Softbank and Shinsei Bank illegally require “Gaijin Cards”/passports for all NJ service


Hello Blog. Witness the further tightening of the dragnet around NJ residents.

First, we got the justification for fingerprinting all NJ at the border as potential Osama Juniors and Typhoid Maries. Now once inside, the “Gaijin Card” (gaikokujin touroku shoumeisho), designed in 1952 as a tracking device for all the Zainichi who wouldn’t leave postwar Japan like good little Sankokujin, is now being steadily voided. Even though by law it serves as a proxy for the passport (since it contains the same information, including visa status, so that NJ residents don’t have to schlep around their unloseable international paperwork 24/7). If you have your Gaijin Card, you needn’t show your passport. And according to the Foreign Registry Law you needn’t even show your Gaijin Card anyway to anyone except a member of Japan’s police forces (especially when other forms of ID, such as a drivers’ licence or health insurance booklet, will also do). Yet increasingly in some places, no show, no service.

Two prominent examples: has received a reliable report from a Kansai-based foreign reader that Softbank not only requires alien registration cards but now passports. Shinsei Bank, formerly known as one of the more gaijin-friendly institutions in a banking system which treats NJ as potential money launderers, now requires the Gaijin Card even from established customers when other forms of ID will do for regular, obviously more trustworthy Japanese. The two reports follow, the first anonymized at the author’s request. Arudou Debito in Sapporo



Earlier today (October 29, 2007), I attempted to purchase a SIM card for my cell phone at an Osaka-based branch of Softbank, and was immediately told they needed to see my alien registration card and my passport. I said that was a strange policy and possible illegal, but definately a violation of common sense. I pointed out that both my passport number and my visa type were written on my gaijin card. But the young woman behind the counter showed her me her Softbank manual for granting contracts to foreigners and it did, indeed, say that both a gajin card and a passport were necessary in order to get a contract. Unfortunately, my cell phone is a Nokia type that locks me into purchasing a Softbank SIM card, or I would certainly take my business elsewhere.

As the young, part-time worker was in no position to do anything, I placed a call to Softbank’s Tokyo headquarters and asked to speak to somebody in their public affairs office. The guy who came on the phone said that, no, no passport was necessary. A gaijin card alone was sufficient. I said, “Oh really?” and passed the phone over to the young woman in the Osaka Softbank store, who told him that her manual specifically said a passport was needed as well. When she passed the phone back to me, he said that, yes, both were needed.

I told him I had heard there were legal questions about a business demanding to see a passport and that, besides, I couldn’t understand why Softbank needed to see both. He just kept repeating it was now company policy to require both. I told him I thought he should check up on that, and he agreed to call me back.

An hour or so later, I received a call from a different person in the PR department who basically said Softbank required both the card and a passport because they’d been ripped off by foreigners before and that gaijin cards can be faked. When I again brought up the question of whether it was legal, he said Softbank’s understanding was that, because the letter of the law does not specifically state that a business CAN’T also demand a passport, Softbank assumes that they CAN. But, when I said that, in effect, Softbank, without confirming the exact meaning of the law and despite knowing that foreingers were upset (based on past complaints) simply wrote the manual requiring a passport be shown, the official agreed that was the case.

One wonders: what is the purpose of a gaijin card if, as of November 20th, it alone will no longer get you through immigration. And, legal questions about showing it to anyone other than government officials aside, what is the practical purpose of carrying the card if, as of today, businesses like Softbank are going to demand to see our passports as well?


Beware: SHINSEI BANK, Japan, Discrimination of Foreigners
Discrimination of Foreign Nationals at SHINSEI BANK, Tokyo

Oct.4, 2007, 1 pm: I went to SHINSEI BANK, Tokyo, Ikebukuro branch to get me an new cash card as I did not find my old one any more.

Though I have had a (legal) bank account there for many years, I was asked for my Alien (we are all aliens in Japan!) Registration Card although I have been a Permanent Resident in Japan for 20 years.

When I showed my Japanese driving licence and even offered my Japanese health insurance card (a normal thing at any other institution in Japan if you are a permanent resident; I had just done it the day before at the postal bank) they refused to deal with my case unless they saw my Alien Registration Card insisting on some dubious company regulations.

Of course, all was written in Japanese, no English at all.

How international for a bank with American backup!

They left me with no choice. I had to show my Alien Registration Card. Although I protested, told them about the illegality and mentioned discrimination they would not budge. A copy of my Alien Registration Card was taken.

If/Before you go to SHINSEI BANK, Japan, remember my case and don�?Tt forget:

Any foreigner is a potential criminal, customer or not. All Japanese are good people.

Only foreigners have to be fingerprinted, when they enter Japan, no Japanese have ever or will ever commit a crime.

