Japan Specific Skilled Worker (SSW) Program 2024 – Step by Step Application Procedure

Japans Skilled Worker Program
Japans Skilled Worker Program

Japan’s labor market is unique, characterized by its advanced technology sectors, aging population, and the resulting labor shortages in various industries. To address these challenges and bolster its workforce, the Japanese government introduced the Specific Skilled Worker (SSW) Program. This initiative marks a significant shift in Japan’s approach to foreign labor, opening up new avenues for skilled workers from around the globe to live and work in Japan. The SSW Program is not just a pathway for individuals seeking employment opportunities; it’s a bridge between Japan and the world, fostering cultural exchange and economic growth.

This guide aims to demystify the SSW Program, offering a step-by-step approach to navigating the application process, preparing for life in Japan, and ultimately, succeeding in the Japanese labor market.

Understanding the Specific Skilled Worker Program

Objective of the SSW Program

The primary goal of the SSW Program is to fill labor shortages in specific sectors critical to Japan’s economy. By attracting foreign talent, Japan aims to sustain its industries and ensure continued economic development. Additionally, the program is designed to strengthen bilateral relations between Japan and the countries of prospective workers, creating a mutual benefit through workforce exchange.

Overview of SSW1 and SSW2 Categories

The SSW Program is divided into two categories, each catering to different levels of skills and offering distinct benefits:

  • SSW1 targets individuals with specific skills ready to enter the Japanese workforce in designated sectors. Eligible for up to 5 years of employment, SSW1 does not directly lead to permanent residency or allow for accompanying family members.
  • SSW2 is designed for those who have furthered their skills while in Japan under SSW1, offering a pathway to long-term residency. This category allows for family reunification, making it a desirable goal for many SSW1 workers.

Step 1: Assessing Eligibility and Choosing Your Path

Identifying Eligible Sectors

The Immigration Services Agency of Japan provides a comprehensive list of industries eligible under the SSW program, including but not limited to agriculture, nursing care, construction, and hospitality. Prospective applicants should review this list to determine if their skills match the needs of these sectors.

Understanding the Requirements

Eligibility for the SSW Program hinges on two main factors: possessing the necessary skills and experience for the chosen sector and achieving a requisite level of Japanese language proficiency. The program is designed to ensure that workers can not only contribute to their respective fields but also integrate into Japanese society.

Step 2: Language and Skills Preparation

Japanese Language Proficiency

The ability to communicate effectively in Japanese is crucial for success in the SSW Program. The Japan Foundation offers resources for learning Japanese and information on language proficiency tests. Achieving a good score on tests such as the Japanese-Language Proficiency Test (JLPT) can significantly enhance your application.

Industry-Specific Skills Examination

Each eligible sector has its own set of skills examinations. Prospective applicants should visit the Japan International Training Cooperation Organization (JITCO) for detailed information on these exams, including study materials, test dates, and registration procedures. Preparing for and passing these exams is a critical step in the application process.

Step 3: Job Hunting

Finding Job Opportunities

The journey to working in Japan under the SSW Program begins with securing a job offer from a Japanese employer in an eligible sector. Websites like Jobs in Japan and GaijinPot Jobs are excellent resources for finding job listings that cater specifically to foreign workers. Additionally, attending industry-specific job fairs, either online or in-person, can provide direct access to employers looking to hire under the SSW Program.

Applying for Jobs

When applying for jobs in Japan, it’s crucial to tailor your resume and cover letter to meet Japanese business standards. Highlighting your industry-specific skills, language proficiency, and understanding of Japanese work culture can set you apart. Prepare for interviews by researching common interview questions in your sector and practicing your Japanese language skills to demonstrate your communication ability.

Step 4: Application Documentation

Gathering Necessary Documents

A successful application to the SSW Program requires a comprehensive set of documents. This includes your passport, recent photographs, a job offer letter from your Japanese employer, proof of passing the Japanese language test, and evidence of passing the skills examination for your sector. The Immigration Services Agency of Japan provides a detailed checklist of required documents.

