Friday, September 16, 2011

Applying for a permanent residence visa (永住権) in Japan

My understanding of the guidelines for applying for permanent residence visa status in Japan is that unless you are the child or spouse of a Japanese national then you will need to:

- Fill in forms (naturally) to request the change to your visa status. Note that your current visa needs to be for the maximum number of years allowed for that visa type. Until recently this was 3 years for many visas, but with the new immigration system the upper limit for many visas is now 5 years. I'm unclear as to whether you'll now need the 5 instead of the 3 year version, but you are unlikely to get PR if you only have a 1 year visa. See here for the list of requirements on immigration's official site, though it's a little confusing.

- Write a 'letter' translated into Japanese stating the reason you're applying for permanent residence status. There is also a line on the application form asking for this information, but I guess the letter can go into a little more detail. I doubt it has to be very long, it will just need to seem logical to the person evaluating your application. Examples might be planning a family, or wanting to set up your own business in future.

- Have lived in Japan for over 10 years, or be contributing significantly to Japan. Judging from the website however, short of being a Nobel Laureate, being accepted based on your artistic, diplomatic, economic etc. contribution to Japan looks tough. (If you have been married to a Japanese citizen/PR holder for over 3 years, you can apply after just 1 year of living in Japan provided your current visa has the maximum number of years.)

- Show good conduct (have no criminal record).

- Get a certificate of "registered matters" from your ward office showing your current status of residence. (Ask them for a 外国人登録原票記載事項証明書 / gaikokujin touroku genpyo kisai jiko shoumeisho. This is more or less the same information as on your gaijin card, but will also have a record of any changes made and it'll have the ward office's stamp on it. Official documents from the ward office usually cost a few hundred yen to have printed, and they usually make them for you while you wait.)

- Prove stable employment sufficient to support yourself: Get your company to make you a certificate of employment / 在職証明書 / zaishoku shoumeisho and if you have one also submit an up-to-date employment contract / 雇用契約書 / koyou keiyaku sho, along with proof of 3 years of tax payments. For me, proof of tax payments is in the form of withholding tax slips / 源泉徴収票 / gensen choshu hyo from my company and my tax return forms / 確定申告 / kakutei shinkoku, as well as a proof of income tax payment certificate 所得課税証明書 / shotoku kazei shoumeisho from the ward office (also for 3 years) since my current company doesn't process all of my taxes. In your case your company may be able to supply all the necessary information including detail of your ward tax payments as in the next bullet. The lady on the phone at immigration suggested I also include a recent bank statement to show my bank account details and as proof that I'm set up here well enough to support myself. She added that it wasn't a requirement though. As a general rule of thumb from speaking with immigration lawyers, having over 200,000 yen/month wages consistently appears to be a minimum.

- Be paying residence/ward tax (go to your ward office an ask them for a residence tax proof of payment certificate for the last 3 years / 住民税の課税証明書 / jyuminzei no kazei shoumeisho. This might be a recent addition to the requirements which, along with more active chasing up and freezing the bank accounts of non-payers, appears to be part of a bid to get tougher on ward tax evasion/forgetfulness. In my case, the ward office gave me one document that covered all my income and residence tax payments in one go. This all-in-one document was called a 特別区民税・都民税(個人分)証明書 / tokubetsu kuminzei tominzei kojinbun shoumeisho, and they gave me one sheet for each of the last 3 years, showing no tax was outstanding.)

- Be sponsored by a guarantor who is a Japanese national or a holder of permanent residence status. (Have them sign this guarantor document or this one in Japanese. This clause is interesting (read: possibly meaningless), in that on the MOJ website itself it is stated (in Q.7) that the guarantor is not legally bound to the agreement they sign). The guarantor will need to supply proof of their past 12 months' income, their certificate of employment / 在職証明書 / zaishoku shoumeisho, and either their residence certificate / 住民票 / jyumin hyo if they are Japanese, or if they are a permanent resident, their certificate of registered matters (as above for you) / 外国人登録原票記載事項証明書 / gaikokujin touroku genpyo kisai jiko shoumeisho.)

- 8,000 yen stamp for the application fee, which you can get at the convenience store on the ground floor of the immigration building.

- Finally, if an employer or friend can write a letter of recommendation in Japanese, while not required, it is also helpful.

Given that I have been in Japan for over 10 years now and can meet the other requirements, I feel cautiously optimistic about the chances of receiving the status. The application seems to take anything up to 8 months though (update: it took 10 months and was rejected due to length of current stay), while police checks and so on are carried out. I guess the only thing I'm slightly unsure about is whether, after handing in my gaijin card after the JET programme just over 7 years ago, they will count my stay as 10 or 7 years. That, and whether the 'reason' for applying for permanent residency as requested on the application form, needs to be attractive in a particular way.