Hermann Troll

P.S. Feel free to pass on to this message.

25 comments on “Softbank and Shinsei Bank illegally require “Gaijin Cards”/passports for all NJ service

  • Debito:

    I don’t know if it’s official company policy, but when I joined their service a few years ago, the folks at AU told me they’d need to look at and copy both my passport and gaijin card if I wanted to sign up for their phone.

  • “Softbank required both the card and a passport because they’d been ripped off by foreigners before and that gaijin cards can be faked.”

    Maybe I’m just incredibly naive, but I have 2 questions regarding this quote:

    1. It implies that they’ve never been ripped off by Japanese people before. I doubt that’s true, and so do they also demand more identification from Japanese customers these days?

    2. How does one rip off softbank by showing them a fake gaijin card? I don’t see how a fake gaijin card can be used to rip them off – I mean if they don’t get paid they cut off the service right? How does a pasport prevent them getting ripped off?

  • Had similar problems at the local Docomo shop in Yokosuka recently… I’m a SOFA-sponsored contractor, which means my only means of identification are my US passport and my military ID. Naturally, this caused the Docomo sales lady to throw a fit, because (of course) neither one shows my address in Japan. Imagine that! After about 45 minutes of arguing with them, several phone calls to their main office, and two translators (even though my Japanese was more than sufficient up to that point), they finally agreed that if I hand-wrote my Japanese address into a blank spot on my passport, they’d consider it ‘official’. The whole thing blew my mind, really–this shop is literally within a stone’s throw from the base, so it’d be pretty hard to believe that this is their first time dealing with someone in my position.

    Actually, that reminds me of another interesting Yokosuka anecdote. The 7-11 across the street from the main gate now refuses to sell alcohol to American-looking foreigners unless they can produce a gaijin card (i.e. NOT a military ID) during certain hours of the night. They even have a cute little prinout taped to the counter showing a picture of a gaijin card next to a picture of a military ID with a big red ‘X’ on it.

    I believe their excuse is related to the ‘alcohol curfew’ that was recently passed for active duty US Navy personnel in Japan, limiting the hours that they are allowed to drink in public. I’m not 100% convinced of the legality of this 7-11’s decision, but even more irritating to me is the fact that, because I’m a civilian, I’m not supposed to be affected by the Navy’s policy. Unfortunately, I couldn’t convince the 7-11 staff of that, even after showing them the part of my ID that identifies me as a civilian.

    I did get the requisite bows, smiles, and the ‘moushiwake gozaimasen’ that always seem to accompany discrimination out here, but the end result of the conversation was that if I want to stop in and pick up a six-pack of cold ones after working late, I’ll have to go down to city hall and apply for a gaijin card first–which, incidentally, isn’t possible for SOFA personnel.

  • For the record, when I opened my Shinsei account just last year, the documents I used were 1)Japanese Driver’s license and 2)a copy of an NTT Docomo phone bill to confirm my address. I was never required to show a passport or an Alien card. So long as I had an address in Japan, it didn’t matter what nationality I was. Perhaps flaming Shinsei like this isn’t the smartest thing because it could have been one branch manager’s naivety that caused this.

    Also, for the record, when I opened a bank account in Scotland, I was required to have an interview because I wasn’t a UK citizen. During the interview I asked why this was necessary and I was told it was to counter-attack terrorist cells setting up banks in the UK for funding “overseas projects.”

  • When I signed up for Softbank seven years ago (J-Phone as it was then) I had to show both gaijin card and passport – which they took copies off. I’ve helped out other people get phones since then and they’ve always asked for gaijin card and passport. One friend forgot to bring his passport, so we tired with just the gaijin card, and he was turned away.

    As for Shinsei, I signed up last year by post and they asked for copies of my gaijin card and a bill with my name and address on it.

  • I bought a Softbank phone recently and had to show my gaijin card/passport or they wouldn’t give me a phone, despite already having another Softbank account (separate handset)

    I noticed on the interface for entering the applicant info. (where I bought the phone) they had a “Visa Expiry” date as a required field, so for a PR like me, they entered Dec 31, 9999, which I thought was a bit humorous anyways.

  • Check out the softbank websites for registration in English …

    an ID card is mentioned, but no passport …

    However the Japanese page says

    外国人登録証明書 + 外国パスポート

    If you have a Japanese driver’s licence shouldn’t that suffice?



    Hi Blog. Just ran this story by my editor and he’s commissioned it. Spread the word–anyone being asked for their Gaijin Card by people other than the police these days? I mean, in the workplace, video store, any place you want service.

    Softbank we now know (thanks Nick et al). I’ve heard two instances where people were asked for the GC just for getting a pittance for a speaking fee, or even getting about 1000 yen for a quick job. In other words, it’s going beyond “main employer” and into “any time you pay a gaijin any money, you gotta check their visa”. That’s far beyond the mandate of the original law revision. Again.

