Japan to launch one-year startup visa program in 2018: Report

To make Japan a more accommodating environment for startup entrepreneurs, the government is reportedly set to launch a nationwide one-year visa program, extending its current six-month program that is only available in Tokyo and Fukuoka.
Written by Tas Bindi, Contributor

Japan is gearing up to launch a one-year startup visa program as early as fiscal 2018 in a bid to attract foreign entrepreneurs, according to a report.

The program will be included in an economic package to be approved by the government on Friday, Nikkei Asian Review has said.

Under Japan's reported new startup visa program, foreign entrepreneurs will have 12 months to live and work anywhere in Japan, as long as they submit a business plan demonstrating their ability to open a business office in the country and secure funding.

The current startup visa system is only available in "special zones" including Fukuoka City and Tokyo, and requires foreign entrepreneurs to submit a business plan demonstrating viability, open a business office, and hire two or more permanent employees or have investments exceeding 5 million yen upon submitting their application to the Immigration Bureau in order to receive approval for a six-month "business manager" residential status.

According to Nikkei, however, only 30 of these startup visas have been issued in the last two years, with most foreign entrepreneurs agreeing that six months is too short a period to kickstart business operations in the country. This is because it can be difficult for those who are unfamiliar with the ins and outs of doing business in Japan to secure an office space, which requires finding a guarantor; opening bank accounts; raising funding; and undertaking other critical business-related tasks in six months, it said.

The new startup visa program will be led by Japan's Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry and Ministry of Justice.

The trade ministry will be setting up a framework to assist local and regional governments to attract foreign startups, in addition to certifying localities that can assist with finding residential and commercial real estate, as well as offer lawyer and accountant consultations on matters related to founding a business, Nikkei has reported.

Singapore also has a visa program, called EntrePass, for foreign entrepreneurs looking to launch or relocate their startup in the country. EntrePass is valid for up to two years, and is available to entrepreneurs who have or plan to set up a private limited company registered with Singapore's Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority Singapore, and hold a minimum 30 percent stake in the company.

Additionally, the entrepreneur must fulfill at least one of three requirements: Their startup must be funded by a government-accredited VC or business angel; they must be a participant at a government-supported incubator; or they must have significant business experience or network and a "promising entrepreneurial track record of starting highly-scalable businesses".

Earlier this year, in its own attempt to attract foreigners to start or work for a technology company, Chilean President Michelle Bachelet announced the launch of the Chilean Tech Visa, which trims down the visa approval process to just 15 days.

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