If you’re reading this, you were probably planning on moving to Japan during this pandemic or at least traveling there. 2020 has been hard to swallow for everyone, with some much less fortunate than others. I’m sure everyone’s pretty aware of the global state of things and how Japan’s borders have been closed for awhile. Before I start going on about my experience, I just wanted to give you some useful links if you yourself are wanting to know the current state of things. You can find the embassy websites online, but they’re often filled with jargon that makes it a little hard to understand so I personally go to this subreddit megathread. They update it frequently and explain anything you may not understand. I’ve also seen some posts in this Facebook group that were helpful to people, especially those not in the US. Jump down to the “summary of current situation” part of this post if you want to know the reality of moving to Japan this year.
I graduated this spring finally and I was planning on applying for jobs in Tokyo a couple weeks after graduation. FYI if you’re graduating or a recent grad, you must have your physical diploma for the work visa and some colleges reportedly take up to a few months to get it in your hands for some reason. So most companies request that you start applying in your month of graduation and not any sooner.
I graduated May 8th and as you can imagine, I never got my chance before Japan closed their borders. I, hilariously, still had a little hope that things wouldn’t get too delayed but then, as someone who lives in the US, things didn’t get any better. Our apartment lease was up in May and they were going to renovate our unit anyway, so we didn’t have the option to renew. It got super messy and stressful, but it ended up being fine(ish) but we decided with how everything was going that we’d move into a better apartment and sign a 12 month lease.
I recommend anyone with plans on moving to Japan during this pandemic, and even during normal times, regardless of your type of visa to have at least $5,000 USD in savings.
I recommend anyone with plans on moving to Japan during this pandemic, and even during normal times, regardless of your type of visa to have at least $5,000 USD in savings. For Tokyo especially you can never have too much, because you get paid monthly you may not get your first paycheck for two months. If you sign a two year apartment contract it will cost you between 3-7 months rent and that alone ends up being around $4-5k depending on the price of the apartment. If you’d like to know more about the logistics of moving to Japan, I’ll write more blog posts about it because I’ve researched it a little too extensively, haha. Our first trip to Japan was us moving there, but I decided attending university there while Andrew was in language school was just a little too much debt for my liking, so that’s why I chose to finish my education here in Minnesota.
Summary of Current Situation
“Until these restrictions are lifted, for the majority of people (students, workers and tourists) there is effectively no way to get a new visa. When will these restrictions be lifted? No one knows.”
I’m going to steal a quote from the subreddit megathread; “Until these restrictions are lifted, for the majority of people (students, workers and tourists) there is effectively no way to get a new visa. When will these restrictions be lifted? No one knows.” There are many people wanting to move to Japan this year, that already got the process started and were waiting on their COE, or even already had the visa, or hadn’t started the process yet. There are even people who were living in Japan and were on vacation out of the country that suddenly found themselves unable to go back home. About a week ago they finally made a little headway on starting to open up the borders to certain visa holders, but they’ve completely stopped processing visas and I imagine the backlog alone is going to take a long time.
Unless you’ve started the application or interview process, I’d recommend hanging tight for the rest of 2020. Some more pessimistic recommendations have been “don’t try until 2022”, but I believe that’s more because of the general ramifications to the education and tourism sector. Which no one knows what that’ll look like, but everything is pretty effed right now so who knows when things will go back to “normal”.
Personally, I signed my 12 month lease in my new apartment and I’ll be here until August 2021 either way. I really want to do 6 months of language school before I dive into a work visa, so I’m using this time to save, save, saaave. At least if anything, moving to Japan during this pandemic can at least cause me to save a plethora of money!! And the lack of conventions or trips 😉