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Permanent Residency

March 4th, 2010

I went to Immigration yesterday and submitted my application. It consists of my tax records for the last three years and Sachi’s for the past one year; a letter proving employment from my work as well as the gensen-choshu-hyo (the Japanese version of the American W-2 form); a letter stating my reasons for getting permanent residency; a copy of our family registry; my passport and alien registration card; and a 2-page form similar to those you fill out for a work visa. There is also a guarantor form, which they gave me there but is not due until they call me back in.

The process was surprisingly similar to any other visa application–go to the immigration office, fill in the application, submit the forms at the same counter for temporary visas, and then they have you write your address on a postcard to notify you of when you have to come back in. It took about two and a half hours on a Wednesday afternoon, not counting travel time. It was remarkably pedestrian–I expected to meet with an official and to have them ask me questions or some such–I though the process would be much more personal.

As for my chances, I am more or less a shoo-in: a college professor, twelve straight years in Japan (ten is usually enough), and married to a Japanese national. I hear they’ll allow you to get residency after five years if you’re married. Some people say it takes just a few months; one person I spoke to said it took them one and a half years. Let’s see how I do.

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  1. Jim
    March 4th, 2010 at 14:49 | #1

    I’m going for a spousal visa. So I printed the instructions from the Official Japanese immigration site and began to work on collecting all the necessary info. My wife pointed out that the official site is lacking in outlining all the documents you really need. At least based on what she’s been reading. Did you run into anything similar i.e. were you missing any forms or necessary documents when you arrived at the office? I dread going through this process though it looks much more reasonable than when we filed for the US Permenant Resident Card. (which, btw you have to forfeit if you leave the US for more then six months).

  2. Luis
    March 4th, 2010 at 15:00 | #2

    We called the immigration office ahead of time and asked to make sure–might not be a bad idea. Also you can look in forums on the web…

  3. Ken
    March 4th, 2010 at 15:21 | #3

    Why apply for permanent residency? Is there any advantage financially or otherwise? I guess it would be more convenient than having to re-issue your work visa/permit every time it expires…

  4. Luis
    March 4th, 2010 at 16:46 | #4

    Ken: Generally, there is the statement that you’re there to stay–kind of like joining society in a more meaningful way, at the symbolic level. Specifically, it means you can work at any job you want. If, for some reason, I lost my teaching job and couldn’t get another one, I could potentially work anywhere. McDonalds, the Apple Store, the local supermarket–whatever. I could do the same with a spousal visa, of course. But then there’s the factor of not having to renew your visa every three years, which will be very nice. I will still have to go to immigration to get a *re-entry permit*, but I hope that they’ll issue something longer than a 3-year one (does anyone know what they do for PR holders?).

    FInally, there’s the house-hunting factor: the bank won’t loan me money without permanent residency status. So there’s that as well. There may even be other benefits that I am not thinking of at the moment. Anyone?

  5. Troy
    March 4th, 2010 at 16:55 | #5

    Awesome, Luis.

    I regret breaking my stay in Japan at 7+ years. I shoulda telecommuted to Cupertino, LOL.

    As you’ve said you gotta be a PR to get a home loan.

    How’s the home search going? I like doing yahoo.co.jp’s real estate search occasionally; the prices look high but with the really low long-term interest rates the cost of ownership is pretty low.

    As Japan depopulates this century, places out in the countryside will become very affordable I guess (many areas area already incredibly cheap due to poor job availability).

    But I expect Tokyo prices to remain relatively firm, the entire country will essentially do a slow-motion collapse towards the center of the metropolis.

    Over 5 years I rode my bike around much of Tokyo (~80%), there are so many nice, quiet areas inside the Yamanote (around Kagurazaka west of Takadanobaba, the gaijin ghetto near National Azabu (where I lived 1995-2000). There’s also out in Yoyogi, so many nice neighborhoods. Prices are still high but have come down a lot since the 90s I guess.

    I liked living in Kichijoji 1992-1993 because it had straight shots into Shinjuku and Shibuya. Apparently it’s become a pretty popular place now.

    With an iPad living out a ways might be doable :)

  6. Troy
    March 4th, 2010 at 17:09 | #6


    Kagurazaka west of Takadanobaba — oops, not west, east. West of Takadanobaba isn’t so nice until you get out towards Ogikubo, at least back in the 90s.

    If I were house-hunting, I’d want to live close enough to a Kinokuniya grocery or of course the best, National Azabu.

    But with the internet I suppose it’s possible to get import food without having to go through the FBC.

  7. matthew
    March 5th, 2010 at 08:26 | #7

    Congrats on the application for PR. I got mine in 2000. It is essential for a home loan or a small business loan.

    As for the re-entry–nope 3 years is the max they will give you.

    Other benefits? No need for visa renewals, can get divorced without losing visa status, can lose job without losing visa, pretty much gives you about 99% of the rights and duties of Japanese Nationals. Win win IMHO.

  8. April 13th, 2010 at 05:36 | #8

    True, I was five years in Japan, married for just 5 years at that point when I applied and received my PR stamp.

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