MEXT released the 2019 Embassy Recommendation MEXT Scholarship application guidelines on April 17, 2018. The guidelines this year are significantly more clear than in previous years, but I will break down what you need to know for the application, below. This article is focused on the MEXT scholarship for Graduate Students (a.k.a. Research Students, in MEXT’s terms). There is also an application process for Undergraduate Students, but I will not be discussing that in this article. Undergraduate applicants, college of technology applicants, and specialized training applicants can find this year’s guidelines on MEXT’s website.
What Degree Programs are Available?
MEXT uses the word “research student” to refer to all graduate level students. You can apply for any of the following programs:
- Non-Degree Student
- Master’s Degree Student
- Doctoral Degree Student
- Graduate-level Professional Degree Student (MBA, JD, etc.)
Fields of Study
You should apply for the field of study that you majored in at university or its related field. If you plan to change fields, you need to be able to show a concrete relationship between your past studies and what you will study in Japan. It is up to you to make this clear!
Your field of study also has to be available at the graduate level at a university in Japan in a language that you speak. If you can find at least one graduate program taught in a language that you are fluent in in Japan, you will be fine.
Programs that require practical training, such as performing arts or programs that require technical training at a factory or company are not permitted. You can study Japanese performing arts from an academic perspective, so long as no practical performance training is required.
Finally, for medical or dental fields, you would not be able to participate in any clinical training until you receive the relevant licenses from the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare. This essentially means that you would need native-level fluency in Japanese.
- Exemption from paying tuition, entrance examination, and matriculation fees.
- Monthly stipend:
- Research Students: JPY 143,000/month
- Master’s Degree/ Professional Degree Students: JPY 144,000/month
- PhD Students: JPY 145,000/month
- (Undergraduate Students: JPY 117,000/month)
- Cost of Living Adjustment: JPY 2,000 – 3,000 in selected areas
- Round-trip flight ticket to Japan (covered by MEXT or the university). Note: only the international portion of the ticket is covered. You are responsible for all domestic travel costs in your home country and in Japan, plus the airport usage fees and fuel surcharges.
The maximum Scholarship period is:
- Research (non-degree program) students: Up to 24 months if you arrive in April or up to 18 months if you arrive in the fall semester (September/October).
- Master’s Students: 24 months
- Doctoral Students: 36 months
It is possible to apply to extend the scholarship if you advance to the next level degree (from Research Student to Master’s or Doctoral Degree or from Master’s to Doctoral Degree). However, you cannot extend the scholarship period if you fail to complete the degree within the time limit above.
Who is Eligible?
You must meet all of the eligibility criteria below to apply:
Must have the nationality of a country that has relations with Japan. In principle, applicants with Japanese nationality are not eligible. However, a person who lives overseas and holds Japanese nationality as a dual national who then gives up his or her Japanese nationality prior to the start of the scholarship will be eligible.
The basic requirement is that you must have been born on or after 2 April 1984.
Exception: If you were born before the date above but you were not able to apply while you would have been eligible due to one of the following reasons, as approved by MEXT, you may still apply.
- Mandatory military service
- Civil war or rebellion in your country
- Suspension of higher education activities in your country
Note: Exceptions absolutely will not be granted for the following reasons: personal financial situation, family reasons, health reasons, previous education or employment-related reasons.
I think it would be a hard sell to qualify for this new exemption. It probably applies to about 0.001% of potential applicants. But it’s a nice gesture, I guess.
In the past, MEXT’s eligibility criteria for academic background were perhaps the most confusing to interpret. This year, MEXT returned to listing five to seven possible eligibility criteria for each degree, but buried in each list is one very simple and easy to interpret requirement:
If you have a bachelor’s degree or equivalent, you are eligible to apply for a Master’s degree. If you have a Master’s or Professional Degree or equivalent, you are eligible to apply for a Doctoral Degree.
For well over 99.99% of applicants, that is all you need to know. If you don’t have the requisite degree, then you can consult the other requirements.
One additional note this year: If you are applying for a medical, dental, veterinary, or pharmaceutical doctoral program, you must be pre-approved by a university in Japan.
At the Embassy level, there are no specific language ability requirements to apply. However, after the document screening, you will take language proficiency tests.
The embassy only requires that you “be willing to learn Japanese”.
Ultimately, when you apply to universities for a Letter of Acceptance later in the application process, you will need to meet their language ability requirements, so it is a good idea to research those in advance.
You will need to submit a Certificate of Health (Excel file from MEXT’s website) from a doctor stating that you have no physical or mental conditions hindering your study in Japan. It is the doctor’s discretion as to what would count.
Arrival in Japan
You must be able to arrive in Japan during the dates specified by MEXT and your university. Once you choose the semester that you will arrive, you are not permitted to change it.
This year, for the first time, the application form allows you to choose a spring arrival, fall arrival, or to leave it up to the university to decide.
Visa and Residence in Japan
The criteria for this used to be vague, but this year MEXT has made it clear at last! The newly clarified criteria is:
“An applicant shall, in principle, obtain a “Student” visa at the Japanese diplomatic mission located in the applicant’s country of nationality, and enter Japan with the residence status of “Student.” Accordingly, even if the applicant already has other residence status (“Permanent resident,” “Long-term resident,” etc.), the applicant must change it to the “Student” status and re-enter Japan. Moreover, the applicant should be aware that after expiration of the status as a MEXT Scholarship student and even if the student again applies for their original resident status of “Permanent resident” or “Long-term resident,” the such resident statuses might not be necessarily granted.”
