Sunday, August 28, 2011

Papers, please : applying for a Permanent Resident Visa in Japan

Being a foreigner in Japan has its quirks. Most of it I've come to terms with, like little kids openly staring at me on the street, or adults secretly staring on the train. Or is it that I have something on my face? Thanks to the humid weather I've recently developed a series of pimples that have consolidated and formed a giant zit the size of a softball on my right cheek. So maybe that's the real reason for the stares. Either way I'm very zen about it. (Except for you, giant zit the size of a grapefruit. I'm not zen about you.)

But anyways, another annoyance with being 'alien' is the little matter about visas. As the spouse of a japanese citizen, I "only" have to renew my visa once every three years or risk deportation. For some reason this date is always August 26 and it falls on Mom's birthday, so once every three years I'm like "happy birthday mom OH SHIT MY VISA APPLICATION!!"
This year was one of those years. (happy belated birthday mom!)
So I trudged on down to the immigration office in Shinagawa with lots of official papers. Of course on a weekday. You have to take a day off of work to submit your application, and another day off for the privelege to pay them some money when it is successful. Or if they don't accept it, you get to try again from square one. (luckily that has't happened to me. yet. I don't have that many vacation days left!)

About a month ago I was out drinking with some other expats, and one of them let me in on a little known secret: if you're the spouse of a japanese citizen, you can skip the normal 10 year residency requirement and apply for a permanent resident status after only 3 years. I have hellllla lived in Japan for more than 3 years. I am reminded of this fact every time someone says "hey Kyra your japanese is really good! how long have you lived in Japan for?" (about twice a week) and I dutifully do the math in my head. Um... about six and a half? 1 as an exchange student, two and a half before New York, three after New York. Anyways, enough for the damn requirement.

Permanent residency is ... well, the next best thing to citizenship, which I don't really want because being a japanese citizen means you have to either a. give up your american citizenship and be glared at when entering the US and be suspected of being a tax evader, or b. don't give it up and live within a legal grey area according to japanese law. So, permanent residence should be ok. anyways it means I won't have to update my visa, so no more excuses for missing mom's birthday. Hmmm... ;)

Before I went to update my normal spouse visa, I thought I would be really clever this time and look at the immigration office's website for what would be necessary to get the mythical permanent resident visa. It was there I discovered, although there is supposedly only a 3 year requirement, there is also a hidden requirement: the ability to read the extremely long, complicated directions on how to apply, in Japanese.

If you go to the official site, they have English. Here you go, here's the page.
looks easy enough, right? Oh wait, what's that under "Necessary Documents"?
"For more information on necessary documents, please refer to your regional immigration office or immigration information center. "
In other words, we're not going to bother to translate for you, so feel free to continue your journey up shit creek without a paddle, stupid foreigner! BwaHaHaHa!!

The worst part is, even if you go to the immigration office and ask them for the requirements, they give you the three page single spaced list, get this: in Japanese.
Then they snicker at you.

Well I'm going to foil their evil plan and help translate. That's right guys, I'm on your side! Together we can get you your permanent resident visa!
...Unfortnately the requirements change depending on your current visa status, and gets really confusing really fast, so I'm just going to list with MY requirements: if you're the spouse of a japanese citizen, and assuming you work.

First of all, here's the official list. In Japanese, natch.

Let's see what it says. You need eight things, are you ready? Get out your pencils!

1 永住許可申請書: eijyuu kyoka shinkei shyo . It's the application form where you write your name and address and why you want the visa and stuff like that. You can download it here:

2 パスポート及び外国人登録証明書 提示 : passport and foreigners card. It says 'either' but they ask for both.

3. 身分を証する文書等(取次証明書,戸籍謄本等 : An official paper that identifies you. I chose the kosekitohon, because it also fulfills #4. It's going to be your spouses if you're married, it will have your name on it. this is like a birth certificate but it has marraige entered on there. You will probably have to apply to the prefecture your spouse was born in for it and pay about 450 yen for one copy. seriously this was probably the hardest to get because I applied by mail, and takeshi's prefecture had a form to fill out and you had to pay the 450 in special stamps and include copies of your passport and lots of crap. I got two just in case, I really don't want to have to go through that again.

4.  配偶者の方の戸籍謄本 1通 spouses's kosekitohon. same as above. you only need the one.

5.申請人を含む家族全員(世帯)の外国人登録原票記載事項証明書(外国人の方)及び住民票(日本人の方) For all members in your household, provide either their foreigner's card (if foreigners) or juminhyo (proof of residence) if they're japanese. The proof of residency can't just be a phone bill or something, no no. It's an official paper you have to get from your city office. They are also only open weekdays. Of course. Go there and look for the sign that says 住民票 and fill out a form and take a number, apply for the copy that has your entire household on it, and that will do. I think one form cost another 400 yen. This thing is getting expensive!

6.申請人又は申請人を扶養する方の職業を証明する次のいずれかの資料 会社等に勤務している場合 So, if you work, you need to get a fancy peice of paper from your office. If you're dependent on your spouse you need them to get one from their office for you. It can't just be a paystub or something, what, are you kidding me? this is Japan, you have to have the OFFICIAL form. it has to be a : BAM! This thing right here. 在職証明書 . You can do what I did and email your HR department and copy those kanji into your email. ;) I think if you're self-employed, there's a couple more papers you have to bring. If you figure it out please comment!

7 直近(過去1年分)の申請人又は申請人を扶養する方の所得及び納税状況を証明 する次のいずれかの資料 : Something that proves you (if you work) or your spouse(if you're a dependent) have been paying taxes.
This is the document they specify: " 住民税の課税" (residency tax receipt) Must be within the last year. This is much easier if you have opted to have resident's taxes withdrawn from your paycheck, because then your residence tax will be on the little long white paper with blue ink that comes with your paycheck once a year around may. Bring a copy of that if you have it. If you haven't opted in for the automatic withdrawal scheme, you'll *know* because an enormous bill will come from the city office four times a year and it's extremely unpleasant. In that case you have to go to the city office *again* (same trip if you're smart) and ask for this thing: 住民税の課税(又は非課税)証明書及び納税証明書.

8.身元保証に関する資料 guarantor's authorization and signature. Basically get someone to promise they'll take care of you if everything goes wrong. I had my hubby sign mine. I think if your spouse is your dependent, you might be better off getting their parents to sign it. You can download the form here:
You need them to stamp it with their official inkan (if japanese) or signature (if foreign) before you take it in to the office.

So uh, I think that's everything! I took all that stuff to the office, and waited in a two hour line (or was it three hours? it blurred together at the end) and got a little paper that says 'wait 6 months to a year'. So bad news, you're staying illegally if your normal one expires. Just be safe and renew it while you're there already. ... No I'm not explaining all the papers required to renew your visa, THAT one at least is in English!

I've got my fingers crossed and am about 85% confident I translated all the requirements right and will get my visa without a hitch, but I'll let you know for sure.
In six months to one year's time. o_O;