Specified Skilled Worker

What is a Specified Skilled Worker (i) in Nursing Care?

In response to the growing labor shortage, the “Specified Skilled Worker” residence status was newly established in April of 2019 to allow foreign workers with certain specialties and skills to work across 14 industries, including nursing care. There are two types: Specified Skilled Worker (i) and Specified Skilled Worker (ii), but only Specified Skilled Worker (i) is available for nursing care.

What is a Specified Skilled Worker (i) in nursing care?

In order to be a Specified Skilled Worker (i), no educational background is required and anyone over 18 years old can apply, but to acquire the Specified Skilled Worker (i) residence status for nursing care, it is necessary to take and pass the Nursing Care Skills Evaluation Test to confirm that you have acquired a certain level of nursing care skills. Also, in addition to passing either the Japan Foundation Test for Basic Japanese or the Japanese-Language Proficiency Test (N4 or better) to measure your Japanese language skills, it is also required to take and pass the Nursing Care Japanese Language Evaluation Test, which measures the proficiency of Japanese that is necessary for the occupation of nursing care. 

In general, family accompaniment (family coming to Japan together) is not allowed.
The standard period you can work in Japan is 1 year, but it is possible to renew for 6 or 4 months, for a maximum of up to 5 years in total. However, if you become a certified care worker during the 5-year period, it is possible to upgrade your residence status, continue to work indefinitely, and bring your family with you. Rest assured that if you wish to continue this work, your employer and a registered support organization will assist you. Additionally, you can move to another company if doing the same nursing care job.

Tests for a Specified Skilled Worker (i) in Nursing Care

There are three tests for Specified Skilled Worker jobs in nursing care: Nursing Care Skills Evaluation Test, Nursing Care Japanese Language Evaluation Test, and a test to measure the level of Japanese language proficiency.
The Nursing Care Skills Evaluation Test and the Nursing Care Japanese Language Evaluation Test set the standard for workers to be an immediate asset in each field by measuring professional skills and knowledge of Japanese used on-site in nursing care.
The level of Japanese language proficiency can be measured by the Japan Foundation Test for Basic Japanese or the Japanese-Language Proficiency Test (N4 or better is required). 

The following 3 tests will be explained in order:
① Japan Foundation Test for Basic Japanese (Abbr: JFT-Basic) or Japanese-Language Proficiency Test (N4 or better)
② Nursing Care Japanese Language Evaluation Test
③ Nursing Care Skills Evaluation Test 

Japan Foundation Test for Basic Japanese

The primary purpose of the Japan Foundation Test for Basic Japanese (Abbr: JFT-Basic) is to measure the Japanese language skills necessary for communication that foreigners coming to work in Japan will encounter in their daily lives. It is used to determine that one has a certain level of Japanese ability for daily conversation and can handle daily life without difficulties.

The test is composed of four sections: Script and Vocabulary, Conversation and Expression, Listening Comprehension, and Reading Comprehension. Test questions are displayed in English, but you can read them in your local language by clicking the “Your Language” button.

For more information about the test and to see how the actual test screen operates, please refer to this link.

●Japan Foundation Test for Basic Japanese (JFT-Basic) Operation Method (YouTube)
●For sample questions, please see here.
You can check the question format and content for each category as well as get an idea of the level from the sample questions in CBT format.
*If you would like to test out the CBT test screen, we recommend viewing it on a PC. In addition, the actual test question screen may differ.

Japanese-Language Proficiency Test

The Japanese-Language Proficiency Test is a test to measure and certify the Japanese language proficiency of non-native Japanese speakers. The Japanese-Language Proficiency Test has 5 levels: N1, N2, N3, N4 and N5. The easiest level is N5 and the most difficult level is N1. For a Specified Skilled Worker (i) in nursing care, “basic understanding of Japanese” level N4 or better of the Japanese-Language Proficiency Test is required.

To check the certification standards for each level, please see here.

●For sample N4 questions, please see here.
●To check the test dates and locations, please see here.

Nursing Care Japanese Language Evaluation Test

The Nursing Care Japanese Language Evaluation Test is a test to determine whether one can understand the Japanese vocabulary used in nursing care service. The test time is 30 minutes and there are 15 questions from the following topics: nursing care vocabulary (5 questions), nursing care conversation and greetings (5 questions), and sentences for nursing care (5 questions).

●For sample questions, please see here.

Nursing Care Skills Evaluation Test

Based on one’s ability and way of thinking about nursing care service, the Nursing Care Skills Evaluation Test is a test to determine the level at which a person can care for users according to their mental and physical conditions. The test time is 60 minutes and there are 45 questions, with a 40-question academic test and a 5-question practical test.

