【Case Study】How to invite a chef with a skilled labor visa
Mr. A, a Japanese, runs a restaurant in Japan, and he was very impressed by the traditional Chinese food when he visited China. After returning to Japan, he decided to open a Chinese restaurant in Japan, but expert skills are necessary to cook traditional Chinese food. If Mr. A is to acquire such skills, it will require many years of training in China.
Therefore, Mr. A decided to invite an experienced chef from China to hire him. After repeated negotiations, Mr. A got consent from Mr. B, a Chinese chef, as to visiting Japan. Mr. A came to us to ask about the necessary documents and procedures for obtaining a visa for Mr. B.
In this case, a skilled labor visa is applicable to Mr. B’s activities as a chef. Skilled labor visas are a type of work visa granted to foreigners who perform activities with skills in industries unique to foreign countries, such as chefs of foreign cuisine, sports coaches, pilots, and precious metal processors.
In this article, we would like to focus on chefs while explaining about skilled labor visas.
1. What is a skilled labor visa?
“Activities to engage in services which require industrial techniques or skills belonging to special fields based on a contract with a public or private organization in Japan” are permitted by skilled labor visas (Appended Table I (2) of the Immigration Act).
The “(industrial) special fields” are interpreted as industrial fields characteristic of foreign countries, industrial fields of which foreign countries have higher technologies than Japan, and industrial fields in which only a small number of experts are engaged in Japan. The Ministerial Ordinance on Criteria for Landing Permission (so-called joriku-kyoka-kijun) stipulates 9 types of services as follows.
(i) A person who is to engage in the duties of preparing cuisine
(ii) A person using skills related to architecture
(iii) A person using skills related to the manufacture or repair of products characteristic of a foreign country
(iv) A person using skills related to the processing of gems, precious stones, or fur
(v) A person using skills related to animal training
(vi) A person using skills related to offshore drilling for oil exploration, drilling for geothermal development, etc.
(vii) A person using skills related to piloting an aircraft
(viii) A person using skills related to coaching a sport
(ix) A person using skills related to the appraisal, etc. of a wine’s quality
The most popular one is the chef of foreign cuisine (item (i)).
2. Tips for inviting chefs to Japan
(1) Types of cuisine
As mentioned above, skilled labor visas must belong to an “industrial techniques or skills belonging to special fields “. For that reason, in case of a chef, the cuisine must be considered rare or special in Japan and must have been invented in a foreign country.
For example, a chef of Sichuan cuisine (a type of Chinese cuisine) should meet the requirement. On the other hand, in case of a chef at a ramen (noodles) restaurant, even though ramen was originated in China, ramen restaurants are not considered special or unique in Japan, so the requirement would not be fulfilled.
(2) At least 10 years’ experience
One of the requirements for a skilled labor visa for chefs is “a person with at least 10 years’ experience using the skills.”
Working as a chef of any kind for 10 years or more is not sufficient to fulfill this requirement, but applicants must have work experience in the field which they wish to engage in while staying in Japan.
For example, if you plan to call a foreigner to Japan as a chef of Spanish cuisine with a skilled labor visa, the foreigner needs at least 10 years of work experience as a chef of Spanish cuisine. If the foreigner has worked for 6 years as a chef of Spanish cuisine and for 5 years as a chef of Italian cuisine, the foreigner has more than 10 years of experience as a chef. Nevertheless, this requirement for a skilled labor visa is not fulfilled because he has only 6 years of experience as a chef of Spanish cuisine.
In case of Thai cuisine, an economic agreement has been concluded between Japan and Thailand. So, as long as the following 3 requirements are met, the requirement of work experience is satisfied:
(i) More than 5 years of work experience as a chef of Thai cuisine,(ii) acquisition of a certificate showing the level of the skill as a chef of Thai cuisine being the beginner level or higher,(iii) the receipt of a reasonable consideration as a chef of Thai cuisine in Thailand for 1 year immediately before the time of applying for a visa (cf. Part 1, A, Section 5, Article 1 (C) of Schedule 7 of the Japan-Thailand Economic Partnership Agreement).
(3) Receiving no less reward than a Japanese national would receive for comparable work
The remuneration of the foreigner will be compared to the remuneration received by Japanese staff who work at the company which the foreigner has a contract with. The purpose of this regulation is to prohibit keeping wages low by reason of the person being a foreigner.
3. Which documents are required for a chef when applying for a skilled labor visa?
When calling a chef to Japan with a skilled labor visa, it is necessary to firmly demonstrate the peculiarity of the cuisine cooked by the applicant and the details of the work actually conducted by the applicant as a chef. In this section, we will explain about those documents which require special attention when applying for a skilled labor visa.
First one is a document related to the details of dishes. Skilled labor visas cannot be obtained if the dishes only involve simple cooking. For that reason, it is necessary to prove that expert skills are required for the cooking by showing the restaurant menu, etc. In addition, the existence of course meals tends to be considered as a positive element. Thus, if there is any, it is desirable to submit the menu for the course meals to the immigration office along with the menu for a la carte.
Next is about the work experience required to obtain a skilled labor visa. The examination on work experience is pretty strict. A certificate of turnover and a certificate of employment must be submitted to the relevant immigration bureau to prove that the foreign chef has more than 10 years of work experience in cooking the relevant type of cuisine. Examination concerning skilled labor visas focuses on demonstration of work experience abroad, so great attention must be paid in the credibility of the submitted materials. Especially, the credibility of documents issued in Asian countries tends to be questioned because there was a time when fake documents with false length of experience were issued in Asian countries rampantly. To improve the credibility of documents, in addition to putting letterheads, using the notary system of the applicant’s country is also an effective way.
By the way, as a matter of course, it is essential to have permission for restaurant business, and you must also submit the business permit.
4. The case of Mr. A
Let’s take a look at Mr. A’s case.
The restaurant which Mr. A was going to open was a Chinese restaurant, and most of the dishes served there were traditional Chinese food. We asked him to prepare several course menus. Mr. B, a Chinese chef, had worked as a chef of Chinese cuisine for about 17 years in China, so his work experience did not become an issue.
As a result of collecting necessary and sufficient documents and applying for the issuance of a Certificate of Eligibility for Mr. B’s skilled labor visa, the Certificate of Eligibility was issued and Mr. B could start working as a chef of Chinese cuisine at Mr. A’s restaurant.
5. Summary of how to invite a chef with a skilled labor visa
As we have seen above, the purpose of skilled labor visas is to invite foreigners with expert skills, and the most important point in immigration examination is whether the applicant has any expert skill.
Since the immigration examination is conducted based on documents, you cannot obtain a skilled labor visa unless you can prove such skills in documents, regardless of whether you actually have such skills or not.
You may have a problem finding a way to prove necessary matters due to bankruptcy of the workplace where you had experience, etc. Even in some of such cases, we have managed to obtain a skilled labor visa by collecting various supporting materials, so please feel free to contact us if you have any problems.