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Cultural Activities Visa Requirements

Students participating in a program (or consecutive programs) longer than 90 days in length will need a Cultural Activities Visa.

Click the various content below to learn more about a specific part of your visa requirements. Stuck on a certain form or questionnaire? Be sure to attend virtual open office hours (if available) and/or schedule an advising appointment.

Visa Process and Requirements

Introduction: Applying for a Cultural Activities Visa

If your JCMU program requires you to be in Japan for longer than 90 days, you will need a Cultural Activities Visa (CAV) (unless you have citizenship with Japan -- If this applies to you, please contact us as soon as possible). 

A visa is a legal document issued to a foreign passport-holder that allows the traveler to legally enter and reside in a different country. JCMU will facilitate the visa application process and act as the sponsoring organization for your time in Japan. NOTE: Since JCMU will be the guarantor for your visa, you must adhere to the rules listed on the "Rules of Your JCMU Visa" page

There are two main steps to obtaining your Cultural Activities Visa:

  1. First, we need to obtain a “Certificate of Eligibility”, or COE. This is a document issued by Japanese immigrations and confirms your eligibility to apply for a Cultural Activities Visa. It can take anywhere from four to eight weeks for the Japanese government to issue and send us your COE.
  2. After your COE is issued, we can then apply for your Cultural Activities Visa. The visa will be processed by the Consulate General of Japan in Detroit (CGJ-Detroit) or the nearest appropriate Consulate General of Japan (if you will be outside of the U.S. before attending JCMU). Once approved, the visa is placed within your passport.
    • It can take anywhere from 10 to 14 days for your visa to be issued and your passport to be returned to you after the consulate receives your passport and documents.
    • Those living in the Michigan counties of Macomb, Oakland, or Wayne may be asked to pick up their passports at the CGJ-Detroit.

We will work with you to collect the necessary documentation and information for this process. To ensure you receive your visa in time for the program, it is important that you complete these as soon as possible.

Visa Process - COE Application Questionnaire

You must answer and submit the Visa Process - COE Application Questionnaire in the JCMU Application Portal

Your answers from this form will be auto-populated into your application for a Certificate of Eligibility (COE) by our staff in Japan, so it is CRITICAL that your responses follow the exact format requested in the directions for each question. If you are unsure of something, don't guess – contact us and ask!

You will be asked to provide (via the questionnaire) the following information for Japanese immigration purposes only:

  • Additional Names
  • Place of Birth 
  • Marital Status
  • Former and/or Other Nationalities or Citizenships
  • Past Entry into/Departure from Japan (including details of most recent entry, if multiple)
  • History of Applying for a Certificate of Eligibility (COE) for a Japanese Visa (including details of any time a visa was not issued).

Visa Process - Digital Photo

The Certificate of Eligibility application requires a digital photo of you. Please submit it using the Visa Process - Digital Photo questionnaire upload option in the JCMU Application Portal

The photo you submit MUST meet the requirements listed below or it will be rejected and you will be asked to submit a new photo.

Example of Acceptable Photo (JPG)

  • The photo should be taken recently (within 3 months) and should feature you looking straight toward the camera with a BLANK, white or light colored background behind you.
    • The wall should not have ANY obvious texture (i.e., no brick walls, patterned wallpaper, etc.) and there should not be any objects or fixtures (windows, trim, etc.) included in the photo.
  • Carefully review the Examples of Unacceptable Photos (PDF) -- The following things will almost always lead to your photo being REJECTED:
    • Hair in your face or covering your shoulders (if you have longer hair, tuck it behind your ears if possible and, if longer than shoulder length, have it fall completely behind you so that your shoulders are visible).
    • Glasses creating a glare or frames blocking facial features (it's best to just remove glasses, if possible).
    • Shadows falling anywhere on your face or the area immediately around you in the background of the photo.
  • JPG/JPEG format is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. If we have trouble opening/using the file you submit, it will be rejected and you will need to resubmit.
  • It does NOT need to be professionally taken, so long as the quality is acceptable (high resolution, no shadows, good background, etc. Most smartphone cameras or personal digital cameras can take acceptable images as long as you find the right location and lighting.
  • You MUST leave enough space around your hair, shoulders and below your neck for the photo to be cropped (by our staff) to meet the COE application requirements.
    • Do NOT worry about cropping the photo. Our staff will resize the photo as needed.

Visa Process - Financial Document(s)

In order to apply for your Certificate of Eligibility for your visa, we must submit financial document(s) showing access to at least a minimum set amount based on the visa term:

  • For one semester / 6 months or less: $3,500
  • For two or more semesters (i.e., Academic Year) / 6 months or more: $7,000

While you may intend to use additional or other funds to support yourself while in Japan, this process shows you have an ability to access at least the set minimum level of support required for Japanese immigration purposes.

