Japanese ski seasons are the stuff of legends. With many ski resorts averaging 10–12 metres of snow a year and, in some instances, more than 20, nowhere comes close to the land of the rising sun. So how can you make sure to take advantage of such incredible conditions without relying on one or two weeks a year from your holiday?
I’m going to do my best to explain exactly how to secure your working holiday visa and spend a dream ski season in Japan. Wondering why you should trust me? I’ve applied four times (thanks to you know what!) and had each of them accepted. Ideally, I’d have only applied once, but certain events prevented me from going. So by the last application, it was pretty much second nature.
What is a working holiday visa?
In case you haven’t already done your research, the working holiday visa is likely the first and best choice if you’re considering a ski season in Japan. You probably don’t need to consider a full-on ‘Working’ visa until you return for another season with a great company to work for and a job offer. That involves way more paperwork and is definitely harder to get sponsored for.
Each working holiday visa will allow you to stay in Japan for up to a year. Some countries, however, may require extending your visa at the 6-month mark (for another 6 months). That’s something you’ll have to check at your respective embassy.
Working holiday visas were designed to give those who take advantage of it an understanding of Japan’s culture and develop closer ties between the two countries. As such, its main use is not for work, but instead for travel and cultural exchange. That doesn’t mean you can’t work, just that it shouldn’t be your main focus.
Prerequisites for applying
Before you even consider applying for your working holiday visa, there are a few prerequisites you need to consider. I won’t include things like having a valid passport because that’s a must-have for most travel.
1. Be within the age limit
To apply for a Japanese working holiday visa you have to be within the age limit. For most countries, that’s between 18 and 30 years old. There are exceptions for Australia, Canada, and the Republic of Korea where applicants much be between 18 and 25. You may still apply when you hit 30 or 25, but once you hit that next birthday your opportunity has passed.
2. Have not been issued a Japanese working holiday visa before
Another slightly unfortunate condition of applying for a Japanese working holiday visa is that you can only have one in your lifetime. That means if you’ve been issued one before and chosen not to use it within its validity period (1 Year) you’ve forfeited your chance. I’ve been issued the visa more than once, but those were globally extenuating circumstances which meant I, and many others, could apply again.
3. Apply before the quota fills up
Before you even consider applying for the working holiday visa, you need to check if the quota for your country has filled up. For some lucky places there’s no limit (Australia, New Zealand, Denmark, Norway, Portugal, Sweden), but for most others that limit is between 100 and 1000. If your country is on this list, you can apply for the Japan working holiday visa as long as your quota is not filled. Check your respective embassy page or phone the Japanese embassy in your country to check the current capacity.
Quick Tip: Your Japan working holiday visa is valid for 1 year. That means you have exactly 1 year from when it was issued to enter Japan for it to still be considered valid. Once in Japan, you can stay for up to a year.
How to apply for a working holiday visa
Applying for a Japan working holiday visa is a relatively simple process, especially once you understand what it is you’re applying for. Other than the following items mentioned, make sure you have a valid passport and a passport-sized photo for your application form.
Visa Application Form
This is a form that confirms you are who you say you are and asks for the address you’re staying at, your purpose for visiting Japan, and other similar information. Remember, the purpose of a working holiday visa is to travel and experience Japan’s culture. Your primary reason for visiting Japan on this visa should never be just to work. You should find a sample application form on your country’s Japan embassy page which will make filling it in a lot simpler.
Add in your CV as it is, there are no strict requirements for actually receiving the visa, they just want to get an idea of the kind of person you are.
Outline of Intended Activities
You might not know exactly what you want to do for the entire year, and that’s perfectly fine. Japan often operates in a grey zone, which means vagueness is actually your friend in this situation. For my applications, I wrote things like “November – February: Explore Japan’s north and go skiing in the famous Japow”.
Expanding on a point is totally fine, but just be sure to not write you’ve 100% got a job ready for you. Words like “Perhaps”, “Possibly”, and “Maybe” are all great ones to use. Group the rest of the year’s months into small groups to make things easier and write about what you might like to explore and see. It’s perfectly acceptable to change your plans when the time comes, they just want to make sure you’re using the visa for what it was built for. Finally, it will help to write a small amount about how you plan to leave Japan afterwards, either back home or to continue your travels.
A Written Reason For Applying
In this section of the application you should write a few paragraphs about why you want to apply for a Japan working holiday visa. Once again, and I know I’m repeating myself, it’s important to not say you have a job already lined up, but saying you’ll consider getting a job if your funds run low is perfectly fine. Maybe talk about how you’ve skied your whole life and always wanted to ski the famous snow you’ve heard of, and Japan’s culture makes things even more interesting for you.
Once you have all these things, you can go to your country’s Japanese embassy and hand in your application forms. Here are the requirements for applying in the UK, but please understand they have the possibility to change frequently so always check beforehand. Processing times will vary from embassy to embassy, so your best bet is to phone up or look on the website. Usually, it’s 1–2 weeks
You need to show proof (usually 3 months’ bank statements) that you have appropriate funds for your trip to Japan. That usually comes in the form of (in the UK) £2,500 (∼US$2,774) if you don’t have a return flight booked, or £1,500 (∼US$1,664) if you do. Take any evidence you have, and don’t move money around as it slows the process considerably.
How to find work during your ski season
Ok, so you’ve applied for and been successful in obtaining the visa, but how do you get a job? Ideally, you could just ski the entire season without worrying about money but that’s rarely the case. We suggest you check out our job board first, but if you’ve bounced around this site and figured out your dream ski destination in Japan, we recommend you also try and track down the job page of the resort or local tourism board.
If we take Niseko as an example, you’ll find their tourism jobs page by simply typing in “Niseko Jobs”, and you’ll find this site among the results. There you’ll find part-time, full-time, and seasonal work in a number of different job sectors depending on your preference and background. To be honest, even google does a good job of bringing up a number of its own potential jobs right at the top of the search results, so you shouldn’t need to search far. Be advised that the working holiday visa does not allow you to work in a place that would “affect public morals” such as bars or nightclubs.
Another way to find work during your season is to join a ski resort jobs page on Facebook. This approach is a little more general, but you can offer your services, ask for potential employment during your season and wait until a job posting in your resort shows up. I would suggest a mixture of both approaches is best so you can secure your job as soon as possible. Once you’ve been to a place for the first year, you’re far more likely to be able to get a working visa sponsorship, so use this first year wisely, and make friends and network if you plan on returning!
At first glance, the Japan working holiday visa might seem overwhelming to apply for, but if you take it slowly and understand the purpose of the visa is for cultural exchange and travel, the whole process becomes less daunting. If you fit the requirements to apply for the visa, this is absolutely the best way to do a ski season in Japan without having to worry too much about being at work full time. Make use of it while you can and enjoy the best damn skiing of your life!
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