Status of residence for foreign drivers! ! Barriers to obtain a professional driver’s license.
What are the ways for foreign nationals to obtain a professional driver’s license in Japan? Currently, a professional
driver is not qualified as an occupation to acquire status of residence, but when it is qualified in the near future, it
is necessary to obtain a driver’s license for commercial vehicles and business vehicles to become a professional driver.
Here, we will explain about the acquisition of a professional driver’s license for foreign nationals.
1. Driving experience is the key to the acquisition of professional driver’s license!
Under the current Road Traffic Law, to obtain a professional driver’s license you need at least two years of driving
experience. For example, medium-sized motor vehicle licenses need at least two year, three years or more for large-sized
licenses, and three or more years for both regular and large-sized motor vehicle second-class licenses. Once you get
these licenses, it will be a great advantage for you to get a job in Japan.
In principle, any foreign national who “reside” in Japan can obtain the regular driver’s license. However, as stated
above, you need a certain number of years of driving experience to obtain professional driver’s licenses.
In the future, when the professional driver is qualified as an occupation to acquire status of residence, which is
regarded as almost certain, driving experience will be the key to get these licenses.
In other words, if you are considering to be a professional driver in the future it is better to get a regular car
license as early as possible because in that way you can be an industry-ready driver.
2. Driver’s license system will change with internationalization of Japanese society
In recent years, the Japanese driver’s license system has undergone major changes. There are more license centers and
training centers where you can take the exam in your own language even if you can not read or write Japanese
The table below is list of multilingual license centers and training centers throughout the country.
|prefectures||The Driver and Vehicle License Centre (DVLC) edition
For the foreign languages used for the driving test.
Switching your foreign license to a Japanese license
If you have a driver’s license in your home country, you can switch it to a Japanese driver’s license. It is called
“Gaimen Kirikae”. To do this, you need to take exams such as a writing test to check your traffic rule knowledge and
driving test to check your driving skill. Currently, there are 28 countries in the world that are exempt from these
exams, but among Asian countries, only Korea and Taiwan are exempt. Unfortunately, China, who has the highest number of
students studying in Japan, Vietnam as the second largest, and Southeast Asian countries such as Nepal, Sri Lanka,
Indonesia, and Myanmar whose numbers have been increasing rapidly in recent years, are not included.
In the driving skill check test, not only driving skills are tested, but also attitude and movement etc. will be checked
in detail, so it is very hard to pass the exam at once. Usually people need to take a test several times to pass.
To drive safely in Japan, it is strongly recommended to obtain a driver’s license at a designated driving school in
Japan. It will also give a good impression at the job interview, if you graduate from a Japanese training school,
By the way, it is only “the regular first-class license” that you can switch from a foreign license to a Japanese
driver’s license. You cannot switch to a “second-class license” which allows operating a commercial passenger-carrying
vehicle such as a taxi or bus. You need to switch to a regular license or a semi-medium-sized motor vehicle license at
first and then take a procedure to change to more bigger size or second-class license. When applying for those licenses,
you may count your driving experience from the day you got your license in your home country.
In April 2019, in line with the revision of Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act, “specific skills” were
added to status of residence. Over the next five years, 340,000 foreign workers are expected to come to Japan to
“work”and government has just started initiatives for these foreigners to live better lives in Japan. At present,
drivers are not included in the qualified occupation for the status of residence, but it should be permitted in the near
future and many foreign drivers will be taking an active part in Japanese society.