Academic Test: Breakdown of 40 questions
・Basics of Nursing Care (10 questions)
・Mechanism of Mind and Body (6 questions)
・Communication Skills (4 questions)
・Skills for Providing Daily Assistance (20 questions)

Practical Test: 5 questions
Practical Test questions in the form of a decision-making test.
(Note) A test to judge decision-making, determining the correct nursing care procedures when presented with images, etc.

●For sample questions, please see here.
●For an overall outline and more information on the test, please also refer to the link below.

Cases for exemption from tests

Foreigners who came to Japan as an EPA (Economic Partnership Agreement) Candidate for “Kaigofukushishi” (Certified Care Worker) (applicable only for candidates from Indonesia, the Philippines, and Vietnam) and who have been appropriately engaged in work/training at a nursing care facility for four years or who have completed “Technical Intern Training (ii)” are determined to satisfy the necessary skill level and Japanese proficiency level to be exempt from the previously mentioned skills test and Japanese language tests and can proceed to “Specified Skilled Worker (i)”. Foreigners who have completed “Technical Intern Training (ii)” in a field other than nursing care are exempt from a portion of the test to measure their Japanese proficiency level. (The Nursing Care Skills Evaluation Test and the Nursing Care Japanese Language Evaluation Test are still required.) 

●For more information about EPA candidates to be Certified Care Workers, please see here.

How to apply for the Nursing Care Japanese Language Evaluation Test and Nursing Care Skills Evaluation Test

The Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare homepage introduces the Specified Skilled Worker system and shares information on the application process for the tests (external link to the website for Prometric Japan Co., Ltd., entity that conducts the tests).

*For more information on test locations, please refer to the “List of Test Centers” below. For overseas test centers, please select the country where you would like to take the test and then confirm the details. *The test schedule is updated periodically. To access the latest information, we suggest refreshing the page after opening the page.

How to Study for the Japanese and Nursing Care Tests

To study for the tests to get the Specified Skilled Worker (i) in nursing care residence status, you can either study by yourself using textbooks/other materials or enroll in a Japanese language school. This article will introduce some recommended textbooks and websites for those who will primarily study on their own.

How to study Japanese

Japanese is not only necessary for passing the tests related to being a Specified Skilled Worker, but it is also a necessary skill for living in Japan. When we asked some foreigners working in Japan about how they studied Japanese, one replied, “I studied Japanese through watching Japanese anime, writing down in a notebook and memorizing the Japanese words that came out one by one,” (DIO from Indonesia).

The Japan Foundation provides the following learning materials to help prepare for the JFT-Basic. They are all free, so please use them to study Japanese.

Irodori: Japanese for Life in Japan

The Japanese textbook “Irodori: Japanese for Life in Japan” is a learning material to help foreigners acquire the fundamental Japanese skills needed for living and working in Japan. It incorporates a variety of situations and topics that are relevant to everyday life in Japan, so you can effectively learn Japanese communication skills that are used in real life. Each lesson’s learning objectives are presented as Can-Do statements, making it clear what you should be able to do by the end of the lesson.

JF Japanese e-Learning Minato

The Japan Foundation’s Japanese learning platform offers a variety of online Japanese courses (about 150 courses per year). After registering, you can study Japanese online anytime, and anywhere. There are also links to other websites and apps for learning Japanese.

Textbooks for taking the Nursing Care Skills Evaluation Test and Nursing Care Japanese Language Evaluation Test

We also encourage you to use the textbook created by the Japan Association of Certified Care Workers for the evaluation test of Specified Skilled Workers (i) in the field of nursing care.
In addition to the Japanese version, it has been translated into nine different languages.

Not only is the textbook a study tool for the Nursing Care Skills Evaluation Test and the Nursing Care Japanese Language Evaluation Test, it also includes content that can be used in actual nursing care situations. 

Nursing Care Evaluation Test for Specified Skilled Workers Textbook:

"Nihongo wo Manabou" website for learning Japanese for nursing care

“Nihongo wo Manabou”, the online study site operated by the Japan Association of Certified Care Workers, was created for acquiring the basic nursing care skills and the Japanese (about N3 level) needed in the nursing care field. You can learn through this site for free, so we encourage you to use it.

International care worker support website “Nihongo wo Manabou”:

Substantial Support System from the Japanese Side

The country of Japan, local governments, industry organizations and facilities all offer support in various ways in an effort to make foreign nationals feel comfortable coming to Japan to be care workers.

They not only provide support for you as a care worker, but also offer a wide range of comprehensive support ranging from language issues to information for daily living.