As reported in a number of places, getting the permanent residence status appears to have no down-side and has the benefit of freeing up the long-term resident vocationally speaking, prevents accidental overstaying on shorter visas and has the additional advantage of rescuing the foreigner living in Japan from annual or triennial trips to the windswept Immigration Bureau on the bay in Shinagawa.

Currently gathering the paperwork for my application. Wish me luck!

43 comments:

  1. thanks for the write up. for the guarantor did you have to submit their tax and salary forms as well from their local city hall/company?

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  2. Yes, actually I have a few additions to make to the list since calling immigration to check I have everything in order - I'll edit the post today with these in English/Japanese.

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  3. Updated. So in summary:

    1. Application form.
    2. Letter stating the reason you want to apply, in Japanese.
    3. Your certificate of 'registered matters'.
    4. Your certificate of employment (and employment contract if available, but the certificate is more important. Many Japanese companies don't do employment contracts it seems!)
    5. Certificates showing ward tax and income tax payments for the last 3 years. Also your kakutei shinkoku tax returns, if you do those.
    6. Copy of your bank statement - not required, but helpful.
    7. Letter of guarantee, signed by guarantor.
    8. Your guarantor's certificate of employment.
    9. Your guarantor's residence certificate or their certificate of 'registered matters'.
    10. Proof of your guarantor's income for the last year.
    11. Letter of recommendation - not required, but helpful.

    Good luck with your application!

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  4. This is amazing! Your effort in writing all this down has de-mystified this for me--my wife and I were at a loss as to how to move forward, so this has been a HUGE resource for us. Thanks so much!

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  5. I'm so glad to hear it's helping people! It's quite daunting to start with. Hope everything goes well with your application. Good luck!

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  6. Great stuff Sir, thank you for the post, you would think there would be a place online with a clear detailed explanation of what documents are needed, recommended and ideal. I will be undergoing this in a few weeks and will use your blog post as a starting point.

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  7. Hi Rocky, that's exactly what I thought! Best of luck with your application. I'm still waiting for my verdict - they're not lying when they say it can take half a year for a response!

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  8. Wow, thank you so much for putting this together! It's really helped out a lot. I'm going to apply for PR next month. Do they interview and ask you a lot of questions once you submit your documents for PR at immigration? If so what kind of questions do they ask? Or is it pretty straight forward once you have all of the documents in order and not missing anything. You can just drop them off and wait for the 6 months?

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  9. The application for permanent residency feels much like any other visa extension application, there were no special interviews in cubicles or anything. You join the ticket queue with people applying for everything else, someone checks you have all the documents needed to apply and gives you your number. You wait (took me a little over an hour waiting) and when your number is called you go to the counter and a different person performs more or less the same document check the ticket person did. It's a good time to ask any questions you might have, but there isn't much of an interview above "can I photocopy this, is this ok for us to keep" etc.

    The decision on the application doesn't seem to be made based on your performance on the day, but on a factual assessment of your case as communicated by the documents - so no need to be nervous when you go ;) Good luck next month!

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  10. how long before your results came out?

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    1. It was just over 10 months

      http://alittleshopintokyo.blogspot.jp/2012/08/1st-attempt-at-permanent-residency-in.html

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  11. Hi I sent you a question earlier in the year on April 11th. I was able to receive my PR last week! YAY!! It took about 7 months. Your blog was very helpful for me when I was trying to gather all of the paperwork myself and thanks again for answering my question on whether there was an interview when submitting your documents. I'm a single American male living in Japan for 10 consecutive years while being an English teacher. So yes, I'm living proof it can be done. My salary is not so high and my job is not so special but as you said if you are single it's important to live straight for 10 years, be a good citizen with no crimes, make sure all of your taxes are paid up, have a nice guarantor, a good reason letter, and you should have a good chance of getting it or maybe I was just so lucky. lol.. Anyway, thanks again! I wish you luck with your PR and I'll keep my fingers crossed for you.

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  12. Yay!! What amazing news! I'm so happy to hear you were successful :) It really does seem to be the case that as long as your 10 years are consecutive, and barring any problems with tax etc., that it's possible. My own application was not accepted for that reason - my visa status changed part way thorough my 11 year stay and the counter was reset to zero..! I want to open my shop sooner than the additional 3 years I'd now have to wait for PR, and so for now I'm looking in to business manager visas etc. to get things moving more quickly for me. Thanks for your kind message and the good luck! :)

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  13. wow.thanks for writing this blog.i have same dream like you to open my own bakery next year or after that.but currently i am based in malaysia and would only move to tokyo after i pass my jlpt and my financially secure.i would like to know if i want to run the cafe and at the same time study,do i need two visa;study visa and biz manager visa?

