Theres a lot of talk of learning the skill to work in anime, but what seems to be swept under the rug more often than not is the legal barrier for entering an isolationist Japan. Those of us who wish to bet our lives on anime require permanent residency. Furthermore, permanent residency is required for starting up a company, for example opening an anime studio. While there are a number of ways to do it, for animators the options are much, much more limited. This thread is for outlining these options.
Disclaimer: I have never lived in Japan, I’m just using resources from online. Feel free to correct me where I’m wrong.
Foreigners without Japanese Citizenship qualifications can apply for permanent residency in as long as ten years or more of stay or as early as one, dictated by the type of visa you are staying with. Otherwise, your stays will be limited to a cycle of reentry. Without active recruitment campaigns from Japan your best bet is aiming for the most specialized visa possible. The hierarchy is as follows:
Highly Skilled Professional Visa (HSP or HSFP Visa): A work visa for a professional can apply for permanent residency after just three years of stay in Japan, in rare cases one year. Qualifications include, but are not limited to, a 10-30M yen annual salary (typical Japanese animator starting salaries are 1.1M) and high degree of education such as a Master’s. Precedents for animators acquiring this status are unknown despite recent Cool Japan campaigns. The highest rank in an anime production hits only 7.8M, so anyone getting this visa as an animator will change everything.
Work Visa: A special visa permitting stay under a Japanese company sponsorship that most animators will fall under. Period of stay: 5 years, 3 years, 1 year, 4 months (only for Business manager) or 3 months. Can apply for permanent residency after 10 years of consecutive stay, and must have a sustainable income (some places cited as 3 million yen annual salary). There is a language requirement as well, but there are other threads for this.
I.e. applicants must acquire this visa and extend it for the maximum length of 5 years both times and stay for all ten years if you wish to make your stay permanent. Note: you require documentation supporting your income, so all money earned from illegal contracting does NOT count.
General Visa (incl. Student Visa): Visas that fall under cultural exchange. Japanese language schools frequently sponsor student visas, which can last as long as 2 years. So you can stay for two years, then transition into a work visa for 5 years, then extend it for another 3 before applying for permanent residency.
You can also apply for permanent residency if you have been a spouse of a Japanese resident or national for three consecutive years. If you have a child on Japanese soil with a Japanese national, you might be granted long term resident status (requires additional citation). Those who have made “major contributions” to Japan can apply after 5 years (as far as animation goes, the only foreign product to win the Tokyo Animation Award in the 17 years since its inception was Frozen, and even then I doubt Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck even as directors alone can justify the film as a major contribution to Japan). There is a sub category in the Tokyo Anime Awards for foreign short films but their relationship to Permanent Residency application is dubious at best.
Note: in all cases, Japan requires you to renounce your citizenship for other countries in order to set up permanent residency.
Those of you who grinded through all that: congratulations! You now have an idea of how to get in. There are probably a lot more options I’m unaware of, but the final barrier short of marriage and making the next Frozen seems to be the permanent residency application requirement of 3 million in annual income, triple the starter animation salary, that you have to hit by then. Based on the anime annual salary guide, a production assistant hits $20,700 USD or 2.2M JPY while an episode director hits $24,860 USD or 2.7M JPY. A series director hits $47,000 USD, or 5.14M JPY. An executive producer hits $71800 USD, or 7.8M JPY
Given all this the question becomes how can you LEGALLY earn 3M JPY annually in 5 years after acquiring a work visa? Are there any studios or industry pros who earn above average income who can be used as a reference to this? Are there any current initiatives by foreigners that have achieved this already? Discuss.