To the extent possible, all documents (regardless of type) should be official original documents (i.e., screen caps or printouts of your web browser view are NOT acceptable). Documents with original signatures or official markings from the issuing office/institution are preferred, but we might be able to accept PDF versions at our discretion.

Multiple documents can be used so long as the combined total meets or exceeds the required amount.

The following types of documents are typically acceptable:

  • A recent account statement (for checking, savings, or investment account(s) from which withdrawals can be made)
    • Only the 'current available balance' listed will be considered toward the required amount.
    • If you prefer not to disclose your full account details, some financial institutions may be able to provide an account verification letter (or "Bank Letter"): JCMU Sample Bank Letter (for COE)
    • If you are NOT listed as either the primary or a joint account holder, you must also submit a signed Statement of Financial Support (for COE) for the account holder(s) named on the document.
    • PDFs of statements are acceptable as long as they are official (i.e., downloaded directly from the financial institution's website-- we cannot accept screen caps or scans of printed statements).
  • Financial Aid Award Letter / Financial Aid Summary from your current home institution​​​​​​​
    • The letter or statement must indicate:
    • your name as the recipient
    • the name of the institution and/or office that provided the letter/statement (ideally on their official letterhead)
    • the academic year / semester the financial aid applies to (which must match the time you will be attending JCMU).
    • Scholarships and grants are generally considered toward the total required amounts. Loans might be considered, but may require additional documentation. Work study benefits or similar types of support tied to your home campus are generally NOT considered.
  • Scholarship or Grant Award Letter
    • If you have been awarded a specific scholarship or grant through your home institution or an external organization, it may be possible to count that toward the required amount so long as it meets the same criteria listed for a Financial Aid letter listed above.

Visa Process - Personal History Form

Save the following Excel file and complete it according to the following instructions: JCMU Personal History Form (for COE)

When finished, save and upload your completed form using the upload option through the JCMU Application Portal for the Visa Process - Personal History Form questionnaire.

This form outlines your past schooling history.

  • For the top section, please list all of the schools you attended for elementary, middle, and high school. If you do not remember the exact month you graduated (finished attending), just make your best educated guess.
    • If you attended multiple schools for one level, list only the last school you attended before moving onto the next level.
  • If you attended additional alternative schooling such as vocational school or early college, list it in the "Other K-12 Education" section.
  • In the bottom section, write in all colleges or universities you both currently attend and have previously attended.
    • For the "To" date for the college or university you are currently attending, make sure to write in "Current" to show that you are currently attending school.

NOTE: It is important not to leave unexplained gaps in time larger than what would be expected. For example:

  • Summer breaks between K-12 school years do NOT need to be mentioned, but working or traveling for 1 year between high school graduation and starting college SHOULD be explained.
  • Should this be the case for you, write in what you were doing during the gap time(s), then list the dates.
    • For times when you were working and not attending school, please include the name of the business/organization.
    • For other types of gaps, your description can be general: 'living at home', 'travel', 'caring for family members', 'medical leave', or 'unemployed' are all acceptable.

Visa Process - Statement(s) of Financial Support

If you submit any financial document(s) that do NOT list you as an account holder (primary or joint) or recipient, you must submit a Statement of Financial Support (for COE) for all accounts referenced in your document(s).

This form connects you with the funds documented on the financial documents you provided.

  1. Fill out the top section with your information.
  2. Have the account holder(s) indicated on the financial document(s) complete the bottom portion, including signing and dating the document in blue or black ink. The address and phone number provided should be that of the financial supporter/account holder.
  3. When finished, please mail or drop off the original form(s) to our East Lansing office.

***This document must be returned in original hard copy to the JCMU East Lansing office. Scanned copies cannot be accepted.***

Visa Process - Printed Photo (2" x 2")

You must submit at least (1) printed 2" x 2" photo similar to what is used to apply for a U.S. passport (see the guidelines outlined on the U.S. Department of State - Passport Photos page for additional details). 

The photo should be:

  • Taken recently (within the last 3 months)
  • in color on quality photo paper
  • Have a final size of 2 inches x 2 inches when cut (NOTE: If the place taking your photo does not cut it down to 2" x 2" for you, you can submit it to us as is and we can cut it for you). 

There are a number of locations where you can have passport photos professionally taken. Past students have recommended stores like CVS, Walgreens, Rite Aid, etc. Most post offices also generally provide passport services, including photos. Your home institution campus may also offer passport photo services (often through the campus library).

