For prospective students whose Japanese ability is not sufficient to directly enter higher education the process begins with applying to a language school.

Applying to a Language School

Long-term Japanese language courses that prepare students for higher education start in April for 1- or 2-year courses and October for 1.5-year courses. However, prospective students need to apply well in advance to allow time to apply for a student visa. Technically, there are two application routes.

  1. The education institution at which the student wishes to enroll makes an application to the Japanese Immigration Bureau on behalf of the student for a Certificate of Eligibility (“CoE”). This CoE required to apply for a student visa at the Japanese Embassy in the student’s home country.
  2. The student applies directly to the Japanese Immigration Bureau for the CoE once they have gained acceptance to a language school. The CoE can only be issued in Japan, so you will need someone in Japan to help you with the process. Once the CoE is issued the student goes to the Japanese embassy in their home country and makes an application for a student visa.

There is no advantage to the latter route, which is why all language schools assume that an application for a CoE on behalf of the student is part of the enrollment process. Exact dates will differ by school, but here’s an idea of how the process for an April school entry might look like.

Research language schools and courses

August-October: Apply to a Language School

The required documentation will be listed on the schools website, but you will certainly be expected to submit proof of previous education (e.g. high school graduation certificates, diplomas, etc.)

November: Notification of Acceptance/Rejection

Schools will automatically make the application for the CoE on behalf of successful applicants

January: Issuance of CoE

You will need to prove that you have the financial ability to support yourself during your studies or show that you have a guarantor who will pledge to do so. Requirements as to what constitutes sufficient financial assets differs by country—you should visit the Japanese embassy website of your home country for details. In cases where an amount isn’t prescribed it should be at least enough to cover tuition fees and living costs during your stay. Generally speaking, this requirement is more stringent for students from Southeast Asia, for example, than it is for students from, say, South Korea or the United States. For a student applying for a 1-year language course ¥2 million is a guideline amount to cover tuition and living expenses.

February: Apply for a Student Visa at Local Japanese Embassy

Once the CoE is issued the student takes it to their local Japanese embassy to apply for a student visa. Remember the CoE is just that—a certificate to tell the embassy that you are eligible to study in Japan. It does not give you permission to enter the country as a student. The issuance of the visa typically takes 3-14 days depending on the embassy.

March: Enroll in the School

The CoE is valid for three months. If you do not enter Japan during this period, the CoE—along with any visa it supports—will expire and you will need to start the process at the beginning again.

Entering Higher Education Directly

Foreign students whose Japanese language ability is such that they do not need to study at a language school (or who opt to study at a university that offers courses in English) have two choices:

  1. Enter Japan on a tourist visa to take the EJU and/or university entrance examination. If they gain entrance to university during their stay they will be able to convert their tourist visa to a student visa in Japan.
  2. Take the EJU outside Japan and apply to specialist schools or universities from abroad. If successful they can begin the application process for the CoE but will ideally need to have a contact in Japan for the reasons given above. Note that the EJU can only be taken in a limited number of Asian cities and the number of universities that will admit a student based purely on a foreign EJU score is limited, and so the student will likely have to travel to Japan for interviews and/or individual university examinations.

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