Navigating the Application Process

With the assistance of your employer, compile and submit your application packet to the Japanese immigration authorities. Your employer plays a crucial role in this process, often acting as your sponsor and guide through the bureaucratic steps. Ensure all documents are accurately filled out and submitted in accordance with the guidelines provided by the Immigration Services Agency of Japan.

Document Required

  1. Passport
  2. One visa application form (nationals of Russia, CIS countries or Georgia need to submit two visa application forms)
  3. One photograph (nationals of Russia, CIS countries or Georgia need to submit two photographs)
  4. Certificate of Eligibility (Note) – the original or one copy (If you have an electronic Certificate of Eligibility, please present it at the visa application counter or submit a printed copy)

Chinese nationals must submit the following documents as well:

  1. Copy of the Chinese Family Register
  2. Temporary Residence Permit or Residence Certificate (If the applicant does not have a family register within the region under the jurisdiction of the embassy or consulate where the application will be made)

(Note) Depending on the nationality of the applicant, additional documents may be required. For details, please check the website of a Japanese embassy or consulate-general in your area.

(Note) What is a Certificate of Eligibility?

A Certificate of Eligibility, which is issued by a regional immigration authority under the jurisdiction of the Immigration Services Agency of Japan, certifies that the foreign national conforms to the conditions for landing in Japan (which means the activity stated in the application is not false and it is one of the activities (except Temporary Visitor) stipulated in the Immigration Control Act). For details, check the website of the Immigration Services Agency of JAPAN. (A proxy in Japan can make an application of COE)

The application for the visa for specified skilled worker must be with COE. For details, check the website of the Immigration Services Bureau of JAPAN.

Step 5: Submitting Your Application

Understanding the Application Timeline

The processing time for SSW applications can vary, so it’s important to apply well in advance of your intended start date. Stay in close communication with your employer throughout this period to address any queries that may arise from the immigration authorities.

Dealing with Application Challenges

If you encounter issues with your application, don’t hesitate to seek assistance. Your employer, the Japanese embassy or consulate in your country, and immigration lawyers or consultants in Japan can provide valuable support. The Immigration Services Agency of Japan is also a resource for official guidance.

Step 6: Visa Issuance and Preparing for Japan

After Receiving Your Visa

Once your application is approved and you receive your visa, it’s time to prepare for your move. Coordinate with your employer regarding your arrival in Japan, housing, and the onboarding process. This is also a good time to familiarize yourself with Japan’s healthcare, banking, and public transportation systems to ease your transition.

Preparing for Life in Japan

Adjusting to life in Japan can be a rewarding experience. Engage with local communities, both in-person and online, to make connections and learn from others’ experiences. Understanding Japanese social norms and work culture will also play a significant role in your integration and success in Japan.

Transitioning from SSW1 to SSW2

For those aiming to extend their stay in Japan through the SSW2 category, it’s essential to plan ahead. This involves demonstrating advanced skills and a deeper understanding of Japanese language and culture. Working closely with your employer to meet the criteria for SSW2 can facilitate this transition, opening the door to long-term residency and family reunification.

Living and Working in Japan

Living in Japan as a foreign worker offers a unique set of challenges and opportunities. Embracing the Japanese way of life, from its rich cultural traditions to its modern conveniences, can greatly enhance your experience. Be proactive in learning about your rights as a worker and the support systems available to you, including legal assistance and community groups.


Navigating Japan’s Specific Skilled Worker Program requires preparation, patience, and persistence. By following this step-by-step guide, you’re well-equipped to embark on your journey to working and living in Japan. Remember, success in the SSW Program is not just about securing a job; it’s about building a fulfilling life in one of the world’s most fascinating countries.

Additional Resources

For further information and assistance, the following official websites and resources are invaluable:

Leveraging these resources will provide you with the most current information and guidance as you navigate the SSW Program and your new life in Japan.