Japan’s Immigration Control Act sets out a Status of Residence system. The act states, “An alien may reside in Japan only under a status of residence….” Its annexed tables show 27 categories of resident status. Each status authorizes and prohibits activities the alien may engage in during their period of stay in Japan.
A Certificate of Eligibility proves that a foreign national wishing to enter Japan can comply with Japan’s landing requirements, and that they have sufficient Status of Residence in Japan. It is issued at the Immigration Bureau in Japan. It is NOT a visa; rather, it is a document you can submit with your visa application at the Japanese diplomatic mission.
The Japanese government recommends that a foreigner submit this certificate with their visa application, and you can get your visa faster if you do. However, if you live outside of Japan, you need assistance from someone in Japan to get the certificate for you.
For a Temporary Visitor visa, you do not need a Certificate of Eligibility.
Nor do you need a Certificate of Eligibility to apply for an extended Period of Stay or to change your visa status if you are already in Japan.
A foreign national intending to enter Japan may apply for this certificate; their agent in Japan may file the application on their behalf.
For example, a foreigner’s wife who lives in Japan may file an application on behalf of her husband. If the wife lives or studies overseas, her relative may file the application. A staff member of an organization hiring a foreign national to come to work in Japan may file an application on the prospective employee’s behalf.