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Assume a US citizen works for a US company remotely and that this person has a passport, but no visa. Let's say they want to go spend some time in Japan for leisure/tourism/sightseeing - no more than 90 days, but still long enough to require them to take their work laptop and do their US-based job while they're there.

Is this allowed? My understanding is yes, even if their passport is stamped for tourism and sightseeing, as long as it's not for a Japanese entity, and as long as they're back out within 90 days. However I had somebody reading some of the same material I was a little while back and understanding it differently. What's the truth in this case?

Unless I'm mistaken, this seems to suggest that work can be done for 90 days, without a visa, but it is not clear about trying to do it while you're acting like a tourist:

A visa is NOT necessary for US passport holders visiting Japan for a short-term stay of less than 90 days with the purpose of tourism and business.

src: http://www.us.emb-japan.go.jp/english/html/travel_and_visa/travel_and_visa_index.htm

  • my personal understanding is that as long as you are not working for a Japanese employer i.e. employed in japan and drawing a salary on a 'resident' basis; it is OK. – Newton Jul 23 '16 at 14:34
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    The last word in the quote above would seem to indicate that work-related activities are ok, as long as they don't fall afoul of some other restriction. I know I personally used this kind of temporary visitor (non)visa when visiting Japan as a US based contractor employed by a Japanese company, entirely for work puposes... – Chris Dodd Jul 23 '16 at 18:00
  • If you needed a VISA, I could see someone raising a red flag because you probably would need to proof that you can sustain yourself for that period of time. However, you don't require a VISA; they don't have any reason to believe you can't sustain yourself, nor do they care if I look at that quote. – Sumurai8 Jul 23 '16 at 20:23
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The word of the law is quite clear: a person on Temporary Visitor status cannot engage in

activities related to the management of a business involving income or activities for which he/she receives remuneration.

None of these terms is given a special definition in the text, so we may assume that they are to be understood in their ordinary meaning, and the answer to the question in the title is no.

However, I am not aware of any case where someone in that kind of situation was charged, so it is unknown what a court would say.

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    Well hang on - assuming your example is applicable, the text you quoted says management of a business. The asker simply said they were working. A developer or salesperson (common remote positions) are not necessarily performing activities that manage the business entity itself. – Morgon Jul 23 '16 at 19:38
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    I really wonder how could that be enforced – Elchin Jul 23 '16 at 19:41
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    @Elchin Well, if the immigration officer asks you if you plan to work while you're there and you say, "Yes," that seems like one way. If you're planning to stay for 90 days, they certainly might ask that. I rather doubt they would for a week or two, though. – reirab Jul 23 '16 at 20:14
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    @Morgon I think the relevant portion here is "or activities for which he/she receives remuneration." That said, this is contradicted by the fact that this same status is used for business travelers who definitely are receiving remuneration for their activities in the country. If is further explicitly contradicted by the table that lists what Temporary Visitors may do: "Sightseeing, recreation, sports, visiting relatives, inspection tours, participating in lectures or meetings, business contact or other similar activities during a short stay in Japan." However, note the 'short stay' part. – reirab Jul 23 '16 at 20:36
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    @Elchin I'm not sure about Japan specifically, but most countries require no such legal standards in regards to refusing entry. If the agent suspects you intend to violate your terms of entry, they can deny entry. Spending 90 days is going to look like you plan to work in most cases. – reirab Jul 23 '16 at 20:39
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Please see the Japanese Embassy linked below to answer your question- yes, you are allowed to work for 90 days in Japan with a tourist visa.

http://www.us.emb-japan.go.jp/english/html/travel_and_visa/travel_and_visa_index.htm


Yes- my [non-lawyer, non-legal, non-everything else] estimation is it's akin to being salaried but spending the 90 days allowed from a tourist visa in the country. As long as you aren't changing your business practices in any way due to being in Japan or somehow engaging in business there, you are essentially maintaining your employment. However, if you cycle through tourist visas by exiting and reentering the country after 89 days repeatedly, you could be in trouble. At that point you would be enjoying the spoils of Japanese taxpayers without contributing.

However, no one on this site can give you legal advice. If you want to be 100% sure, get a free answer from a Japanese visa company here-- http://www.juridique.jp/formeng.html

even better, consult the official Japanese Embassy in the US' website. It states clearly that staying in the country for 90 days- even for business explicitly- is perfectly fine.

"A visa is NOT necessary for US passport holders visiting Japan for a short-term stay of less than 90 days with the purpose of tourism and business."

http://www.us.emb-japan.go.jp/english/html/travel_and_visa/travel_and_visa_index.htm

  • Thanks! What does it mean to cycle through tourist visas? Also, in this answer, are you including when people just go in with a passport and not an actual visa? – Panzercrisis Jul 23 '16 at 15:14
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    @Panzercrisis By "cycling through tourist visas," I think he means, say, spending 89 days in Japan, leaving, and coming back a few days later to spend another 89 days. Most countries explicitly ban this practice in one way or another, regardless of whether an actual tourist visa or a visa waiver entry is used. – reirab Jul 23 '16 at 20:25
  • Just for my understanding, is this just your personal opinion or can you relate to some sources (e.g. links or personal experience)? If so, it would be great if you could state those in your answer! Also, do you have any affiliation with the company you linked to? If so, please disclose it, otherwise we consider it spam. – mts Jul 24 '16 at 9:43
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    @mts- I have no affiliation whatsoever with the company- just listed it as a actual legal resource. i will clarify better in the future. I also updated my original answer with a concrete source to back my answer – Mearsheimer Jul 25 '16 at 2:47
  • @Panzercrisis- no problem. You are good to go. Enjoy the trip! – Mearsheimer Jul 25 '16 at 3:24
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De jure there are dozens of complex laws and regulations regarding remote employment, under which you may or may not need a special visa in order to work in a given country. Tax laws are an additional complication, where countries such as the UK can deem you as a tax resident for spending as little as 16 days on British soil.

De facto, as long as you don't mention your remote job to immigration personnel at the airport, there's a 99.99% chance no one will ever find out. There are millions of people breaking the law by being employed at on-site jobs in any given country, so digital nomads are a pretty low priority for law enforcement.

  • These days, you can't be so certain someone will not find out you're officially still on the payroll. For a start, your vacation status may be queried, access to your email requested, or you may disclose it via some social media site or other. – Berwyn Jul 25 '16 at 10:53
  • @Berwyn in theory yes. In practice the chances are astronomically low. – JonathanReez Jul 25 '16 at 11:02
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    The correct answer. Indeed even furthermore: most such very subtle "what does a visa allow" questions, are subjugated by the overwhelming reality that nations deliberately make all aspects of visa completely foggy; very often "visa rules" discussed on say here are in fact not rules but actually just guidelines which the Officer At The Gate may perhaps typically follow. – Fattie Sep 20 '16 at 4:39
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No, it's not allowed. But what is considered work? Replying to and reading emails? Or surfing the internet and reading up new stuff related to your job? Where is the boundry when it turns from work for free, which is allowed, to work for money which isn't: when you receive money or when you're actually working on something? How can the police find out how much time you've been doing your work and how much time you've been learning new stuff? I advice you not to think about that and don't mention it to the police or in the airport in Japan, and anywhere else. For them you're a tourist and your purpose of visit is tourism. And keep doing your job.

  • Others agree that it's not allowed, but the text quoted in the question, taken literally, authorizes "tourism and business." (My hair-splitter department wonders about tourism OR business, i.e., only one.) But note that the text comes from the U.S. Embassy, not from a Japanese source. Even if it is correct, it's second hand at best. – WGroleau Jul 20 '17 at 14:56

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