By Moustafa Daly
Japan recently announced it’s considering making it easier for foreign entrepreneurs to move and launch businesses there.
Government sources said that if approved, the new policy will enable foreign entrepreneurs to obtain two-year residencies in Japan as they prepare to launch their businesses. During this period, entrepreneurs pursuing the Startup Visa won’t be obliged to secure funds and set up a place of business in the country.
Instead, foreign entrepreneurs must submit a certified business plan and meet other conditions to qualify for the two-year ‘Business Management’ residency under the Startup Visa.
Japan is notoriously restrictive of its visa policies. Currently, foreign entrepreneurs must have a place of business, hire two locals, and secure capital investments of no less than 5 million yen ($33,189) before they can apply for residency. These conditions are seen as obstacles to significant entrepreneurial inflow to the country.
Also, per current rules, a foreign entrepreneur can get a six-month residency under the Startup Visa program without meeting the office and employment conditions, given that they’re launching their startups in Tokyo or Fukuoka. According to local media reports, only 380 applicants received residency under this program since its 2015 launch until the end of April 2023.
Japan might catch up to its Asian neighbors
With the world’s fourth-largest economy, Japan has long been an attractive destination for foreign investors and tourists. However, its selective visa policies could have deterred its entrepreneurial ecosystem from reaching its full potential.
By contrast, Singapore has a startup visa called EntrePass with much less stringent requirements. Foreign applicants only must demonstrate their track record of launching successful startups to qualify for one-year renewable residencies.
Meanwhile, Hong Kong, a special administrative region of China, still requires candidates to secure funding before becoming eligible for an entrepreneur residency. South Korea, on the other hand, has the Korea Startup Visa program, which has no financial requirements, focusing instead on the innovative aspects of the startups to decide on candidates’ eligibility.
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