How to Apply for the JET Program A step-by-step guide for your JET application

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    You've done your thinking and your homework. You've weighed the pros and cons of going to Japan on the JET Program, and you've decided to take the plunge. It's time to apply for JET.

    The JET Program Application is an infamous pile of paperwork and essay-writing. Luckily, you found this guide and now have a wealth of tips and tricks at your fingertips. This guide will outline the ins-and-outs, do's-and-don'ts, and writes-and-don't-writes of the JET Program application. You don't have much time (seriously, this application takes a lot of time) so let's get started.

    Overview of Requirements for US Citizens (and probably everyone else too)

    Don't get me wrong—this guide is really helpful—but always triple check the fine details of your application with the official JET Program website of your home country. The JET application doesn't change much from year to year, but dates and details may vary. You never know when the Japanese government might start requiring two-inch margins on your essay instead of one-inch, and weird details like this can mean the difference between acceptance and rejection.

    General Instructions for US residents

    All you need to do to successfully apply for the JET Program is collect documents, scan those documents, fill out paperwork, write an essay, and send it all to your country's embassy through their online portal1. Easier said than done, but if you look at it this way, it takes out a lot of the stress.

    1. Fill out paperwork
    2. Collect documents
    3. Write an essay

    You can do this.

    The key is to break down all the tasks into bite-size chunks. Thankfully there is an official list of required documents provided by the Japanese embassy. This is invaluable. If you're not applying as a US citizen, be sure to check your home country's JET website for the most up-to-date and relevant version.

    Get the official list of required documents from your home country's embassy, print it out, and make it your guiding light. These sheets of paper clearly explain what to do, how to do it, and where to send the doings. Follow it and, logistically speaking, you can't go wrong.

    Below, I have re-arranged the application items in order of difficulty. This is to help you prioritize. Get the easy stuff out of the way and focus on the tough stuff. For detailed and specific instructions on each item, check the JET application form from your home country's embassy.

    Required Materials

    Proof of citizenship – Difficulty Rating: 1/5

    Check your home country's embassy's website for details on this one.

    In the US, a copy of your birth certificate, passport, or naturalization certificate will suffice.

    Self-Report of Medical Conditions – Difficulty Rating: 2/5

    An example of this form is found here. This is paperwork and merely a personal assessment of your health. Answer the questions to the best of your knowledge and ability, while still making an effort to be complete.

    There is a common myth which says you are less likely be accepted if you admit to having mental illness or depression. This is absolutely not true. When I sat on the JET interview panel, there were several candidates I interviewed who had written about depression on the Self-Report of Medical Conditions. The Self-Report of Medical Conditions isn't used to blacklist anyone. Rather it opens up dialogue during the interview stage so JET can make sure you're able to handle the life change you would experience in Japan.

    Application Form – Difficulty Rating: 3/5

    This is the primary document of your application, because it has "application" in the name. You can get it online from the "How to Apply" page of your home country's Japanese embassy. There will be a link to an online application which you will use to fill out and answer all the questions on the application.

    There are a lot of questions and boxes to fill in, but it's all straightforward and requires no creative thought. This is paperwork. Answer the questions and be done.

    Official paper transcripts for all university courses – Difficulty Rating: 4/5

    The JET Program office will not accept anything less than the official transcripts from all higher education courses you've ever taken ever. This means grades and dates completed must be on the transcript. Digital transcripts are no good and neither are digital transcripts printed at home. There are some weird exceptions to the rule, but they all include getting stamps, seals, or signatures from the school you attended. No matter what, you're going to have to contact all your alma maters and ask them to send you something. Check your home country's embassy website for details.

    Proof of Graduation (or Expected Graduation) – Difficulty Rating: 4/5

    If you've already graduated, this step actually gets a 2/5 difficulty rating. Simply scan your diploma or an original official transcript which explicitly states your date of graduation and the name of your degree. If the transcripts you requested (see above) already have this information, congratulations! You're done with this step.

    If you have not graduated, but expect to before July 1st of your departure year, you can still apply for JET. You will just need to apply for a Proof of Expected Graduation document or Proof of Current Enrollment from your university. The main thing that must be on the document is the date on which you are expected to graduate. Summer 2025 is too vague. It needs to at least include the month, if not the exact date.

    Two recommendation letters from academic or professional people who like you – Difficulty Rating: 4.5/5

    This is arguably the second most important part of your application, and the only one that is largely out of your control. Because of these factors, ask your references for recommendation letters as early as possible. Allow time for them to write.

    Your references can be academic or professional, but one must be academic if you are currently in school. On the JET Program online application, provide the email addresses of your references, and the JET Program will email them with secure logins for a separate portal where they can write their recommendation letter for you.

    Choose references wisely. A reference should be someone who knows you well, having closely supervised you at school or work. A professor who taught you Japanese for one semester may not be a great choice. A professor who taught you chemistry for three years, was your student advisor, and traveled with you to the regional chemistry competition would be better.

    Don't be afraid to give your references extra instructions. These are people who know you well, after all, so it would only be natural for you to let them know what skills and abilities JET is looking for. That way they can emphasize those qualities for you in your recommendation letter.

