Things haven’t really been going according to my plans in the last couple of months…
I was supposed to fly back to Tokyo by the end of March to celebrate my 26th birthday under the cherry blossoms, after which I would have started at my new job on the 1t of April; Perfect
But here I am, still in Finland and no working visa to be seen.
I’m not sure if this is Karma biting me back for all the times I have rushed to Japan without a proper plan or a visa, but this time I decided to do things by the book (kind of). And boy has it been both boring and kind of stressful because I already have my life back in Tokyo.
Unfortunately this isn’t my first -and probably not my last time stressing about a visa.
The first time was almost 5 years ago when I was getting ready for my exchange year in Japan and decided to leave a bit early; I wanted to spend my summer holiday travelling Japan. As the trip came closer I realised that my visa wouldn’t make it so I had to make some plan Bs and Cs.
At the time I was waiting for the Certification of Eligibility (COE), an official document that you need from the Japanese Immigration Bureau (Agency) proving your eligibility for the actual visa. Without it getting the visa might be difficult if not impossible and the document itself usually takes around 3 months to get. Depending on the size of your company you might be able to get it a bit faster, but you can never know for sure.
This spring was especially challenging because of the visa system changing as well as with the new era and the extra long golden week, so I had no idea how long it would take to get the COE and visa (even though I was told it usually takes 2-3 weeks for you to get the COE).
For the visa itself you can apply from almost any Japanese embassy or consulate, but it’s best to check beforehand. Obviously it makes more sense to apply in your own country, but it’s not your only option. I myself have never applied from Finland, although I would’ve saved some of my nerves. Instead I went to Taipei for my exchange visa and later on to Seoul for my intern one.
I cannot recommend getting your visa like this – unless you already live in Japan and just need to leave the country. It is slightly faster than back in Finland and I survived it twice, but it was quite stressful.
Both my student and intern visas were especially nerve-wracking since getting the COE was quite a challenge in both cases:
For my exchange the school decided to send the COE all the way back to Finland although I was already in Japan, so I ended up getting the papers only a couple of days before my flight to Taipei. I can admit that some nervous tears were shed at the time… As well as last September when I was waiting for my internship visa in Seoul. That time he COE was so late that they had to send it to my Airbnb in Seoul where I had exactly two days to apply and get the visa.
In the end I did get my visa each time -and even got some amazing memories travelling around Asia, so I won’t regret my choices at the time, but I did promise never to do this to myself again.
Flashback to today; my year started with a bang when I started looking for a new job.
I ended up getting my first choice in a company that seemed too perfect to be true; they were willing to postpone my starting date until I got my visa, pay for my flight to Tokyo and provide me with housing for the first month. My only problem was that I already had all of these things -I was only missing the working visa.
When I realised I had to go back to Finland for the visa I though it would be a 3-4 week trip, during which I would be able to see my family, friends and have some me-time before a new exciting chapter in my life (with some cherry blossoms). It sounded like a perfect spring holiday!
I wasn’t completely wrong; I got to spend time with my family and friends, had a super chill month of watching Netflix and HBO, a lot of delicious food and wine, organised all of my things, got rid of a lot of stuff, bought some essentials and properly prepared for my new life in Japan.
But I’m still here waiting for that chapter to begin -until today when I finally got the COE and applied for my visa! If everything goes according to plan (which it probably won’t) I should be on my way to Tokyo in about three weeks!
It’s so funny how things always end up happening after you give up all hope, which is exactly why you always need to have a plan A, B and C –before you give up on them!