A large portion of my blog covers the topic of Japan, which highlights the relationship I have with this small island nation and the goals and experiences I have tripped over throughout my life. Recently, Colton and I have decided to sacrifice most of our physical objects that we had accumulated throughout our lives to relocate here, and part of what made this possible is a small company called Go! Go! Nihon. This company made it it’s personal goal to help potential international students apply to small colleges and language schools throughout Japan (and now Spain and Korea) as a non-profit entity. I had the opportunity to work with this company to help my voyage to the land of the rising sun, and I wanted to share my experiences with the world as I have now settled in to my tiny 400 square foot/ 35 square meter apartment in Osaka that my husband and I call home.
After about a year of on-and-off travels about the U.S. looking for a place to relocate, we came to the realization that we yearned for the novelty and adventure of a life abroad. We knew it wouldn’t be easy, but since I had always had an interest in Japanese language and even considered getting a degree focused in it, we agreed that it would be an excellent opportunity to enroll into a Japanese language school and try our hand at the Japanese way of life. Years ago I had stumbled upon Go! Go! Nihon’s website back when it was just a dream festering in the crannies of my mind: a life I never thought I had the courage or resilience to attempt. So after all of the daydreaming we finally sent them an inquiry sometime in October 2016, and kept regular contact with a few employees as they guided us through the school admissions and Japanese immigration requirements.
I now have the luxury of eating all of my meals and paying all of my bills at my heaven on earth, Family Mart. There are at least 4 of them in less than a kilometer of my apartment.
Most of my interactions were with a very kind woman named Lindsay, who was very helpful and personable during this exciting but terrifying stage of scanning in my entire life’s worth of documents to send to the notoriously strict Japanese Immigration. Here is the process, from the best of my memory:
- Gather your documents and proof of funds
Getting acceptance from your school is the first step, but they want to make sure you will get accepted from immigration before they accept you. You need to scan in your passport, proof of funds (via bank statement) as well as a paystub and/or proof of income. This is to make sure that you have enough money to support yourself during your studies. Even if you plan to work, you will need around ~$10,000USD in savings per year applied for one person to prove this to immigration. You can apply for 6 months if you have at least $5,000 and renew later, but shorter visas can affect things like your choices in banks that will accept you for an account. You will also need other forms of identification depending on your country. You may need to fill out a few other admission fields as well. They asked about my school history, and even about the details. We had some major life-shaking events happen during college, which reflected in some blanks in our school history. We had to explain every gap, so be prepared for that. It didn’t seem to hinder us much, but it took me as a bit odd that they asked for more details about my husband’s kindergarten history. After your application is accepted, you will be asked to pay an admission fee, which may change depending on the school you chose.
I waited anywhere between a few weeks to a few months for a response. It was knuckle whitening at times, but Go! Go! Nihon communicates with the school for you so you don’t have to. It took me a few weeks to get my acceptance from the school before we started on the actual immigration process. We had to sign and send some real, physical documents via FedEx, so if you are running close to the deadline you may want to consider that.
- Pay up, Buttercup
Six months tuition was due around the same time that we had to apply for Immigration. It is pretty nerve racking to pay tuition before you even get approved to enter the country, but you are entitled to a full refund in case of that, minus the bank transfer fee. We were pretty committed at this point, so we went ahead and took the risk and it all worked out for us. Once you pay, they send you your Certificate of Eligibility to your home once it gets released from Immigration.
- Wait for your CoE
This was the worst part. Japanese Immigration is pretty slow to issue your Certificate, in some cases it takes up to three months, ours took about two and a half. You also must pay tuition, book your airline tickets, and start browsing your housing options during this point. We did what we needed to and our Certificates finally came in about a month before we left. You need to take the certificate to a Japanese Embassy in your state if possible, and they take it and process it with your Visas. You need to fill out another application, this time for the visa itself. Thankfully it is much shorter application, and we were approved for our visas in just under a week. I think it may take up to two weeks, so as soon as you get your CoE get out and get it taken care of!
- Pick up your Visa/Wait for them in the mail
We made the mistake of traveling to the Houston Embassy instead of the Louisiana one, so we had to make the two hour drive to pick them up. We were told that there should have been one in Louisiana that could mail us our visas, but I don’t really regret having to make the drive again. I was so excited to hold our passports with our new little visas inside! It made the long, detailed process completely worth it.
This actually came in between the Visa application process and the CoE process, but it wasn’t fully finished until after we received our Visas. Go! Go! Nihon gave us a list of potential apartments from a company in Osaka named D.I.D. Global that specializes in apartments for foreigners in Japan, a process that is surprisingly difficult for most Expatriates here. We were relieved to have a relatively easy experience. Our first choice was taken quite quickly, but we opted for a bigger, nicer place that was a bit more expensive. We were selling our home so we wanted to be comfortable, and we were careful about how much we were willing to downgrade. We paid a deposit via paypal to the company and that reserved it for us until we touched down in Japan to sign our lease.
So far we have had no serious issues with our relocation. I hope I could help anyone potentially considering using this service. I am now happily situated and I don’t think that should change, but expect more updates just in case!