    Statement of Purpose – Difficulty Rating: 5/5

    The SoP is such a big and important part of your application that it deserves special attention, which is why we wrote a massive guide to the JET Program Application's Statement of Purpose Essay.

    This is, by far, the most important part of your application. It's a two-page essay explaining why you want to go to Japan on JET. In the US it must be maximum of two pages on standard paper, written in twelve-point Arial or Times New Roman font, double spaced with one inch margins all around, and have your last name with the page number in the upper right. All these details matter. If one is incorrect, it could be grounds for rejection.

    Clarification Documents

    If you have medical or criminal history, you will need to obtain additional forms for your application to be considered complete.

    Statement of Physician – Difficulty Rating: 3/5

    If you described a particular condition on your Self-Report of Medical Conditions, you may need to have the doctor most familiar with that condition fill out the Statement of Physician. Check your home country's embassy's website for details as to what medical conditions require this. Usually current treatments, mental illness, or anything that needs further explanation should be included. Basically, you want your doctor to write you a letter stating that you're fit to live and work overseas.

    FBI Criminal History Background Check – Difficulty Rating: 5/5

    This is the second part of your criminal history clarification. The FBI Background Check is required for all applicants after their acceptance no matter what. So if you're required to do it now, it saves you work down the road.

    This isn't as hard as it sounds and simply requires you to go to the FBI's website and follow the steps listed there. It gets a 5/5 difficulty rating because it requires forms and going to a police station to obtain a set of your fingerprints.

    Have the FBI send the results to your address, and hold onto them. If you're selected for an interview you'll be instructed by the embassy about where to send the results. And whatever you do, DON'T OPEN THEM!

    For more information on this, check out the JET Program USA's official FAQ and their detailed print-out of instructions on getting your FBI Background Check.

    If you don't live in the US, you don't have to deal with the FBI. Check your home country's embassy for details.

    Early Placement Documents

    Certificate of Health – Difficulty Rating: 3/5

    If you are applying for early placement (to arrive between April and July), you will need to submit this if you're granted an interview. All applicants who pass the interview stage and are accepted to the JET Program are required to complete this form eventually.

    Print this out from the application portal, and give it to your doctor to fill out. Double check to make sure your doctor filled out the CoH completely. Look it over before you leave their office so you don't waste time making extra trips.

    There is a lung exam on the CoH, which can be completed with x-rays or a tuberculosis test. If you opt for the TB test, include a separate sheet with the results. There is a small check box in the TB test section that says "results attached," but it's easy to miss. Don't let this little detail trip you up.

    FBI Criminal History Background Check – Difficulty Rating: 5/5

    Again, all accepted JET participants will need to request an FBI background check. If you are applying for early placement, you will need to do this early.

    Not required but maybe beneficial documents

    Proof of Teaching Certification in Elementary or Secondary Education – Difficulty Rating: 2/5

    If you have a state-issued teaching certificate, scan it or your teaching license to submit as proof in your application. Official transcripts stating you received your teaching license will also suffice.

    Proof of TESL/TEFL Qualification – Difficulty Rating: 2/5

    If you've got the coveted TESL/TEFL certification, flaunt it. A scan of the certification is proof enough. Official transcripts from a university stating you received your TESL/TEFL certification are fine too.

    Proof of Japanese Language Ability – Difficulty Rating: 2/5

    For those of you who have passed some level of the JLPT, include a scan of the certificate as proof.

    Finishing Touches

    Once you've got everything together, here are a few fine details to pay attention to before hitting that submit button:

    • Follow the official list of required documents you printed out. Seriously. It's everything you need to do on one sheet of paper.
    • Give yourself plenty of time. This is a pretty relative statement considering you might start the process close to the deadline, but section off the time you have into bite size chunks and do a little each day.
    • Do the easiest stuff first (as ordered in this guide), in one day if you can, and make plans to do the medium/hard stuff later. Easy things are mindless paperwork like the Application Form and the Self-Report of Medical Conditions.
    • Treat the writing of your Statement of Purpose as separate from other tasks on the application. So much is riding on the essay that it deserves special attention.
    • Print out a copy of your application for your records. Again, it's a lot of hard work. You should probably frame it.
    • Don't send anything separately. Once you've submitted your application, it's done. The JET Program Office won't accept items that aren't included in the application. Get it right the first time.

    Final Notes and Reminders

    I said this all throughout this guide, but I'll say it one last time because it's that important: everything written here is based on the JET application procedure in the US and is not official. So check with your home country's embassy's JET Program website, and follow their directions above anything written anywhere else (even here). This guide should match JET application procedures 96.3% perfectly, but you need 100% to pass.

    Though the JET application can be stressful and time-consuming, it's by no means impossible. If you approach it with patience, determination, and commitment, you'll get all the paperwork done and write a killer SoP faster than you expected.

    Good luck, all you JET hopefuls. I hope you get accepted for an interview!

    1. The JET Program application for US residents is 100% paperless and all online. In the past, a hard copy had to be mailed to the embassy as well, but this is no longer the case. Applicants in countries besides the US should check with their Japanese embassy to see if they need to mail in hard copies.