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    1. Hi there Nur! You can only have one visa status at a time as far as I'm aware. To start your own business you'd need either a biz manager visa or a visa that allows you to carry out multiple types of activity, such as a spouse visa or permanent resident visa. Best of luck for your bakery, I'd love to visit one day when you open!

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  14. AnonymousJune 27, 2013

    Hi i just want to know if i get the PR and were divorce what will happen to my visa?

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  15. As far as I'm aware, you'd keep the PR status.

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  16. Thank you so much for the detailed details. I am planning to apply this month :)
    Thanks again

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    1. A pleasure! Good luck with the application :)

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  17. got my permanent visa and it took only 2mont's 11day's so happy! thank's for posting ths it helped me alot!

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    1. Hello, did you really got Ur PR in 2 months? How did you apply? As a spouse or other and did you use a lawyer to apply or by yourself?

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  18. I have successfully passed all requirments of getting p.r status and now currently waiting for the result but our relationship turned sour and planning to be divorced.do u think it'll affect my application if we divorce now?pls give me some advice.

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    1. Strictly speaking, if there are any changes in your situation from when you handed in your application, you're obliged to let immigration know. If you haven't been in Japan for over 10 years then not being married to a Japanese citizen anymore likely would negatively impact your application.. Not sure how best to advise, other than seek professional advice with an immigration lawyer! All the best.

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  19. AnonymousJune 13, 2014

    Hi,
    I am just preparing the documents for PR application. I have everything in front of me, but I am puzzled what to say in "Personal History" section of the application form.
    It gives 6 lines with "year/month/personal history".

    Does it need things before coming to Japan?

    I came on September 1 2003. and remained with same employer, same salary ever since. Local hire. Other than 2 weeks a year tourist trip for holiday I have no other absence from Japan.

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    1. I'd just put the info relevant to Japan, in your case the one stable job you mentioned. It's not a cv, just a list for them to reference. Your simple and stable situation will look good and hopefully make their task very easy :) Good luck!

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  20. Thanks Stacey, it was quick answer (for other readers, it was me who posted as Anonymous).

    One thing that was not mentioned about guarantor: the moment I have his document signed where he guarantees for myself, that moment I am empowered to be the guarantor for my wife and daughter. The original guarantor does not have to guarantee for all 3 of us separately.

    For "Reason for applying for Permanent Resident" I intend to give them an idea that Japan would benefit from me further. Something like "To continue living with family in Japan, purchase a house and provide that my daughter completes her education all the way to University".

    Perheps they would be fine to see hefty taxes that I pay (IT Exec), big money needed for a house and an 11 year old child that would possibly never leave Japan.

    Or, is there some other platitude that is commonly used and expected?

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  21. I'm not an immigration professional, but the plan you listed makes sense to me. It's my impression that they are mainly concerned to make sure your duration of stay has been long enough and on the same visa type, that there are no criminal offenses, you're paying taxes and able to support your life here.
    Since you're applying with dependents/as a family things might be a little more complex, I'm not sure. If you have questions or any doubt at all, I'd absolutely ecommend working with an immigration lawyer.

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    1. I think it is a clear cut in my case. Other than guarantor, i needed the same documents to get dependant visa for my family, this September they will be in their 3rd extension (initial 2008, ext 2011, ext 2014).
      There were no interruptions in stay, no visa type changes, no job changes.

      Someone told me that immigration lawyers charge 150,000Y to conduct the application and still you have to go around and get almost all documents (they would write "Explanation" page on my behalf, I don't need them for that).

      Immigration officer said that if we were married for longer than 3 years and family has been in Japan for more than 1 year, they are automatically elligible to apply in the same package with me.

      I see no reason to engage a lawyer. I even asked at the counter, out of 100 applications, how many are direct and how many by a lawyer. The officer said that most are direct, by a lawyer are rare, less than 5 out of 100.

      Hope it adds a pinch to your already very helpful writing. Had I known what you said in the opening piece last week, it would have saved me hours of research.
      I did not know that the guarantor is not legally bound, that was what made me on unease when I asked my colleague to guarantee. He gladly did but I will tell him what can be read in FAQ Q7 that you mentioned at moj.gov.jp

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  22. Just yesterday (June 12. 2014) , the immigration law was changed to allow PR applications after 3 years, not 10 years until now.
    That basically does at a larger scale what has already been in place - allowing others, not only those married to Japanese national, to apply after 3 years.
    Those approved, their spouses can work right away, can bring their mother, father, domestic helpers.

