Visas + Immigration

Family and spouse visas in Japan

Want your loved ones to join you in Japan? Find out more about the types of family and spouse visas, how to apply, and what entitlements these allow.

spouse visa japan

By Ed Gould

Updated 25-3-2024

If you live in Japan (日本, Nihon/Nippon), whether on a work visa, with permanent residency, or as a naturalized citizen, you may want your family to join you indefinitely. If they relocate to live with you, they would need to apply for a family or spouse visa to comply with Japanese immigration policies. This will also give them the right to attend school, study, or work.

Discover how to apply for a family or spouse visa in Japan by exploring the following topics:

Family and spouse visas in Japan

In Japan, the family visa (家族滞在ビザ, kazoku taizai biza) category allows foreign nationals to join their loved ones already living in the country. According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA – 外務省, Gaimu Sho), Japan issued 90,306 visas in 2021, which was lower than usual due to the country’s COVID-19 restrictions. It does not specify the number of family visas. Immigrants (移民, imin) come from across the world, including Vietnam, China, the US, the Philippines, South Korea, Russia, Brazil, Indonesia, the UK, and India.

Siblings (brother and sister) walking around an airport with their luggage
Photo: Tatsushi Takada/Getty Images

MOFA is the government (政府, seifu) department that manages and issues family visas in Japan and organizes these into three categories:

  • Dependent family (扶養家族, fuyo kazoku) of a work visa (就労ビザ, shuro biza) holder (家族滞在, kazoku taizai)
  • Spouse or child (配偶者/子, haigusha/ko) of a Japanese national (日本人の配偶者等, nihon-jin no haigusha to)
  • Spouse of a permanent resident (永住者, eiju sha) (永住者の配偶者等, eiju-sha no haigusha to)

Compared to other countries, strict immigration policies can make applying for a family or spouse visa in Japan challenging. The difficulty level depends on various factors, including the applicant’s relationship with the sponsor, their financial status, or the sponsor’s ability to support the applicant.

Which documents do you need to supply?

To successfully apply for a Japanese family visa, applicants must also provide a range of documents, such as:

  • Marriage (結婚証明書, kekkon shomei sho) or birth certificates (出生証明書, shussho shomei sho) (or proof of legal adoption – 特別養子縁組, tokubetsu yoshi engumi)
  • Proof of financial stability (e.g., bank accounts or employment contracts)
  • Proof of permanent residence in Japan (e.g., residence card (在留カード, zairyu kado) or passport)

The visa authority can take several months to process applications (申請, shinsei), so it is best to start the process as soon as you decide to join the sponsor for longer than 90 days.

Who can move to Japan to join their family?

Who doesn’t require a family or a spouse visa?

Individuals not requiring family visas in Japan include those already holding a different type of visa. For example, a work or student visa (留学ビザ, ryugaku biza) would allow them to reside independently in Japan even if they join their family living there. Additionally, citizens of countries with a visa waiver agreement (ビザ免除協定, biza menjo kyotei) can enter and stay in Japan – visa-free – for up to 90 days. However, this option does not permit long-term residence or employment.

Who needs a family or spouse visa?

Close family members of Japanese citizens or permanent residents are eligible to move to the country under the family visa category. Spouse visas (配偶者等ビザ, haigusha to biza) in Japan cover husbands, wives, and civil partners, while children (by birth or adoption) can join the sponsor on dependent family visas. However, other dependent family members, such as parents or siblings, may also apply under specific circumstances.

Parents playing with a small child in their new apartment full of moving boxes
Photo: Witthaya Prasongsin/Getty Images

All applicants must demonstrate a genuine relationship with their sponsoring family member and provide proof of financial stability by submitting supporting documents. Consequently, the Japanese government carefully evaluates each application to ensure that the applicant meets all requirements and that the family member residing in Japan can adequately support them.

How to apply for a spouse or family visa

The application process is the same for all types of family visas. Only the supporting documents may differ depending on the familial relationship. Generally, you need to follow these steps:

  • First, the sponsor must request a Certificate of Eligibility (COE – 在留資格認定証明書, zairyu shikaku nintei shomei-sho) from the Ministry of Justice (MOJ – 法務省, Homu Sho) to prove you both meet the visa requirements
  • Next, the family member can apply via the Japanese embassy (日本大使館, Nihon Taishi-kan) in their home country or with the regional bureau of the Immigration Services Agency of Japan (ISA – 出入国在留管理庁, Shutsu-nyukoku Zairyu Kanri-Cho)

Also, remember to include the following documents with your application:

  • Passport (パスポート, pasupoto) of applicant (country of origin)
  • Residence, citizenship, or visa status of the sponsor living in Japan (e.g., Japanese passport or residence card)
  • Proof of relationship status (e.g., marriage, birth, or adoption certificate)
  • The COE
  • Passport photo
  • Application fee

Costs of family visas

Fees may vary – if you apply through a Japanese consulate (日本総領事館, Nihon So Ryoji-kan) outside the country – but expect to pay between ¥3,000 (single entry) and ¥6,000 (multiple entry).

