa and start your business immediately after your arrival in Japan.

This visa is obtained prior to your arrival in Japan, so before coming to Japan, you must prepare for this visa by submitting the necessary documents to the Japanese Immigration Office from abroad.

As the name suggests, the “4-month business administration visa” is valid for 4 months and allows the applicant to do the following

  • Obtain a certificate of residence (a registered address is required)
  • Open a bank account
  • Register a corporation.

If you use the four-month period of the visa to establish a company in Japan and obtain permission, you can extend the visa to a one-year Business Management Visa.

How to obtain a Start-Up Visa?

The Start-Up Visa is intended to increase the number of foreign entrepreneurs and to facilitate their procedures by easing regulations.

The visa is issued in some areas approved by the government, such as Tokyo and Fukuoka City. The visa is valid for 6 months.

As of March 2022, it is in effect in Tokyo, Hiroshima Prefecture, Aichi Prefecture, Sendai City, Niigata City, Imabari City, Fukuoka City, and other areas.

To obtain this visa, you must first submit the required documents, including a business plan, to one of the above regional offices. All documents must be completed in Japanese.

If your documents pass the screening, a letter of recommendation will be issued. The letter of recommendation is then submitted to the immigration office to apply for the visa, and if there are no problems, the visa is issued.

As mentioned above, this visa is valid for 6 months, which is 2 months longer than the 4-month Business Management visa.

During this time, you can make thorough preparations for the establishment of your company. If you then pass the examination, the period will be extended for another 6 months.

The following is a quote from the Tokyo Metropolitan Government’s official website.

When a foreigner establishes a business in Japan, he/she is required to obtain a “Management/Administration” status of residence.

To obtain this status, under the current system, in addition to establishing an office, the foreigner must meet the requirements of employing at least two full-time workers or investing at least 5 million yen in Japan at the time of entry into Japan.

In order to meet these requirements, preparatory activities such as securing a business partner and signing an office lease contract must be conducted prior to entry, making it extremely difficult for a foreigner to establish a business on his/her own without a domestic partner.

Under the special zone scheme, foreign nationals will be granted a special six-month status of residence by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, which will allow the Tokyo Metropolitan Government to verify their business plan, etc. prior to screening by the Immigration Bureau.

By utilizing this six-month period, start-up personnel will be able to conduct various preparatory activities while in Japan.

In addition, we will provide unique support through the “Business Concierge Tokyo” so that foreign nationals can renew their status of residence after six months of fulfilling the requirements.

The Start-Up Visa is valid for 6 months and allows you to do the following.

  • Obtain a certificate of residence (must have an address that can be registered)
  • Open a bank account
  • Register a company

For more information about Start-Up Visa, please contact the following organizations.

If you currently have another visa

If you already have a visa and are residing in Japan, you may establish a company (start a business) while your visa is still valid. However, you may need to change the type of visa afterwards.

The procedure, whether or not you are obliged to change your visa, and how the change will affect you will depend on the visa you currently have.

We recommend that you consult with the Immigration Bureau or a professional before establishing a company.

How to set up a company or start a business in Japan for a foreigner

Types of Japanese Corporations

Japanese corporations are divided into four types.

They are joint-stock companies, limited liability companies, general partnership companies and limited partnership companies. Many companies choose either a joint stock company or a limited liability company.

A Godo Kaisha is a renaming of a “Limited Liability Company” and currently limited liability companies cannot be registered.

If the company is incorporated in a foreign country, it is possible to establish a Japanese branch office.

Types of Businesses Requiring Approval

Special approval may be required to open a business.

Food handlers, travel agents, staffing agencies, hotels, liquor distributors, financial institutions, and pharmaceutical companies may require special licenses when starting a business.

For more details, please refer to the JETRO page below.

To establish a corporation in Tokyo

The Tokyo One-Stop Business Establishment Center

At the Tokyo One-Stop Business Establishment Center, you can do everything you need to start business in a single visit.

You can also have a small business consultant provide free consultation and check your documents.

Necessary Documents for application are as follows.

  • Certificate of Incorporation 
  • Registration of incorporation
  • Taxation (national tax, metropolitan tax)
  • Immigration
  • Employment insurance
  • Labor insurance
  • Health insurance, employee’s pension insurance

The Tokyo One-Stop Business Establishment Center Office

List of Contacts

Akasaka ARK Mori Building
Ark Mori Building, 1-12-32 Akasaka, Minato-ku, Tokyo
Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) Headquarters, 7F TEL: +81-3-3582-4934


Shibuya Satellite Center
Shibuya Dogenzaka Tokyu Building 1F, 1-10-8 Dogenzaka, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
Shibuya Satellite Center TEL: +81-3-5489-4630


Marunouchi Satellite Center
2-1-1 Marunouchi, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo
Tokyo Founders’ Station 2F, Meiji Yasuda Seimei Building TEL: +81-3-6259-1882

Foreign Residents Support Center(FRESC)

The Foreign Residents Support Center (FRESC) in Yotsuya, Tokyo, houses the following eight organizations on one floor.

  • Immigration Services Agency of Japan
  • Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO)
  • Tokyo Immigration Bureau
  • Visa Information, Ministry of Foreign Affairs
  • Tokyo Legal Affairs Bureau, Human Rights Protection Department
  • Tokyo Labor Bureau, Special Consultation and Support Office for Foreign Nationals
  • Japan Legal Support Center (Ho Terasu)
  • Tokyo Employment Service Center for Foreigners

FRESC
Yotsuya Tower 13F, 1-6-1 Yotsuya, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo
TEL: +81-3-5363-3013
Access: 1 min. walk from Yotsuya Station

English website to help foreigners setting up a company or starting a business in Japan

How to Set Up Business in Japan by JETRO
Laws and regulations regarding incorporation.

JETRO Office Space for Free
Free fully furnished office space provided by JETRO. Free for 50 days if you meet the requirements.

Tokyo Employment Consultation Center

There are other law firms and support companies that have specialists in foreign company formation and start-ups. In some cases, obtaining a visa may be smoother with the assistance of a specialist.

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