Certificate of Eligibility-COE
The immigration department in Japan by “Article 7-2, Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act” looks over your application and makes an approval for you to come. Basically it’s a preliminary visa screening process; the step before the actual step of applying for a visa to enter Japan. The Japanese government approves the COE, and the local consulate approves the visa. But this paper is not enough to enter Japan. In order to obtain a COE, the applicant must have a sponsor in Japan, such as an employer, a school, or a relative, etc. The sponsor in Japan must contact the local Immigration Office in order to apply for your Certificate.
This COE is necessary only for a stay over 90 days. Temporary visa do not require COE
How to apply for a COE?
The application must be done within Japan so you will need an authorized user or organization to make it. The request must be made from Japan and it can be done by a third party for you. Student visas require the school, working visas would be the company, marriage visas would be the spouse, and so on. In addition, the needed documents also depend on the visa type.
For the most part, you can assume that your sponsor will know what documents are needed and you can follow their direction. However, if they are unsure, you can direct your sponsor to the resources.
Although there is an English site, it is vague and often missing information. It’s best to check the Japanese site as it will show exactly what you need.
Once the COE application is submitted then you simply have to wait for the results. There are cases where immigration will ask for additional documents or more information but this isn’t so common. The length of time is inconsistent except for language school students, who have set application and result dates. It could be weeks or months and calling immigration to inquire will only have them confirm that it is “under procedure” with no other useful information. If it has been acknowledged that the intended activities of a foreigner are relevant to the status of residence and meet landing criteria, if it has been deemed that grounds for denial of landing are applicable to said foreigner or that he/she otherwise does not meet the conditions for landing, a Certificate of Eligibility will not be issued.
What to do with the COE?
Assuming that all goes well, your COE will be granted and the sponsor will pick it up and mail it to you. You will take the documents to your closest consulate along with your passport and they will keep everything for a period of time. Each consulate has their own procedure and therefore it is impossible to predict how long it will take or if any additional details will be requested, but usually it is straightforward.
Once completed, you will return to the consulate to pick up your passport with the COE stapled inside and an entry visa stuck into your passport. The entry visa will have an expiry date but this is just for entering Japan, as long as you make it to the country before it expires then you will be fine and it has no relevance as to your actual visa expiration.
The processing time of the application will vary greatly depending on various factors such as the type of visa, location of the Immigration Office with jurisdiction of a certain case, the size of the sponsoring organization in Japan and the capacity of the Immigration Office. To give a rough indication of recent processing time, a standard work visa COE case submitted in Tokyo recently takes about 2 to 5 months from application date for a smooth standard case, and the processing time is usually shorter for cases where the sponsoring entity in Japan is a large or listed corporation (around 2 to 4 weeks) and cases utilizing the Highly Skilled Professional Visa Option (around 4 to 6 weeks)