International students in Japan who are married and those who have children may bring their family to Japan with them. In fact, some university dormitories offer couple rooms and family rooms or apartment-type accommodations for international students.

I am Janessa Louise Roque, an Embassy Recommended MEXT Scholar and I am currently a Research Student in Tokyo. I moved from Manila in September 2019 through my Japan Student Visa, and I now live with my husband who has now moved here to Tokyo through a Dependent Visa. In this article I will share with you the procedures of bringing your family with you to Japan, as well as some tips from our own visa application experience.

What is a “Dependent Visa”?

In Japan, international residents with the following Residence Status may bring their family to Japan: Professor, Artist, Religious Activities, Journalist, Investor/Business Manager, Legal/Accounting Services, Medical Services, Researcher, Instructor, Engineer, Specialist in Humanities/International Services, Intra-company Transferee, Entertainer, Skilled Labor, Cultural Activities, or Student.

If your Residence Status is any of those mentioned above, your family members apply for a “Dependent Visa.” However, for students, take note that students attending certain types of schools are not eligible.

Your family members can apply for a Dependent Visa if you are a student in the following types of schools: Graduate School (for Doctor, Master, or Research Student); University (Undergraduate Student, Auditor, Elective Course Student, Japanese Language Course Student); Junior College (for Regular Student, Auditor, Elective Course Student, Japanese Language course Student); Technical School. Double-check which kind o institution you will be enrolled in.

Family members of students in the following types of schools cannot apply for a Dependent Visa: Advanced Vocational School, Japanese Language Institution, Senior High School, Junior High School and Elementary School.

How to Apply for Dependent Visa


  1. Obtain a Certificate of Eligibility from your city hall in Japan. (1-3 months)
  2. Mail the CoE to your family member (3-20 days)
  3. Your family member applies for a Dependent Visa with the CoE in your home country. (7-10 days [depending on your respective embassy’s process])

Total time: 6 weeks – 4 months

First and foremost, as a Student Visa holder, you will have to come to Japan first before you can bring your family member/s. The recommended timeframe is 6 months as this allows you to settle your life in Japan before you bring in your family. During this period, you can start the application process as it can take up to 4 months in total before you can complete all the requirements in obtaining the Dependent Visa.

The first step is to get a Certificate of Eligibility (CoE) for your family member/s. This is another reason why you can’t bring your family member to Japan at the same time as you because you have to apply it by yourself in the city hall of your residence (where Student Visa holders are also required to register their address). The CoE is not a visa. It is a document that states that the Japanese Government is allowing your family member to stay as a resident in Japan. The CoE is a requirement in getting a Dependent Visa from the Japan Embassy (or a certified travel agency such as our case) from your home country.

CoE application requirements:

  1. Application form
  2. Photo (4cm×3cm)
  3. A return-mail envelope with stamp(s) worth 392 yen 
  4. Documents certifying the personal relationship between the person concerned and the person who is to support him or her. (Marriage and/or Birth Certificate of dependent)
  5. Photocopy of the Student Visa holder’s passport. (to be sure you can include a photocopy of your residence card as well)
  6. Documents certifying the profession and the income of the person who is to support the person concerned. (or MEXT scholarship document indicating that you are receiving a monthly stipend, make sure it has the amount of the monthly stipend. You may also opt to attach a guarantee of support from your or your spouse’s parent together with their bank certificate or bank statement).
  7. A document that proves the status (if a legal representative or agent submits the application form on behalf of the applicant)

Having your dependent’s documents with you when you come to Japan is advisable as it will cut the cost of having them send these documents to you by mail. It also ensures that you are ready to apply for the CoE shortly after you arrive.

Applying for the CoE usually takes 1-3 months. Some get it earlier than 1 month and some get it days or even weeks after the 3rd month of application. In my case, I was told that it would take 2 months before I receive my husband’s CoE. I received it a week after the 2nd month of my application. The city hall will mail you the CoE through the post.

After getting the CoE, you can now mail it to your family member (it is advisable to copy before mailing it). Depending on where your home country is, sending it could take several days up to weeks. The CoE will indicate how many years your family member can stay. In my husband’s case, he was given two years.

Another tip: before your family member receives the CoE, make sure that all the other visa requirements are already prepared. Check with your country’s Japanese Embassy or certified travel agency the process and requirements in getting a Dependent Visa as this varies from country to country.

Upon getting the visa from the Japan Embassy or a certified travel agency, make sure to ask if there are any special requirements from the Immigration of your country. Some Immigration offices require their citizens to go through certain seminars or submit special documents before they allow a person to leave the county. 

When everything’s set, you can now book a flight to Japan. It is advisable to book a flight only after getting the Dependent Visa since you will not know for sure if you will get it or not.

Residence card and work permit

Take note that a Dependent Visa is not a Work Visa. However, the dependent is allowed to study in Japan or work part-time with conditions. Similar to a Student Visa holder, the Immigration will give your family member a residence card upon arriving in Japan. The residence card serves as the main identification card in Japan. When receiving the residence card, the dependent may ask the Immigration officer to give them permission to work. They will stamp the residence card with a note that allows the dependent to work for 28 hours per week. This is the same work hours that they give to Student Visa holders.

As a Dependent Visa holder, you are allowed to leave Japan, given that you have your residence card with you. However, if you plan to leave Japan for more than a year, make sure to apply for a Re-entry Permit in the Regional Immigration office in Japan.

Bringing your family members as a Student Visa holder certainly is doable. It assures student applicants, who are married and/or have children, that studying in Japan does not mean that you will be alone in your adventures in another country. Ganbatte kudasai!


CoE application (Immigration):

Featured Image Photo by DynamicWang on Unsplash

Family Photo by Emma Bauso from Pexels

Couple Photo by Jerome Jome on Unsplash