All foreigners living in Japan will have to go through this process eventually. For some, it could be just a walk in the park and for others, a total nightmare. My visa is due to expire this December. Once again, I have to visit the immigration office. I am writing this post as a reminder for myself when I have to re-do this again in 3 years. The process is pretty simple much like obtaining a Japanese drivers license if you have gone through it once. Of course, not all of us falls in the same criteria and certain documents and or forms must be filled out accordingly. At any rate, the process is pretty much the same for any applicants. To make your process as painless as possible and to limit your trips to the office, I have provided a guideline. At the minimum, you will require to make 2 trips. Read on.
Requirements/bring with you:
- Spouse koseki-tohon
- Your juminhyo
- Spouse taxes
- Alien card
- Current photo
- Current passport
- 4,000¥ stamp
In my case, I am married to a Japanese national. The forms I needed can be downloaded at moj.go.jp. Scroll to the middle and download all the files associated with the extension ending in .pdf. Alternatively, you can download all the files at once using this link in the event moj.go.jp site is down or taken off-line. I highly recommend, you fill the form(s) at home prior to going to the office. Depending on the time and day, the experience could be like the DMV office back in the states for those who knows what I am referring too. Do not worry about the money stamp right now. DO NOT buy the stamps until your application is pre-approve. The post office will not refund your money if you make a mistake in choosing the wrong stamp or your application is not approve which is highly unlikely.
In addition to the forms, you will need to obtain your spouse's koseki-tohon (戸籍謄本) and your juminhyo (住民票). Also, depending on who supports you, you will also need to obtain your spouse's or your taxes from the previous year if you are self-employed. These forms are call nouzei-shoumeisho (納税証明書) and kazei-shoumeisho (課税証明書). All these documents are available at your local ward office, kuyakusho (区役所).
Lastly, you will need a current photo of yourself. The size requirement is 40 x 30mm; the same size as a Japanese resume photo. You can get your photo at an instant photo booth located in most major train stations. The fee for the photo is 700yen and it prints 6 copies, but you will only need one for your application. You can cut your photo at home or bring the whole sheet with you to the office. There is a photo puncher available. There is no photo booth at the immigration office in Omiya, however. Keep that in mind.
Once you have gathered all your documents, photo and signed forms, head over to the immigration office. The closes office for me was in Omiya along the Saikyo line, just 10 minutes walk from the Yonomachi station. There is also one in Tokyo. The office hours are 9:00-16:00, Monday thru Friday. Closed on weekends and holidays. Be aware that the window counters are closed at 12pm for lunch. Since you already filled out the forms as instructed, proceed to 'Window A' and submit all the documents, photo and forms. The clerk will double check to make sure your applications are in proper order and that you have all the documents. After which, the clerk will place your application in a clear folder and hand over the folder along with a number card. Almost there gaijin. The next process is to wait while they verify your application. Usually, they will call your number in about 30 minutes depending on how many applicants are in front of you. When they call your number, they will return your passport and alien card along with a note of when you can return to the office to get your new card. The waiting time is about 3 weeks. You are done for today. Now until the stated date, you will need to stop by a post office to get a 4,000yen stamp. There is one nearby the immigration office in Omiya if you decide to get it on the day of your returning trip.
Bring with you your alien card, passport and the 4,000yen stamp if you haven't gotten it already. Proceed to Window A and hand over the mentioned items. The clerk will hand you a form, ticket and kindly remind you of the 4,000yen. Glue the stamp and sign the form. Your new card is almost in your grasp. Once they call you, they will briefly explain about the new card and return the old punched out visa card back. That is it. You are now officially done and are legal for another 3 years.
The alien card has gotten a facelift. Is that all? Not quite. The Japanese government has improved their system on tracking us foreigners. Much like the Japanese drivers license, there is an ic chip embedded within the card that contains our personal information. Make sure you don't accidentally swipe the card over Suica machines. You may find yourself in a jam when police officials try to verify your identical and noticed there is no identity associated with this card and you. The much improvement to this immigration system is that we no longer require to apply for a re-entry permit stamp whenever we leave Japan for within a year. The new card shows prove we are current and legally permitted to leave Japan and return hassle-free.
No one likes to go to the immigration office lets be honest. Yes, 3 years is a long time, but it is still a hassle. When I was there at the office, I asked the clerk about applying for a permanent status. He said I qualify, but I need an additionally document from my wife's employment which I do not have at the time. If you have been here for at least 3 years, I am pretty sure, you are qualify for a permanent status as well. If you are interested and you want to know what are the requirements, you can view the pdf file for permanent status (in Japanese). Also, for anyone who wants to know the requirements for 3-5 years status (in Japanese), I've also uploaded the information as well. Good luck.
Update-01: I am surprised this post has gotten somewhat popular since I wrote it last. There are 2-5 hits per day. Thank you and I hope the information has helped you. As an update to what has been written, I have applied and received my permanent visa status. The process is pretty much the same other than to provide a few extra documents as stated above and the cost is a little more. The wait time before they approve you is about one year. I can't remembered how long it took me, but if I had to guess it was pretty close to a year. One would think permanent means just that, permanent. You still need to visit the office to renew the card when it expired though. The good news is that you don't need to go every three, but six years now.
Update-02 [Apr.21.2017]: It appears the law has changed along with some requirements.
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