Japanese government started a new visa in April, 2019, Specified Skilled Worker, or commonly known as blue-collar visa, to allow foreigners to engage in simple labor work to address the severe labor force shortage domestic. Considering Japan used to only grant working visas to talents with high academic or career background, this visa means a big step in Japanese immigration system.
Among all the 14 industries able to apply for this new visa, food and beverage manufacturing industry has the largest number of establishments and employees. There is little difference in the ratio of the number of employees in urban and rural areas, as food and beverages are demanded all over the country. Though there are already over 10 million foreigners working in this industry, still labor forces are required nationwide.
We are going to conclude all the possible visas to work in this industry in Japan, and how to apply for specified skilled worker visa, possible jobs and salary for this visa holders.
According to the investigation by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry in October, 2018, around 11.9 million foreign nationals work in this industry, and their residence statuses are as follows:
These visas are granted based on family status, including Permanent resident, Long-term resident, Spouse or child of Japanese national and Spouse of permanent resident. There are no limitations of work on these visas. Their holders are allowed to do any job in any industry full-timely or part-timely (except for illegal business).
Student and Dependent visa holders are not allowed to work paid by immigration law. But they can work part-timely, less than 28 hours per week, with a work permission granted by immigration bureau. With permission, they can work in any industry except for entertainment businesses.
Working holiday under Designated activities visa allows their holders to work in any industry, so does food and beverage manufacturing.
While Engineer/Specialist in humanities/International services visa holders are not allowed to engage in food manufacturing work. Only work like equipment management, process management, procurement is possible.
Specified skilled worker visa is expected to migrate 3.4 million foreign nationals into food and beverage manufacturing industry within 5 years. There are two residence statuses under this visa: a) allows a maximum stay of 5 years and no family accompany, while b) can lead to a permanent stay and allow family accompany. Currently only Specified skilled worker a) is applicable to this industry.
To apply for specified skilled worker visa, applicants need to pass Japanese and skills proficiency test. JLPT (Japanese Language Proficiency Test) N4 level or upper is required. Technical Intern Trainees in food manufacturing who have completed their trainings are exempted from tests.
Skills proficiency test aims to measure the level of ability required to properly carry out operations corresponding to hygiene control in accordance with HACCP in the industry.
Result of skills test will be valid in 10 years. Every year, the test will be held 2~3 times at about 10 cities in Japan and several other countries, such as Vietnam, Philippines and Indonesia. Basically it will be conducted in local language.
For applicants taking the test abroad, they must be at least 17 years old or above on the test date (18 years old for some countries, check the official website).
While for applicants in Japan, the following conditions need to be satisfied additionally:
1) Must have a valid passport
2) Must not fall under any of the following:
・Foreign student who has been expelled or withdrawn from the school (including voluntary withdrawal)
・Absconded technical intern trainee
・Designated Activities (refugee application) visa holder
・Person who are holders of the following visa and engaging in the activity corresponding to their visa, for example a technical intern trainee who is currently engaging in technical internship training.
-Technical Intern Training
-Designated activities (Human Resource Development Program to Promote Japanese Cuisine Abroad)
-Designated activities (International Promotion Program of Kyoto's Traditional Cuisine)
-Designated activities (Foreign Employee Acceptance Program for Manufacturing Industry)
-Designated activities (Internship)
-Designated activities (Projects for Encouraging Foreign Entrepreneurs to Start Businesses)
-Business/management (Program to Promote Start-ups by Foreign Nationals)
3) Must be a mid to long-term resident, which means that Temporary visitor, Diplomat or Official, Special permanent resident visa holders should be excluded.
Difficulty level is like that one person who has worked in the industry practically in Japan for about 1~3 years will 50% pass without any specialized test texture. Comparing to other 13 industries, skills test for food and beverages manufacturing is said to be relatively easy.
The test is conducted in CBT (Computer Based Testing) format within 80 minutes and divided into two parts: subject test and practical test. One should take 65% or above of the full score to pass.
Aimed to measure examinees' knowledge regarding hygiene/sanitation control, and occupational health and safety, etc.
Including judgment test, to measure if the examinee will be able to take the correct behaviors in situations described using figures and illustrations.
And planning test, to measure if the examinee has the level of technical skill required to plan for necessary tasks using a certain formula and calculation.
Both subject and practical test will check the following content:
・Basic knowledge of food safety and quality control
・Basics of general hygiene/sanitation control
・Basics of manufacturing process management
・Hygiene/sanitation control in accordance with HACCP
・Occupational Health and Safety
Visa holders of specified skilled are allowed to engage in general food and beverage (except for alcoholic) manufacturing jobs, including manufacturing, processing, health and safety.
In addition, they are also allowed to do related tasks, such as cleaning, procurement and acceptance of raw materials, delivery of products, management of business offices, etc.
Their possible employers are prescribed by Japan Standard Industry Classification as the following 7 categories:
・Food manufacturing industry
・Soft drink manufacturing industry
・Tea/coffee manufacturing industry
・Confectionery retail (manufacturing and retail)
・Bread retail (manufacturing and retail)
・Processed foods such as tofu/kamaboko retail
Compared to technical trainees, there are more job categories allowed for Specified Skilled Workers.
It is a common rule in Japan that one's salary increases with age. According to the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, the average annual salary for 20s is 2.54 million yen, while 3.37 million for 30s, 4.45 million for 40s, and 4.80 million for 50s. Also salary tends to be higher in urbanized cities like Tokyo than countryside.