    I know your site is about something else but after sifting through the drivel that Google returned, your site was the first one to cover PR well.
    Just added my 2 cents to your already great write-up.Will come back to report any progress/stalling.

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    1. Thanks so much for the updates!
      I read about that too. Here is the link for interested readers: https://www.asia-first.com/newsletter/japan-eases-permanent-residency-requirements-for-highly-skilled-foreigners.html

      although since there isn't much information available about it at the moment, I wondered if it was just an extension of the fast-track points system that they introduced in May this year, which I wrote about here: http://alittleshopintokyo.blogspot.jp/2012/08/1st-attempt-at-permanent-residency-in.html

      Please do keep us up to date on any updates, and best of luck with your application!

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    2. Interestingly, the MOJ website that I link to at the top of this post has been altered slightly.

      http://www.immi-moj.go.jp/english/tetuduki/zairyuu/guide_residence.html

      It still says 10 years in total, but the wording in the second half of the page has been adjusted to specify that the 'consecutive block' of years, that was my application's downfall, now only has to be 5 consecutive years, rather than the 10 consecutive years that was stated to me in the rejection letter.

      A slight loosening then, but that is promising!

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  23. The law was amended just a few days ago (June 12th 2014), may take some time to be enacted. I would expect 2 weeks, by July 1. 2014. Public servants at Immigration, I suppose, would not be strict knowing the law has been changed. May just delay the verdict on the applications that fall under the old law, until the new one is implemented.
    It is not changing anything for me but for many others it may.

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  24. Today, July 1. finally submitted my application for PR for my whole family.

    I had everything ready, took a number ticket at 11:40, my number called 11:50, at 12:00 walked out with a PR case number.

    There was no 8,000Y fee - perhaps it comes later, when decided, in 6 months from now.

    It was not without any problems. They were:
    - my wife is in hospital, could not attend (which is required) but I had doctor's certificate, they accepted it.
    - my wife's allien card had expired 15 months ago. They said no problem, when she applies for new 5 years visa extension (7. october 2014), she will get a new one.
    - my daughter's passport expired 22. June 2014. No problem, her visa has not, bring the new passport on October 7. 2014. and it's ok.

    My impression is that staff at Immigration Office are doing well and were very helpfull.

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    1. Absolutely, that's my impression too! I'm glad that you were able to successfully submit the application, all the best with it! The "fee" is stamp duty, which you use to buy stamps when your application is successful, as far as I remember. Thanks for the update! Fingers crossed..

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  26. I applied for PR in 2010, after living here for 17 years, 15 of them consecutive. I'm single and work as a high school teacher. From application to approval took 5 months, which was speedier than they had said it could be. (I was told to would take probably 6 to 8 months.) The best advice I was given was regarding the letter you have to write in Japanese, because the first version I wrote was more about why I wanted to stay. A friend advised me to re-write it, focusing instead on what I was going to contribute to Japanese society by staying. It made it quite a different letter, but made sense. I wrote about what I did at work over and above what I was expected to do, volunteer work I had done (and would continue to do) etc. I asked the principal of my school (who is also a friend) to be my guarantor. I had her tax returns etc. sealed in envelopes (because I felt it was her private information and I didn't want to see it) and when I handed it over at Immigration I explained that this was from the principal of my school and that seemed to carry some weight. I must say that having PR has not made any difference to my daily life, but it is nice to not have to renew visas any more, and as I walked out of the building with my new status I did feel a bit different.

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    1. Congrats tokyopurplegirl! It's surely a nice thing not to have to go to the immigration centre any more :)

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  27. About letter of explanation why I want to stay in Japan, at Information counter they said it is better to have it in Japanese.
    Then, whoever reviews it, would know that for the life of me I could not have put it together myself.
    Now, it's bugging me: in 5 months, when my case comes to someone's intray, he/she would go through and tick the boxes in their own sheet. Then the letter comes, in English. Now, I imagine, they would just want to scan it with their eyes and better if it is in Japanese, they would not care who wrote it for me, they need it in front of their eyes regardless.
    Hope it does not take them big effort or cheese them off.

    I was also told it may take 6 to 8 months.

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  28. Did you get it, Ana?

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  29. Got it today, Jan 30th 2015. Applied July 1 2014. Took 7 months.
    Thanks Stacey for excellent info on your site and having an ear for us.
    Good luck to all applying,

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    1. Hi Ana, how long have you stayed in Japan before you applied for PR? thanks and congrtas! I also applied for my family.

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  30. Hi Stacey! thanks for this Blog. I have applied for PR last month and now keeping my fingers crossed for the good result. I applied together with my family. Your application that has been denied was two or three years ago, so, have you tried to apply again? I wish you luck and success. May God bless you.

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