Visa Process - Submit Passport and Final Documents

Closer to your program's departure date (typically 5-6 weeks prior), JCMU will send you an email asking you to submit your physical passport (NOT a scan/copy) and some additional documents to the JCMU East Lansing office (unless you are planning to apply for your visa in-person and/or through a different Japanese consulate-- If so, please let us know as soon as possible).

In the message, you will be asked to submit the following*:

  • Your valid signed passport (i.e., not a copy, but your ACTUAL CURRENT PASSPORT; double-check that your passport is signed on the signature line before sending!)
  • Visa Application Form to Enter Japan (JCMU pre-filled)
    • Portions of this form should already appear completed with JCMU-specific details-- please do not change these fields.
    • Please review the JCMU Visa Form Directions (PDF) while filling out your form and contact us if you have any questions or concerns.
  • JCMU Passport Return Address and Release Form
    • The address you provide on this form is where your passport will be returned via FedEx once your visa is issued (unless you live in the following Michigan counties: Macomb, Oakland, or Wayne). Please list an address that you will have access to as late as 1 week prior to your JCMU program arrival date (which can be your address, or that of a trusted family member or friend). 
    • Please do NOT use a PO Box (as FedEx will be unable to deliver)
  • CGJ Authorization Form 
  • CGJ Release of Liability Form (if the link isn't working, please see the CGJ-Detroit website Long-term Visa page for current form)

*This list includes the standard forms/requirements. If there are any changes or additional forms needed, details (and attachments) will be included in the message from our office.

Submitting Your Passport and Documents

To Submit via Delivery Service:

We recommend using a trackable expedited delivery service option (such as FedEx or UPS) insured for at least $200 to ship your passport and completed documents to the JCMU East Lansing office

MSU International Center
427 N Shaw Lane, Rm 5
East Lansing, MI 48824-1035

*Most trackable parcel services already include some amount of insurance coverage. The cost to increase this coverage to $200 should not be more than a few dollars extra.

To Submit in Person:

If you prefer to submit your passport and documents in person at the JCMU East Lansing office, please use the advising scheduling tool provided on the Advising page of the JCMU website to set up an in-person appointment. 

We will strive to accommodate all requests Monday - Friday during our regular advising hours. If you need to arrange a time outside of those hours, please contact us to see if another time can be arranged outside these hours.

Other Requirements (if applicable)

Additional Requirements for Non-U.S. Citizens

If you are not a U.S. citizen, you might be asked to complete additional steps or submit additional materials in order to receive your visa. The process usually changes based on where you will be up until your JCMU program arrival/move-in date. 

  • If you will leave the U.S. earlier than 1 week prior to your JCMU program arrival/move-in date (before going to Japan): You will likely need to apply for your Japanese visa by yourself from a Japanese Consulate or Embassy outside the U.S. Please contact us and/or schedule an advising appointment so that we can discuss your situation and plan accordingly.
  • If you will remain in the U.S. up until (at least) 1 week before your JCMU program arrival/move-in date: We can typically apply for your visa on your behalf. In order for us to do so, you will have to submit the following additional documentation:
    • If you are a U.S. permanent resident, you will need to submit a scan or copy of your green card.
    • If you are a U.S. visa holder, you will need to submit current scans or copies of your I-20, I-94, and U.S. visa.
    • If your country of citizenship is not listed on the Visa Waiver list, then you will likely need to pay a visa application fee to the Japanese government when your visa is processed.

Updated Transcript - Visa Process

If the transcript JCMU has on file for you is unacceptable for visa purposes, you will notice a requirement called Updated Transcript - Visa Process in the JCMU Application Portal. The instructions for this material are provided below:

You must submit an updated official transcript from your current home institution. Electronic transcripts will be accepted if they are official (no scans or screenshots) and sent directly to JCMU by the institution (or their designated transcript service) using the following email address: jcmu(at)msu.edu

The reason for this requirement is that your chosen JCMU program(s) require that you have a visa in order to participate. As part of the visa process, we must submit a valid official transcript for each applicant showing:

  • Recent enrollment and/or degree-seeking status at their current institution
  • An issue date that is within the last 6 months and/or within the current calendar year
  • That the transcript is official and has been issued directly to our office

Our office has determined that the transcript you previously submitted does not meet one or more of the above requirements. Please request an updated official transcript be sent to our office as soon as possible.

Updated Student Conduct Release Form

Download the JCMU Student Conduct Release Form

If the version of this document we have on file for you is unacceptable for visa purposes for any reason, we will contact you and ask you to submit a new one.

First, complete the top portion of the form yourself. The bottom portion of the form should be completed by an office or individual that has access to student academic and judicial records - typically a Dean of Students office or equivalent.