Permanent Residency in Japan

In September 2014, I celebrated my 9th anniversary in Japan.  It had been about a year since my most recent visa was renewed and I got a 3 year visa.  I was unofficially allowed to apply for Permanent Residency in Japan.  For Japan, you are almost guaranteed to get Permanent Residency if you have lived in Japan for over 10 years, but I heard there is a loophole where if your visa expires after your 10 years you should be capable of obtaining your Permanent Residency.  Legally, if you are married you need to be in Japan for 3 years and for non-married people it is 5 years.  For people who aren’t married, it is really difficult to get your Permanent Residency in less than 10 years.

Me In Kamakura (2006)

Me In Kamakura (2006)

I started this adventure early in 2014 but I kept procrastinating and putting things off.  There were a lot of reasons to do this.  I first attempted to find out all of the documents that would be required.  I did a lot of research into this and very few of them had the information I needed.  Almost everything talked about what was needed if you were a spouse of a Japanese national.  Obviously that wasn’t happening for me so I had to apply under a regular situation.  The application process is very similar and mainly varies on the documents you need.  You don’t need as many documents but you do have to run around to many places to get it.

Me on my 1st road trip in Japan (Tokyo to Sapporo). This was the ferry to Hakodate from Oma.

Me on my 1st road trip (2007) in Japan (Tokyo to Sapporo). This was the ferry to Hakodate from Oma.

LIST ALL DOCUMENTS NEEDED

  • Application
  • Photo
  • Letter of intent
  • Tax payment forms (National 3 years) 300JPY each (2 sheets)
  • Tax payment forms (City & Prefecture 3 years) 300JPY each (3 sheets)
  • Residency registration form 300JPY
  • Residency registration (Prior to 2012 from the Ministry of Justice)
  • Bank Statement
  • Guarantor Letter of Guarantee
  • Guarantor Residency registration
  • Guarantor Tax payment forms (City 3 years) 300JPY each (3 sheets)
  • Guarantor proof of employment or something equivalent
  • Passport
  • Residency Card
Climbing Mt. Fuji in 2008

Climbing Mt. Fuji in 2008

As you can see, there is a long list of documents and a lot of them cannot be obtained in the same place.  The first is the application.  It is pretty easy to get but some of the information required was a little difficult to understand.  Under “History”, they actually wanted to know what your work/education history is in Japan since you arrived.  I had to get a small clarification from friends before I could fill it out.  The other problem was for my guarantor; the Saviour is my guarantor and while she is my girlfriend, she is also my partner.  I ended up writing “partner” to make things a lot easier and seem like we are almost married.  The rest of it was pretty simple.

Top of Mt. Fuji (2008)

Top of Mt. Fuji (2008)

The hardest thing to do was my letter of intent.  The letter of intent should be written in Japanese or translated into Japanese.  I spent a good part of 3 months getting it done with my Japanese teacher and by the end I was sick of it.  I know I could have finished it a lot earlier but trying to get things just right and get the keigo (formal and polite Japanese) was very difficult.  I still can’t understand what I wrote exactly.

Epic circumnavigation of Shikoku in 2009. Photo taken in Ozu, Ehime.

Epic circumnavigation of Shikoku in 2009. Photo taken in Ozu, Ehime.

The tax forms were easy to get but a pain in the ass.  I had to go to 2 different offices to get the forms.  I had to first go to the local national tax office and talk with them.  I had to go alone which made things take longer than it should have.  All I needed was forms to show how much I had paid in the previous 3 tax seasons.  Thankfully I allowed an hour, but only needed 30 minutes.  In reality, if your Japanese is really good you can get it done in 15 or less.

Another epic road trip, this time in the San'in region. Photo taken on Mt. Daisen, Tottori (2010).

Another epic road trip, this time in the San’in region. Photo taken on Mt. Daisen, Tottori (2010).

The city tax forms had to be done at the city hall.  I went down there and thankfully the Saviour took the morning off to help me.  I was able to get my forms within 15 minutes and I was out the door.  I actually waited a few months to get this as I wanted to get them for my city office.  Having moved to my current apartment about 4 years ago in 2014, I was on the border to getting all 3 years, so waiting a few extra months meant I didn’t have to go to my old city hall to get the information.

Otaru (2010)

Otaru (2010)

Getting the residency forms was also pretty easy.  With the changes in the law, I was now officially registered in the city registry.  I could easily get the document with the Saviour.  She took the morning off to help me get this form as well as one for herself as a guarantor, and also to get my tax payment forms.  All in all, it was a simple task.

Me and Sox during the 2011 hanami season.

Me and Sox during the 2011 hanami season.

Bank statements are pretty easy to get.  If you have a bank book, that is much easier.  You just show it to them and I’d recommend bringing a copy at the same time.  That way they can verify that they saw the original.  I had to call my bank and get them to send me a copy which only took a couple days.  They took the original copy and I didn’t care.

First women's football game: INAC Kobe in Kobe (2012)

First women’s football game: INAC Kobe in Kobe (2012)

The guarantor application is actually a simple form and almost all of the questions they ask are also on the formal application.  They just need a duplicate with the guarantor’s signature.  The only qualification to be a guarantor is to be a Japanese citizen or a permanent resident.  Your own friends can be a guarantor if they are a permanent resident.  No, I won’t be your guarantor.  :p

I have read that they want proof of employment for your guarantor and while I did attempt to get it, I didn’t end up getting it from the Saviour in the end, for 2014.

Lastly, you just need your passport and residency card but that is pretty self-explanatory.