Ten-point support plan (as of September 2020)

With the new “Specified Skilled Worker” residence status established in Japan in April 2019, Japanese host institutions are responsible for preparing a support plan when accepting foreign nationals under the Specified Skilled Worker (i) status[1]. Within that plan, there are 10 essential support items that must be included. An overview of these items is listed below. (See here for details: https://www.meti.go.jp/press/2019/08/20190809002/20190809002-1.pdf)

[1] 出入国在留管理庁「在留資格「特定技能」について 」Immigration Bureau of Japan ““Specified Skills” Residence Status”

1. Advance Guidance 
2. Pick-up and drop-off when entering and leaving the country 
3. Support with necessary contracts for securing housing and daily life needs
4. Orientation for daily life 
5. Accompaniment and assistance to places for government paperwork 
6. Providing opportunities to study Japanese 
7. Handling consultations and complaints
8. Facilitating social and cultural interaction with Japanese people 
9. Support for changing jobs (e.g. due to personnel cuts) 
10. Regular personnel meetings and reporting to government agencies 

Three ways to support foreign care workers so they can thrive

The following is an excerpt on points for receiving foreign nationals in Japan, taken from the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare’s 2019 fiscal year guidebook created through their project to advance healthcare for the elderly entitled “Survey and Research Project on the Actual State of Accepting Foreign Care Workers[2]”. It references things that businesses can do to help new foreign arrivals flourish in Japan.

1. Support for retention in the workplace (example)
Japanese enterprises are preparing in various ways to ensure that people from other countries can work at their workplace for a long time with peace of mind. For example:

  1. Inform local workers in advance about the purpose of receiving foreign nationals.
  2. Standardize nursing care operations and review the language used.
  3. Teach the standard rules of a Japanese workplace.
  4. Try to understand the culture and lifestyle of foreign care workers.

[2] 三菱UFJリサーチ&コンサルティング株式会社 「外国人介護職員の受入れと活躍支援に関するガイドブック」Mitsubishi UFJ Research & Consulting Co.,Ltd. “Guidebook for Accepting and Supporting Foreign Care Workers”

2. Support for arranging a solid foundation for daily living (example)  
To help foreign nationals adjust to life in Japan as quickly as possible, organizations are building support systems for not only the workplace, but also for daily life needs. For example:

  1. Help with arranging daily necessities by providing housing and support with paperwork for contracts, acquiring furniture and appliances, signing up for a mobile phone, securing an internet connection, etc.
  2. Provide information on how to eat and shop, how to use the toilets and baths, how to see a doctor and buy medicine, how to ride trains and buses, specify the rules for putting out garbage, noise etiquette, etc.
  3. Assist with visa procedures, resident registration, health insurance registration and payment, etc.
  4. Politely confirm physical health conditions and offer mental health support.

3. Support for adjusting to the local community (example)
There is also an effort to build relationships between foreign nationals and their surrounding communities. For example, inviting local residents to events where foreign employees are expected to attend.

Various kinds of public support

The following are some of the support services available for foreign care workers. There are a variety of support services offered to help foreign nationals in Japan work comfortably and with peace of mind.

Japan International Corporation of Welfare Services (JICWELS)

Consultation service for foreign care workers This service provides support for foreign care workers by promoting the appeal of the nursing care field in Japan, the benefits they get from the experience and skills they learn, the peace of mind they will have while working in Japan, etc.
Exchange meeting for foreigners working in the nursing care field or studying nursing care This group provides opportunities for foreign care workers to interact with their peers, as well as offers consultations for foreign care workers regarding any issues they may have working in nursing care or social issues in their daily life outside of work.

The Japan Association of Certified Care Workers

“Nihongo wo Manabou” a website to support international care workers, is a comprehensive platform for foreigners studying or already working in nursing care in Japan that offers complete support for improving Japanese proficiency, and for acquiring essential nursing care skills. For learning Japanese to be effective, it is important for learners to study independently. That environment is provided by “Nihongo wo Manabou”. The purpose is to acquire Japanese proficiency (N3 level) and fundamental nursing care skills. The website also provides preparation material for each test, content for guidance counselors, as well as providing SNS links for sharing information and connecting with their peers. You can also browse study material for “Nursing Care Japanese” and the “Nursing Care Skills Evaluation Test”. The site is available in Japanese and also in these nine languages: English, Khmer, Indonesian, Nepali, Mongolian, Burmese, Vietnamese, Chinese and Thai.

Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare

Regarding the novel coronavirus (COVID-19)
“Multilingual information” “Multilingual information” explains COVID-19 in languages from different countries. (Posters and leaflets can be downloaded in Vietnamese, Thai, Tagalog, Indonesian and Nepali.) ・“がいこくじんのみなさまへ しごとやせいかつのしえんについて” provides information for foreigners living and working in Japan in easy Japanese and in multiple languages.

Tokyo Metropolitan Government

April 2018 edition of the Long-term Care Insurance System pamphlet. Although intended for Tokyo residents, the April 2018 edition of this pamphlet is also available in English, Chinese and Korean versions.
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