Home > Focus on Japan 2008 > Maybe I Should Start Applying for That Permanent Resident Visa NOW

Maybe I Should Start Applying for That Permanent Resident Visa NOW

January 21st, 2008

Oh, great–rampant xenophobia in Japanese government circles may make life a lot more difficult for me. And not just by taking my fingerprint and photograph at Narita, a relatively quick and painless annoyance. I mean in a big way: they might soon start requiring specific levels of Japanese-language proficiency for residency visas.

And why?

Officials are quoted as saying that adding a language requirement to the visa application process could help to combat illegal immigration or terrorism.

Oh yeah, right. Because a terrorist willing to give up his life for his cause and spend a decade or more planting himself as a sleeper agent would never go to the trouble of learning the language. (Not to mention that every act of terrorism ever committed in Japan was committed by Japanese, never by foreigners.) And let’s not forget those illegal immigrants, who will, what, be taking the test before they officially apply as illegals? This is nonsensical, just more anti-foreigner sentiment from the same crowd that inflate crime rates among foreigners–who, ironically, commit fewer non-immigration crimes than Japanese do. And they could likely stop immigration better by simply locking a door or two (link to story about a Chinese man who simply walked out of Kansai airport, through unlocked doors and right past the guards).

The thing is, they’re not just saying this should be implemented for long-term residents, but anyone wanting to come in on a work visa (some reports say this is the primary target of the new restriction, in fact). Which is monumentally stupid. Can you imagine what would happen to the English-language industry if this passed? Hell, most schools want teachers who don’t speak Japanese, worried that a teacher might resort to using it in class. Certainly, the whole Nova-class of language schools would suddenly find itself out of luck, unless somehow the new restrictions would leave working-holiday visas unaffected. But schools at every level would be hit a s well; right now, it’s hard enough to find adjunct professors to work at my college. I am now subbing for my boss and will be handling the hiring process this semester; if I had to narrow it down to only the ones proficient in Japanese, I wouldn’t be able to put teachers in our classrooms. And the government’s own JET program would probably have to shut down.

But what about other industries? Let’s say you have companies like Siemens, Microsoft, or Morgan Stanley who need to send one of their management staff over to take a position in an English-speaking office; how would these companies fare if every employee they sent over would have to pass a Japanese-language test demonstrating fluency first?

I can only hope that the work-visa element torpedoes the whole concept, or else I’m gonna have to start taking lessons, and soon. It’s not that my Japanese is all that bad–my friends and co-workers say that it’s pretty good, in fact. The thing is, it’s almost purely spoken and non-formal–which is the last thing they’ll test for. And knowing Japanese bureaucrats, they’re gonna go for writing proficiency and technical grammar crap that’ll be more or less useless in my “integration” into Japanese life (I’m doing just fine as I am, thank you very much), but will present a huge obstacle to getting that permanent residency visa.

Don’t get me wrong–I’m not one of those I-have-the-god-given-right-to-live-in-your-country-types, nor do I approve of people living in a country without learning its language. I just disapprove of adding a language test for the wrong reasons, and the likelihood that it’ll be the useless-but-obstacle-raising kind. If it consisted of talking to an immigration agent for ten minutes and testing everyday-language use, then no problem. But I’m pretty sure that that’s the last thing they’ll make it be.

Which means that it would probably be best if I got the visa as soon as I get married this year–which coincidentally will be about the same time that I reach my unbroken ten-year mark living in Japan, which is also usually considered a requirement, or so I have been told by some.

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  1. Mark
    January 21st, 2008 at 11:05 | #1

    is Permanent Resident Visa you’re applying for the same as a Spouse Visa?

    don’t you have to obtain a “non-permanent residence” visa first, before you get a permanent one?

  2. January 21st, 2008 at 15:38 | #2

    You might want to look into this further. This does not apply to skilled workers, nor to those here doing things like teaching English. There has been a misunderstanding in terms of what “long term work visa” means among members of the foreign community. This is actually a class of visa which is given to folks who are, for example, the descendants of Japanese people born in South America. Such people can come to Japan for a limited duration (3-10 years) and work in an unrestricted fashion.

    We work here under the classification of “Specialist in Humanities and Human Services” as skilled workers. The classification that the language proficiency measures are for is another type of visa. Check the visa status page here: http://www.mofa.go.jp/j_info/visit/visa/04.html

    Check under “status of residence” and see what it says under “long-term resident”. Also, there was a Japan Times article a week or so ago which made it crystal clear that this is about a demographic which does not include the majority of folks here on a work visa. That article is here: http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/nn20080116a1.html

    The article also makes it clear that this is not about limiting or reducing foreign employees (even of the type being targeted).

  3. matthew
    January 21st, 2008 at 23:09 | #3

    Mark—Permanent Resident visa allows one to live and work forever in Japan–no need to renew.. Spouse visa is a one–three year visa that must be renewed. If you divorce or spouse dies, visa goes away, too.

    Japan has a variety of visas, in fact more than twenty, if memory serves. Each has certain requirements and all have a term limit and must be renewed. (diplomats may have it different.)

    So in reality, if you are in Japan you already have some type of non-permanent resident visa. The PM is the top of the list. Only thing above that is to naturalize and become a Japanese citizen.