Japan Residency Card

Japan Residency Card

Going to the immigration office in Tokyo has always been the bane of my existence.  I have never enjoyed it, and I curse every time I have to go there.  When going there, you never really know who is going to get your application, check your application, or how they’ll treat you.  This time, I ended up waiting about 30 minutes to get through the document check line.  I had everything ready and everything organized in a relatively organized manner.  I made sure to put things in an order I thought was relevant.  When I finally got to the counter, the guy looked at my documents and within a minute, they were back in my hand and I had my number.  I was 113, and the current number being served was 91.  I couldn’t help but feel I jumped the line a little.

Shinagawa Immigration Center

Shinagawa Immigration Center

The wait to see someone was only 15 minutes, a lot faster than I had expected.  I did my usual scurry up to the counter and handed my documents to the official.  She was a nice person in general and just looked at everything.  I got my usual document saying that my application was in place and a card to write my address.  I was told to I would have to wait 4-12 months to get a response.  I could have only hope it would come sooner rather than later.

2013 Setouchi Triennale (Megijima)

2013 Setouchi Triennale (Megijima)

After about 5 months, I got a reply.  Initially I didn’t realize that I had gotten a reply since the document that came was actually registered mail.  When I did get it I was crushed as my application was rejected.  From what I could tell I was rejected because I wasn’t in Japan for 10 years.  I even asked the Saviour to double check it and while she didn’t really understand the reason completely, I didn’t press her and just accepted my own personal thoughts.

Making beer at Hitachino Nest in 2014

Making beer at Hitachino Nest in 2014

A simple 6 month wait ensued and by September of 2015 I was back to getting the documents I needed.  I did the same run around and got all of the same documents, plus a few changes.

2014 Japan MotoGP in Motegi

2014 Japan MotoGP in Motegi

The first time I did my residency forms, I didn’t notice that the form only showed residency from 2012 and on.  It was the date that the system changed from the old “Alien Card” to “Residence Card”, and my old information was sent to the Ministry of Justice and I no longer had any information about my residency at the city ward office.  In fact, I learned that they only keep about 5 years of documentation, so if you want to show you have been in Japan longer, you do have to get your older records.  This won’t be a problem in a few years and I’m not sure if this is why I didn’t get my PR the first time, but I didn’t chance it my second time.

Drinking at Reijin

Drinking at the Suwa Nomiaruki in 2015

In order to get the document from the Ministry of Justice, you need to either go there in person or apply for the document in the mail.  You can download the form and print it out and fill it in yourself.  I had the Saviour help me with this.  Once you have it done, you just go to the local post office, get a 300 yen Shunyuinshi (収入印紙) which is an official payment stamp, and a couple stamps for both sending the application to the Ministry of Justice as well as a return stamped envelope for the return document.  Don’t forget a copy of your own legal document.  I used my driver’s license for this.

Goodbye in Imabari

End of the trail on the Shimanami Kaido in 2015.

For my second round, I also forgot a couple of other documents.  I believe I obtained the wrong document for my taxes, although I think I just forgot one of them.  I might have forgotten my city/prefectural tax forms but I had no problems getting it.  I also needed to get the Saviour’s employment status from her work.  When I applied, the officer actually asked me to get the documents and send it to the office, and I was happy to be asked as it gave me a ray of hope that I would get my Permanent Residency the second time around.

2015 Craft Beer Festival in Matsumoto

“No beer, no life!” at the Matsumoto Craft Beer Festival.

After being rejected at the Shinagawa branch of Immigration, I decided to head out to Tachikawa and try my luck there for the second time.  I really hate going to Shinagawa.  After going there for just under 10 years, things have gotten a lot better but it is a place I really hate to visit.  I heard that the Tachikawa branch is easier as well as faster.  While there are a lot less people who visit the Tachikawa branch, it is not necessarily faster.  I had less people in front of me, but since I arrived just before lunch, it ended up taking just as long because at lunch they reduce the number of staff there.

Tachikawa Immigration Center

Tachikawa Immigration Center

It took just under 5 months to get my reply this time, and my result was SUCCESS!!!  Unlike the first time, I didn’t get any registered mail but I got the regular postcard.  At first I thought it was related to my “My Number” card as there was writing about requiring a photo, but as I looked at it closely I noticed my own hand writing for the address and I quickly started to shake with joy!  As I read the card carefully and started to jump for joy while holding back screams of elation.  In fact, I just wanted to listen to Pharrell Williams’ “Happy”, to which I did after taking care of a few things around the house.  I was way too happy and in need of a few drinks, and that’s what I did to celebrate.

After the card came in the mail, everything is the same as when you apply for any visa in Japan or when you renew your visa.  You just go back to the immigration office that you originally visited and exchange your residence card.  Within a week I was able to get my new Permanent Residency card and I was officially a Permanent Resident of Japan.  Of course you still have to pay for the administration fee, 8000 JPY, and wait in line again, but it is a small price to pay to be able to say that you are free and can do anything, within the law, in Japan.

Japan Immigration Postcard

Japan Immigration Postcard

With my new found PR status, you can be sure that I am no longer worried about my work situation.  If I lose my job I’ll be jobless but still able to stay in Japan.  I can change jobs without worrying about my visa status and with my new company I can focus all of my attention there if I have to without any worries about working long enough at my current teaching job.  Needless to say the freedom is very welcomed and I am extremely happy with the situation.

My new Permanent Residency Card

My new Permanent Residency Card

2016 Chinese New Year in Yokohama, a time to celebrate!

2016 Chinese New Year in Yokohama, a time to celebrate!

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