Thursday, March 20, 2014

Applying for The Highly Skilled Professional Visa in Japan

I recently had applied for the "highly skilled foreign professional" visa from the Japan bureau of immigration, and I thought I would share some details about the application process. Information on this process is sorely inadequate from the Japanese government. What we do know is that they have gotten far fewer applications than expected and had granted less than 500 such visas in the first year or so if its operation (see here).

On to the procedure (or what I know of it). First, to apply you will need to fill out a  在留資格認定証明書交付申請書 "APPLICATION FOR CERTIFICATE OF ELIGIBILITY"    which can be downloaded here. On this form, you will fill out all the relevant information as you would for any other application. Under purpose, check Other. How will the immigration bureau know that this is the status you want?

This seems to be handled by the second submitted document, a "point calculation form." Here, you need to be able to substantiate at least 70 points to get the VISA. The calculation has changed since the initial version of the form, but here at the highlights for the academic version:

  1. 学歴 ("Academic Background"):20 for any MA (修士又は専門職学位) or 30 points for a non-"professional" PhD (non-cumulative) (博士(専門職学位を除く))
  2. 職歴 ("Professional Career"): 5/10/15 points for 3/5/7 years of professional experience respectively  (again non-cumulative) with professional experience defined as follows: "Experience related to the research, research, guidance or education in which the applicant intends to engage" as a translation of 従事しようとする研究、研究の指導又は教育に係る事務経験
  3. 年収 ("annual salary"): 10-40 points based on a chart that cross references age and salary. Basically, yet 10 get points starting from 4 million yen / year going up by 5 every additional million yen and capped at 40 points. If you are 30-34, you cannot get points for < 5 million, If you are 35 to 39, you cannot get points for less than 6 million, if you are 40+, you cannot get points for less than 8 million
  4. 年齢 ("age") - 0-15 points. 15 for < 29; 10 for 30-34; 5 for 35-39
  5. 研究事績("Research achievements") - 20 to 25 points (you get 25 if you qualify for 2)
    1. Patented invention
    2. Received competitive grants from foreign countries 3 times
    3. 3 publications recorded in the database they search (学術論文データベースに登載されている学術雑誌に掲載された論文が3本以上) The database they search is They don't seem to acknowledge the existence of anything else.
    4.  Other achievements recognized by ministry of justice
  6. Special considerations
    1. Work for company that receives "Innovation" support = 10 points
    2. Small or medium-sized business = 10 points
    3. Small or medium-sized business spending at least 3% of its budget on research = 5 points 
    4. Holder of foreign work qualifications recognized by the ministry of justice = 5 points
    5. Passed JLPT N1 or majored in Japanese = 10 points
    6. Graduated from Japanese university or completed a graduate course at one = 10 point
The next step in the process is that they examine your documents at the regional immigration office. In my case, this is Sapporo. 

They got back to me in about 2 weeks from when I applied. The annoying thing is that they got back to me at 7:18pm the day before a holiday while we were shopping at AEON and that they had previously tried to call my wife twice (who had forgotten her phone). All of that aside, the phone call was a weird one. The gentleman with whom I was speaking (who could not speak English as far as I can tell) was calling with what to me seemed to be an odd purpose in mind and this is part of what made it a very aggravating phone call. He was calling to get me to agree to the following two claims contrary to my documents after which he would let them evaluate my application:

1. That it is unlikely that I would be considered to have five years of work experience
2. That it is unlikely that I would be considered to have three publications per their standard.

Initially, I thought he was asking me to agree to his claims that I lacked five years of work experience and three publications. Consequently, I was arguing with him about whether this is true. But what he was trying to do was get me to accept that it is unlikely that I would be considered to have these. This is a subtle but important distinction. He seemed willing to let my application be evaluated if I would accede to these two claims. But if both fall, I don't have enough points.

Regarding the first claim, I included some of the time during my graduate study. Why? Because the work I did before receiving my PhD and the work I do now and the work I will do at my new job next month are all identical, i.e. research and teaching courses. I doubt the gentleman I was speaking with has any sort of experience with graduate education outside Japan (I cannot answer whether he has any in Japan). From his perspective, you have only one 在籍 - either a student or a professional at one time. And during your "doctor course," you are primarily a student. More importantly for others, he seemed only interested in the time I spent teaching (restricted to in-class hours) and found it inadequate that this did not occupy more time than research. This is weird because my work obligations include both teaching and research.  I asked him where in law this is specified or if this is just a personal judgment. He claimed it was neither in law nor a personal judgment but the judgment of the 入国管理局 ... but then a judgment on what basis? He claims 常識 .

Regarding the second claim, his search method appears to be something related to Elsevier. Consequently, he found only one article bearing my name. The issue with this is that Elsevier might be really for articles in science, but it is by far not that popular in my discipline (philosophy). Thus, when they say in a database, understand that they mean just Elsevier. It was not clear to me if they would have done

After wasting quite a bit of time with him on the phone, I have decided to withdraw my application for the "highly-skilled professional worker visa." I don't expect the larger entity would differ in judgment from the individual. My complaint is that the process is not sufficiently clear. Admittedly, 職歴 makes clearer than "Professional Career" that this means only those times when Japanese people would call what you have 職 but this sort of barrier is why so few people have qualified.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Being hired by a university in Japan

On December 19th, I received a phone call from the chair of the 委員会 indicating that I had been selected and congratulating me. At that point, I still did not know exactly how much I would be making and called the 教務所 to figure that out. They were slightly confused when I  called, thinking I was inquiring prior to selection (a logical thing to do normally). Once that was cleared up. Turns out I will be earning a decent sum of money for the upcoming year.

But there are still several things I want to point out that are probably cultural differences. First, it is now the end of December and I have yet to receive any documents about my employment. Second, I was told that I was 採用. I was not asked whether I wanted to accept the position. I don't know what you do if you hear this from multiple places. Third, I doubt I had any shot without the right connections.

Thus, I am still waiting for the documentation that I will be employed. I will also have to move in order to have this job, which is a reality I face with a mixture of worry an しょうがない.

In Praise of Interac

I've heard a decent amount of negative things about Interac. I can't address whether these things were / are true, but I can say that my own experience with Interac has been quite good. I worked part time briefly for Interac as a substitute ALT entering elementary schools to do two-day gigs. I presented the English version of *Momotarou* (to sixth graders) and *What's This* (to fifth graders). Would I want to work for Interac my entire life? No. But that's because I can get a better job (Interac doesn't give raises -- but that's because you're basically replaceable if your work for them).

What impressed me more about Interac is how they treated my wife's aunt. You see she was working for Interac for a couple of years in her late 50s. First, I will start with the negative: Interac did not address her numerous complaints and let her go when she reached the 定年(retirement age). But now to the positive: many of her complaints, ,it turns out, were not due to a nearby 醤油 factory but due to her having pneumonia built on top of breast cancer that spread to her lungs. That's pretty terrible. But when she needed to be hospitalized, an employer she treated meanly stepped up to the plate and send people to visit her. They even provided her assistance (read money) for getting back to America and drove her all the way from Ishinomaki to Narita airport.

On the flipside, they left it in my hands to cancel her electricity and gas.  But that's not the worst fate in the world.