Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The Cost of Moving to Japan

I did a post a little while ago which showed the cost to get to my then-current point of Interac's placement process.  The post was largely uninformative and probably a large disappointment to anyone thinking they could actually learn something.  Fortunately, I have decided to make it up to any and all future ALTs by creating a brand new chart!  So if you're thinking about applying to Interac and you're curious about how much money you need, from start to finish, look no further!

Lesson 01: Interviewing is Expensive
If you're a big shot interviewing with an even bigger company, you may get things like free transportation to your job interview.  But for an international company like Interac?  Forget it.  Prepare to lay down a hefty amount of money just to get your interview over with.

$135  Passport: Obviously if you have one, don't buy a second?  I guess you could if you want.
$019  Criminal Background Check
$020  Two Passport Photos
$100  Transportation to U.S. Interview Location: This varies, but could be expensive if you need to fly!
$010  Any mailing fees.  If you bring all the documents to the interview, you won't have to mail a thing.

Lesson 02: VISAs or U.K. Citizens Get Shafted For Some Reason
Once you have the job, Interac sends your documents to the Tokyo head office, which then begins processing your Certificate of Eligibility.  Then begins your preparation to Japan proper, with all the fees that entails.

$036 VISA Fee: Americans are exempt, Subjects of Her Royal Majesty are not.
$010 One Passport Photo
$010 Prepaid Envelope: It could probably be a stamped envelope, but this is important.  Go UPS/FedEx!

Lesson 03: How to Fly to Japan Cheaply (and other Transport Stuff)
Flying to Japan isn't easy.  If you fly too close to the sun, the heat will melt the wax and your feathers will fall off.  If you fly too close to the sea, the spray will dampen your feathers and pull you down.  How to fly to Japan cheaply is equally as difficult.

Interac can't help you get a flight at a cut rate price, but I can! is a great resource for any students (or recent graduates, wink wink) who need a plane ticket for cheap.  You'll find most tickets at a much lower cost than what other travel sites are offering, so that's only good news for you.  Also remember, the EARLIER you buy your ticket the better (so hope you get your placement fast!)  Wait until the last minute, and you'll be paying a lot no matter where you go.

If you're lucky enough to have a Kei car in Japan, smile for some more passport photos!

$1000 Flight to Japan: Although you may get a ticket for $700 or so, budget a thousand anyway.  Just in case.
$020  Passport photos (2): Again?
$015  International Driving License fee

Lesson 04:  The Hidden Cost of Money
Expect to lose money when you convert your currency over.  You can mitigate this by buying yen in Japan and using straight cash.  Traveler's checks can be used, but most banks will only give these out in the currency of your country, and you typically get a poorer exchange rate compared to cash.  If you convert all your money in the states, you could lose as much as $500 in the process.  Ouch!  If you're a penny pincher, bring your money in US bills and convert it at a Japanese bank... but for God's sake, bring at least $500 in yen so you can buy yourself food when you first arrive!

Lesson 05:  The Elephant in the Room
Hehehe, count the legs on this guy.
The elephant in the room is quite expensive.  It's Japanese, and it costs ¥500,000.  That's right, Interac asks you to arrive in Japan with that much money.  Their reasoning?  You only get paid at the end of the month, but each check is payable for the previous month only.  You'll find yourself receiving your first paycheck in about two months, and you need money to live on until then.

Can you live on less than ¥500,000?  Certainly, but you probably won't have much fun.  I wouldn't go under ¥300,000 myself...

$6000 Living Expenses for Two Months

Lesson 06: Forever A Loan
There is some good news.  Interac will offer new recruits up a loan of up to ¥250,000.  This will be paid back, with interest, within a year, but for those having trouble with the start up costs, it's quite convenient.  I won't subtract this from the final amount, since it's entirely optional, but keep this in mind.

So what's the bottom line?  Getting to Japan is fudging expensive.  Oh, you mean the OTHER bottom line.