  4. Tim Kane
    January 22nd, 2008 at 03:42 | #4

    Last summer I past through Japan and spent a night there waiting for my flight out the next day on JAL. I was surprised that I had to have some kind of Visa for that. I think there is a wave of xenophobia going on. Korea just instituted rigerous standards for foriegners to teach in Korea. In addition to submitting a criminal report, which I already had for my first job in Korea, you have to go to a Korean consulate and be interviewed.

    This is quite rigerous, because, instead of a visa Run to Fukuoka or Osaka, the teacher will have to return all the way to the United States, Canada or whereever, and not just the their home town, they’ll have to go to one of a handful of cities that have a Korean consulate. One wonders if the consolates will have the staff available to handle this work. In countries like Canada and the United States, the consulate can be hundreds of miles away. I’m from St. Louis so I would have had to go to Chicago which is 300 miles. My residence is in Phoenix now, that probably means I have to go aprox. 400 miles to Los Angeles. Those distances will be even greater for many Canadians.

    All of this is to make Children safe from foreign pedaphiles and criminal types. I believe that this is a reflex to a pedaphile having pass through Korea last year – he was caught in Thailand where he was teaching, and I am not aware if he actually did anything criminal in Korea. It’s understandable. Korea has to take steps to protect their children, so they couldn’t just do nothing.

    However, the efficacy of what they are doing is questionable. Reports I read said that the pedaphile that triggered these actions would have passed through these precautions undetected. Koreans are desperate to learn English. English language skills are highly tested in the educational exam system and necessary for advancement to the better highschools and colleges and job placement.

    I suspect that this will constrict the supply of teachers greatly. Especially from the United States. In America, early on, while looking for a job, one quickly discovers that jobs that require you to pay to work at are not jobs worth having. So Americans, especially, will view the new Korean requirements as a non-starter/deal braker. This will force prospective employers to pay for those arrangements and that will drive up the cost for the Korean consumer.

    Koreans are already spending massive amounts of money in life long efforts to improve English language skills by attending private academies, beginning in grades school and continueing there after. These schools already charge premiums. The new requirements will only constrict the number of teachers available, driving up the cost for legitimate teachers. Not only will cost go up for the logistics of bringing in teachers from abroad, but it will cause salaries to spike as well. Some small private academies will no doubt start using illegitimate teachers, young back packers passing through Korea, I suppose. At that point the children are no more protected than they were before, especially if one keeps in mind the reported predatory nature of pedaphiles. Meanwhile, many other teaching candidates will opt to go to another country: Taiwan, China, perhaps Japan, Thailand, etc…

    I see these new visa restrictions as catching the wave and amplifying it in Japan, a country with a notorious xenophobic complex (somewhat understandable given their reletive isolation, history and economic successes). In doing so, they will help save Korea’s bacon, because many English language teachers wrote in to the newspapers and said they would consider Japan. But growing xenophobia in Japan means their options may have narrowed.

  5. ykw
    January 22nd, 2008 at 04:08 | #5

    I doubt the test would be too rigourous, since they want people to be able to connect to their community, not be scholars. Your brother might run into issues though, since he has made less of an effort to learn how to speak Japaneese. Perhaps this would encourage him to study up. Or perhaps his wife’s language skills would get them passed as a couple. Also, it is nice you have Satchi there to help you if you do get involved in studying Japaneese. Learning Reading/Writing could take a tremendous amount of time.

  6. matthew
    January 22nd, 2008 at 07:23 | #6

    Tim—a very interesting read. Had not heard about the Korean situation. Hopefully, the forces of reality and business will stop these crazy ideas from continuing. The power of the internet and information may help to correct these trends before they gain any serious foothold.

  7. January 22nd, 2008 at 10:11 | #7

    I posted a comment with two links (to the foreign ministry’s visa explanations and an article in the Japan Times) which make this situation clearer but it appears to have been wiped out by your spam buffer. You may want to retrieve it and follow up on the links as they render much of the concern about this issue moot.

    Editor: indeed, it was in WordPress’ spam filter. The message is now restored and at #2 in the comments.

  8. Mark
    January 22nd, 2008 at 12:48 | #8

    Good info.

    I’ve heard of requirements for police reports. For American citizens, it’s usually obtained from the local municipality of your residence, as defined by your voter’s registration. You have to obtain your police record document from them as proof of your good citizenship and then go to a local foreign consulate for an official translation.


  9. January 23rd, 2008 at 17:00 | #9

    I don’t know exactly what they propose to change BUT applying for the permanent residence visa already assumes that you can read/write/speak Japanese because you have to submit a 2-3 page essay in Japanese about why you want to live in Japan and also take some sort of interview. This is not to say that you can’t just get someone else to write the essay for you.

    Although I could have written that thing myself I hired a lawyer to do the application and he took care of all the paperwork for me including the essay part. At any rate, if you’re a candidate for getting a eijyuken I would do it cause there are no down sides as far as I’ve experienced.

  10. Mike
    January 24th, 2008 at 00:33 | #10

    As far as getting a permanent resident visa goes, are you subject to double taxation from country of your citizenship? for example U.S. tax for income over $80,000 overseas.

    Will you be eligible for pension under both country’s systems?

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