Basically, this means that you have to be able to obtain a “Student” visa in your home country and use that to arrive in Japan. If you are living in Japan with any residence status other than “Student”, you have to give up that status and leave Japan. (If you are in Japan on a “Student” status, there are additional requirements, explained below).
If you are not living in Japan, then you should have no problem. The only potential concerns are:
- You have been deported from Japan in the past and are not eligible to re-enter the country by the time your scholarship would begin.
- There is something legally preventing you from leaving your home country, like lack of access to your passport, a criminal conviction, etc.
Both of those possibilities seem very unlikely!
Anyone meeting any of the criteria below would not be allowed to apply and would be disqualified even after acceptance if they were found to meet the criteria.
- Any members of the military or civilian employees of the military, as of the date of arrival in Japan.
- Anyone who cannot arrive by the date designated by MEXT or the university.
- Anyone who received a MEXT scholarship (other than the Japanese Studies Scholarship, Young Leaders Program, Japan-Korea Joint Government Scholarship Program for the Students in Science and Engineering Departments, or the MEXT Honors Scholarship in the past) in the past. Unless they have completed three full years of schooling or research activities since the end of the last scholarship.
- Anyone currently enrolled in a Japanese university with a “Student” residence status of or who plans to enroll in a Japanese university with a “Student” residence status before the start of the scholarship.
Exception: If you are currently a self-financed student in a Japanese university and will graduate and return to your home country before the start of the scholarship, you are eligible.
- Anyone who is planning to receive a concurrent scholarship from any other organization.
- Anyone who applies before graduating from their current program and fails to graduate before the start of the scholarship
- Anyone who holds multiple nationalities including Japanese nationality who fails to give up their Japanese nationality before the start of the scholarship.
- Anyone who changes their residence status to any status other than “Student” after arriving in Japan.
- Anyone who has completed a doctoral degree and does not intend to enroll in a degree program in Japan.
Where and When do you Apply?
You apply at the Japanese embassy or consulate that serves the area where you live. You can find the list of Japanese embassies or consulates around the world at:
I recommend using a Control-F search on that page to find your country. It may not be listed under the region of the world that you are used to.
In general application deadlines are between mid-May and early June. However, each embassy or consulate sets its own deadlines, so be sure to check the embassy or consulate webpage for specific application instructions. Your embassy or consulate will explain exactly what you have to submit and how.
Your embassy or consulate may also have additional eligibility restrictions or required paperwork.
What you Have to Submit
Each of the documents below is required by MEXT. However, embassies may as for additional documents and may ask for each document at a different time, so again, be sure to check the specific instructions for your embassy!
For each document below, you will need to submit one original as well as two photocopies and they must be numbered in the top right corner. I will include direct download links to MEXT’s documents where available. Keep in mind that these are the documents for the 2019 Embassy Recommendation MEXT Scholarship Application for Graduate Students, if you are applying for any other kind of scholarship or at any other time, do not use these links!
I will be posting separate articles soon about the Application Form for this year and about the other required documents. Be sure to subscribe to my MEXT scholarship mailing list to be the first to know when those articles are posted! I will also send you a sample of the application form as a special thanks.
- Application Form (Excel format from MEXT website)
As a special thanks to mailing list subscribers, I will send you a sample of the completed application form that you can use as a guide!
- Placement Preference Form (Excel format from MEXT website)
- Field of Study and Research Program Plan (Word format from MEXT website)
Click here for my article about how to complete this form.
- Certified grade transcript for each academic year of the last university attended. This must show the grading scale and all grades earned in each class. If enrolled in graduate school, you must also submit your undergraduate transcript. If you transferred universities or studied abroad, you will likely also be required to submit your pre-transfer transcript or the transcript from your study abroad university.
- Certificate of graduation or degree. A copy attested by an official at the university will be accepted as an original. Do not submit your original diploma as submitted documents will not be returned to you!
- Recommendation from the president, dean, or your academic advisor at the most recent university where you are/were enrolled in a degree program. There is a template available (Word format) on MEXT’s website, but a freeform letter is acceptable. Note: The template letter is from previous years and includes out-of-date instructions. You no longer have to submit the letter in an unopened envelope.
- Certificate of Health (Excel format from MEXT website)
- Abstracts of graduation theses or published articles, if available
- Certificate of language proficiency (language proficiency test scores), if available. No original is required for this item, only copies are needed.
- Recommendation letter from present employer, if employed.
- Photograph(s) or digital audio recordings of applicant’s works, if applying for fine arts or music programs.
Be sure to check with the Japanese embassy or consulate in your Home Country! They may have additional requirements or may require the documents above at different times during the process.
The embassy or consulate is also your only source of information about the application deadline and the means of submitting the application!
Good luck with the MEXT scholarship application in 2019! If you have any questions I didn’t cover, let me know in the comments, below!
Be sure to sign up for my mailing list below to be the first to find out when new articles about the scholarship are available, too.
Want to know more?
My new ebook, How to Apply for the MEXT Scholarship describes the scholarship in detail, including the purpose and coverage, the eligibility criteria, how to develop a successful applicant mindset, and how to craft your application strategy for the greatest chance of success!
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