How to's

How to Become a Permanent Resident in Japan?

Once you have spent several years living in Japan and that you start to feel that you could well spend a substantial part of your remaining days in the country, the prospect of applying for permanent residence might become more and more appealing. Because I am at that point of my life right now, I thought I could document my own application and hopefully, use the experience to help others like me.

What is permanent residence in Japan and why should you consider applying for it?

First of all, this is not the equivalent of an application to become a Japanese national. The status of "Permanent Residence" only allows a foreigner to stay in Japan on a permanent basis. There are several advantages to this status over other types of visas such as a spouse visa or a work visa:

  • The permanent resident status is not limited in time so you will no longer have to go through the hassle of renewing your visa every 1 to 3 years. Only your residence card will need to be renewed every 7 years.
  • Unlike a work visa, with a permanent resident status, you are not limited to a certain type of professional activity.
  • You will no longer be dependent on a sponsor for your applications.
  • With a permanent resident status, getting a credit card or a loan will be a lot easier.

Who is eligible for a permanent resident status?

  • You have lived in Japan continuously for the past 10 years
  • You have been the spouse of a Japanese national for more than 3 years and you have lived in Japan continuously for at least 1 year
  • You have been on the status of Highly Skilled Professional (HSP) for at least 4 years and 6 months (if you have no idea what HSP is, then you probably don't qualify)

In all cases above, you must have been paying your own taxes and insurance premium during the whole duration mentioned and you must not have had a criminal record in Japan. Your financial situation must be stable and you should justify of earnings over 4 000 000 Yen per year for a couple, and 4 500 000 Yen per year for a couple with a child. While not impossible, failing to meet those requirements will reduce your chances of success.

What are the necessary documents to apply?

Strangely enough, I found that the application process was not that different compared to that of renewing my spouse visa. It is actually a lot easier that applying for a spouse visa where you need to produce all sort of evidence to prove that you are into a real relationship (remember the movie Green Card with Gérard Depardieu and Andie MacDowell? That's about the same thing!). Here are the documents you will need to provide and where to get them from.

From yourself

  • A 40 x 30 mm photo of yourself facing forward in front of a plain background. It will be pasted on your application form.
  • Your passport
  • Your current resident card
  • A 8,000 Yen revenue stamp (to be purchased from a post office or at the convenience store located at the first floor of the Tokyo immigration bureau)

From the immigration bureau

  • Application form to be downloaded from the immigration bureau website (either in pdf or excel format)
  • A mimoto-hoshousho (身元保証書, letter of guarantee) (pdf). Best is to get it signed by a Japanese national. Note that the person signing is under no legal obligation whatsoever as regards to you. This is just a way for the immigration bureau to check that you actually made some contacts within Japanese society. I was told that best would be to ask someone not too close to you but frankly, the only person I was comfortable asking was my wife so we went like that.
  • A letter of motivation explaining why you are requesting permanent resident status and a summary of your contributions to Japan in the diplomatic, social, economic, cultural or other fields (here is a pdf template). In there, I wrote everything I do to promote Aikido, Daito-ryu, and Japan, with scans of my certificates and pictures of enets, articles, etc. I also got letters of recommendation from several Japanese people I have worked with on these matters. You basically want to put your best foot forward so be thorough. I got mine translated in Japanese just in case.

From the ward office

  • A copy of your spouse's koseki tohon (戸籍謄本, family register)
  • Your jumin-hyo (住民票, resident certificate)
  • Your (or the head of houseshold's) tax certificates: nouzei-shoumeisho (納税証明書) and kazei-shoumeisho (課税証明書)

From your employer

  • Your zaishoku shoumeisho (在職証明書, employment certificate)
  • A koyou keiyaku sho (雇用契約書, employment contract)

Additional materials

I am not quite sure those are absolutely required but I read here and there that they could be requested so there you go. I will update this list if I figure out that some of these documents are really not needed.

  • Your guarantor's zaishoku shoumeisho (在職証明書, employment certificate, to be obtained from the employer). This is supposed to go with the letter of guarantee. Note that if you are unable to produce tax certificates fo your own, your spouse, if acting as your guarantor, may have to provide theirs.
  • Your shotoku kazei shōmei (所得課税証明, income taxation certificate, to be obtained from the ward office).

That's about all I put in my application. Please note that the decision can take up to 6 months so make sure that you do not end up without a visa if your application is rejected. To be safe, I was advised by the immigration bureau to also apply for an extension of my spouse visa, so essentially, I got all of those documents in two copies and prepared both applications at same time. I wish you the best of luck for your own applications!

Guillaume Erard
Author: Guillaume Erard
A resident of Japan for nearly a decade, Guillaume Erard trains at the Aikikai Hombu Dojo, where he received the 5th Dan from Aikido Doshu Moriteru Ueshiba. He also holds a 3rd Dan in Daito-ryu Aiki-jujutsu, the secretive art that Morihei Ueshiba learned from Sokaku Takeda. Erard is the Information Director of the International Aikido Federation and the Deputy Secretary of International Affairs of the Daito-ryu Aiki-jujutsu Shikoku Headquarters. He is also passionate about science and education and holds a PhD in Molecular Biology.
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