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Japan dangles 2-year visas for aspiring student entrepreneurs

  • September 22, 2020
  • , Nikkei Asian Review , 2:01 a.m.
  • English Press

SHOGO KODAMA, Nikkei staff writer


TOKYO — Japan will offer a visa lasting up to two years for graduating university students who plan to start a business in the country, in an effort to attract more ambitious and talented individuals.


To qualify for the transitional status, foreign students need to graduate from one of roughly 40 universities including the University of Tokyo and Kyoto University and receive a recommendation from their schools based on their resumes and business plans.


The qualifying schools are part of a government initiative to globalize Japan’s universities and help foreign students find jobs. Applications will open shortly.


Foreign students wishing to start a business in Japan are typically required to obtain a new visa as a business manager immediately after graduation or go home. But that visa requires a business to have an office, employ at least two workers and possess at least 5 million yen ($47,800) in capital. This has deterred would-be entrepreneurs.


As a solution, Japan began offering a one-year transition period to foreign graduates in limited parts of Japan in fiscal 2018.


“The program is geographically limited, and one year is still too short a time to start a new business,” one critic said.


The Justice Ministry said 560 people transitioned from a student visa to a business manager visa in 2018. Entrepreneurs likely made up only a small portion of that number.


Japanese universities hosted a record high of about 140,000 foreign students as of May 2019, the Japan Student Services Organization said.


The coronavirus has hindered such exchanges for now, with Japan imposing travel restrictions on individuals from 159 countries and regions as of Monday. Fewer than 100,000 new foreign students entered Japan in the January-June period, down by more than 50,000 from a year prior.


But Japan thinks the heated global competition for talent will resume once the pandemic is under control. Tokyo wants a head start on wooing would-be entrepreneurs through its new transitional visa.

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