So I leave for Japan in 5 days and I haven’t written in a while, that’s my fault. A lot has been going on and I have been neglecting the site, but no more! In the next 5 days, until I leave on the plane for Japan, I will be posting each day something for you to read. To start off; getting your visa.

As a normal passport will allow you to stay in Japan for 90 days without a visa, if you are going to Japan for vacation or just not staying there for long this post is not for you, but if you plan to stay longer read on. This post is also for obtaining a student visa and nothing else. I have no experience with acquiring a work visa or a visa of any other type so I will not pretend that I know otherwise. With that said let’s go through the process of getting your student visa!

The first step is to find your local Japanese embassy or consulate because that is the only location where your student visa to Japan can be processed and then given to you. There 18 Japanese consulates scattered across the US and this page I found has a list as well as a map showing their positions. For me, because I live in New York, I had to apply at the Consulate-General of Japan in New York which also services Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, The U.S. Virgin Islands, West Virginia, and Fairfield County of Connecticut. After you have visited the regional Japanese consulate’s website look for a link to their “visa” page, which should detail how to obtain a visa through them. I’m not sure if the application process is different in other states but I will describe my activities.

To apply for my visa through the NY consulate I had the option of doing it in person or sending the application in by mail. I chose to do it person because I prefer to handle any problems that might come up as soon as possible, also if I had any questions I could ask them to someone with knowledge on the subject. Before you attempt either methods of submitting your application there are a few things that you must have:

  1. Valid passport with at least one full empty visa page.
  2. A two inch square photograph taken within six months of the application. (you can get them done in almost all photo shops, I did mine in Wal-Mart just because of ease, ask to do a passport photo)
  3. Certificate of Eligibility (which you should have received from your university in Japan)

If you want to know how to do the mail in process you can find the application process here for the New York Consulate, likewise your local consulate should have a similar page. Make sure you include complete documentation and fill out everything, you wouldn’t want to receive back your unprocessed application because you didn’t fill something in. I recommend that even if you are going to do the process in person to download and take a look at the application to know everything that you have to take with you.

After I found the consulate, I was directed to the area to submit visa applications. I told the attendant that I was going to be studying abroad in Japan and was handed a form to fill out. I filled out all areas, including the date I am departing from the US to Japan and returning, and by what airline. I then handed them the two-by-two photo of myself, my certificate of eligibility, and payed any fee that was required of me. Because I didn’t plan on staying in NYC while they processed my application (about four business days) I also gave them a U.S. Express Mail self-addressed stamped envelope with completed express mailing label and the postage that I purchased at my local US Postal Office. The following week I received my visa, now all that is left is to prepare to travel to Japan, which will be covered in the next four posts.

If you are in one of the areas serviced by the New York Consulate of Japan and you decide to travel to NYC to do the same process I described, let me recommend a hotel to stay at: The Pod Hotel New York (formerly the Pickwick Arms). It was cheap ($106 with tax), especially for a hotel in Manhattan, and the staff were very nice. Overall I had a very good experience in the hotel and would suggest that anyone who is planning to go to New York City on a budget take this into consideration. It was also in a very good location being at 230 E 51st St. it was only a few blocks away from the consulate.

After you have your visa, you have done all of the required material for you to leave the US, that’s a big step. Next time I will be talking about getting ready to actually leave on your plane, until then!

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Probably the most important thing that you will have to get before you leave for Japan is your passport. It takes a little while to get, but it lasts you 10 years (at least mine does). The process is pretty strait forward and I’ll go over the basics on this post.

Your first step is to go to the Passport Homepage. This page will give you pretty much all the information you will need. It’s not that user friendly though, so here is what I would recommend you do; first, find a place where you can apply for your passport (usually a post office) by looking it up on this page, all you have to do is enter your zip code and it will show you the nearest facility where you can apply for your passport. When you find where you will apply for your passport it’s just a matter of filling out the application, getting your picture taken and then waiting for several weeks for your passport to come in the mail. You will have to call the location to make an appointment, so make sure that you do this before hand.

Your passport is your key to other countries, it’s what lets you traverse the world (legally). It will take usually six weeks for you to receive it in the mail, which is why I strongly advise you to get this done as quickly as possible, unless you pay an extra fee to get it sent to you quicker. If you are going to Japan to study for the Summer or Winter this may be all you have to do depending on how long you are staying over there. The maximum time you can stay in Japan without having to get a visa is 90 days. Obtaining your student visa will be covered a little bit later.

Next time I will go over orientation, and getting your things in order with your college, until then!