Japanese family visa types

Below are the categories of family or spouse visas in Japan:

Each type of family visa is valid for varied durations and affords the holder slightly different entitlements:

Spouse/children of Japanese nationalsResidency, work, and study without any specific restrictions

Access to public services, such as healthcare and education
One year but can be extended
Spouses/children of permanent residentsResidency, work, and study without any specific restrictions

Access to public services, such as healthcare and education
Six months to five years
Spouses of long-term residentsResidency, but may have restrictions on work, and study options

Access to public services, such as healthcare and education
Six months to five years
Other dependent family membersResidency status while living with their sponsoring family member

Allowed to enroll in the education system and language classes

Only limited employment options
Up to five years

Short-term visits to family members in Japan

A short-term stay visa (短期滞在ビザ, tanki taizai biza) is usually appropriate for non-compensatory visits (under three months/90 days) to family members in Japan. This visa does not allow you to work or study in the country. You can apply at your local Japanese embassy or consulate before travelling to Japan.

Remember to take along the required documents with you, including:

On a balcony, one mom hangs up the washing, while the other mom holds their baby
Photo: Tayutau/Getty Images

Spouses, partners, or dependent children who want to stay in Japan for longer than 90 days but shorter than 12 months should instead apply for a dependent family visa. It permits residence in Japan with the sponsor if they have a work visa, permanent residency, or citizenship. However, there will be restrictions on the applicants’ ability to work or study.

Citizens of countries with visa waiver agreements (e.g., Italy, the Netherlands, and Switzerland) can enter Japan without a visa for short visits.

Visiting family members in Japan who only have a temporary visa

Spouses or partners and children may use the dependent family visa to join a family member who resides temporarily in Japan on a work or student visa. Of course, the sponsor must provide proof of their financial ability (e.g., bank account or employment contract) to cover their dependents’ cost of living for the duration of their stay.

Joining refugees or asylum seekers in Japan on family visas

The Japan Immigration Bureau manages refugee applications (難民認定申請, nanmin nintei shinsei), mostly accepting asylum seekers (亡命希望者, bomei kibo-sha) from Myanmar, Turkey, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, and Pakistan.

Even though the country accepts refugees (難民, nanmin) and asylum seekers, its policies are stringent. For instance, out of 3,722 applicants in 2022, the government only approved 202 applications.

A family of Ukrainian refugees arrives at Haneda Airport in Tokyo
Ukrainian refugees arrive at Haneda Airport (羽田空港, Haneda Kuko) in Tokyo (Photo: Carl Court/Getty Images)

Consequently, it is even more difficult for a registered refugee’s spouse or children to join them in Japan. Nonetheless, they should use the dependent family visa to apply. Other visas may be issued, depending on the specific circumstances. As such, it would be advisable to seek specialist professional advice from a Japanese immigration lawyer (移民法弁護士, imin-ho bengoshi) to improve the success rate of the application.

When family members arrive on a family or spouse visa in Japan

Once you have joined your sponsoring family member, you must register your residency status within 14 days of moving to Japan at your local municipal office. You will be issued a residence card (在留カード, zairyu kado), which you need to carry with you at all times as proof of your immigration status.

The card will include the following:

  • Full names
  • Registered home address
  • Visa/residency status
  • Duration of stay/expiration date

What do you do following the death or divorce of a family member?

In the event of divorce (離婚, rikon) or death (死亡, shibo) of the sponsoring family member, visa holders should immediately contact the Immigration Services Agency of Japan (ISA). Depending on their circumstances, they may need to change their visa status or apply for a visa extension.

Complaints and appeals

In Japan, if your visa application is denied, you may submit a written objection to ISA within two months of the rejection. It’s essential to provide valid reasons and supporting documents to strengthen your case. Furthermore, consulting an immigration lawyer is advisable in preparing an effective appeal.

Useful resources

  • Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA – 外務省, Gaimu Sho) – the government department governing foreign policy and consular services and lists Japanese embassies worldwide
  • Ministry of Justice (MOJ – 法務省, Homu Sho) – oversees work immigration policies
  • Immigration Services Agency of Japan (ISA – 出入国在留管理庁, Shutsu-nyukoku Zairyu Kanri-Cho) – official information about immigration and visas in Japan
  • Legal Affairs Bureau (法務局, Homu Kyoku) – oversees civil administration affairs, including family registers