    Ask around? Any examples, list them here or if you want privacy, Got nine days to write, so there’s time. Thanks everyone. Debito.

  • I would also like to confirm that less than a year ago I had the same problem with Shinsei bank. I have also heard of others having the same problem.

    In my case I was politely but curlty told by Shibuya branch staff that there were different rules for foreigners and Japanese and thus a Japanese drivers licence would not suffice for a foreigner. I complained that this was discrimination but they said something to the effect that it was an official rule and there was nothing they could do about it.

    What I can not understand is why the Japanese government is not protecting tax paying citizens from this treatment. Alien registration cards and passports should not be used for corporations to check up on foreigners.

  • Debito,

    Good work on the treatment of immigrants, the permanent residency fingerprinting, and etc. I wonder if you know of the Economist’s “Global Talent Index.” It may help you press your points home, so I send the links along. The index shows Japan behind China, India and Korea in the race to attract brainpower. The index may seem elitist, of course, since it focuses on highly workers. But sometimes the only way to get a population to accept immigrants is to emphasize the most visible economics benefits. Canada does this, and then brings in plenty of refugees and lower-skilled workers, family-class people as well. In any event, Japan is showing the world a truly “cool” (tsumetai) aspect in the new fingerprint/photo rules for permanent residents (on top of having to pay for re-entry visas!). I suspect these measures will not endear this country to people with choices.

    Personally, I was dismayed when I saw the content of these new rules. I have permanent residency, and wonder what that’s worth.

  • I have had a Softbank keitai since around October of 2002 (they were still J-phone at this time), and unfortunately I cannot recall what ID they required from me.

    However, I have an AU anecdote that dates to January of this year. My friend from the US was visiting for a period of about 2 weeks. He wanted to get a prepaid AU phone for use while in Japan, as although he was officially staying at my apartment, he was going to be spending at least a couple days in other cities visiting other friends.

    The people at the AU shop (near Nagoya station) would not accept a passport, period. I understand that recent changes to the law, aimed at preventing crimes committed with mobile phones, effectively prevent tourists (which my friend was) from getting a phone. But I was interested that they required an alien registration card before any transaction could take place. While I don’t have a Japanese driver’s license (don’t need and especially don’t WANT to drive in this country), their adamance in demanding the Gaijin Card indicates to me that they probably would have refused that if I had one.

    Incidentally, shortly after this I experienced my own, first-ever Gaijin Card check by the police (right in front of Nagoya station). They said they were conducting a “security check”.

    (Also, re: being asked by other than the police, I was asked for my Gaijin Card at an eye doctor this past Saturday, again near Nagoya station, despite having a national health insurance card provided by my company.)


    Hi debito, Pls also consider the following view point;

    Some business owners/employers (Japanese and NJ) or their lawyers/consultants think,

    1. Yes. The law only requires Gaijin Card.
    2. But, Gaijin Card sometimes do not reflect current visa status. Some NJ intensionally do not register the change of visa (especially after an unsucessful visa application) on purpose.
    3. If the employer (even unintentionally) employ the NJ without proper visa, they may be punished/fined AND may not be able to sponsor NJ visa for a while. This is a considerble damage to their business.
    4. As a risk management, they ask for an original passport to make 100% sure that the NJ actually has the visa, and photocopy the passport as a proof (to the police or immigration to show that they did everything to confirm the visa.)

    To be honest with you, I would advise the same way to business owners if asked.

    I think this idea is shared by some business owners/lawyers/consultants throughout Japan and should be counterargued.


    – yes the law only requires a gaijin card.

    So I would be astounded if a hiring company who checked their employees gaijin card, only to be then later told that the card was not up-to-date, was then fined or otherwise disciplined because of the employee’s deception.

    There are limits to how far an employer can scrutinize the private life of an employee, as there should be.

    What if the passport was also fake, what then? Should the employer be required to spy on the employee, make official requests for information to police or immigration?

    No. If they do what the law requires, but are deceived by a fake or un-updated gaijin card then it is no fault of theirs.

    If you know differently, and have proof that a company was reprimanded for hiring an illegal alien even though they checked the gaijin card and it seemed OK, please let me know. I would be very interested.

  • Personally I’ve had no problem with either Softbank or Shinsei Bank. I have joined both within the last twelve months, and since I was able to show my Japanese driving licence in each instance I was asked for neither Gaijin Card nor Passport.

    I’ve helped a few new colleagues buy Softbank phones where they have english manuals which make it clear that to become a customer you have to show ID. If you have some kind of Japanese ID (driving licence, etc.) that’s fine, but if you only have a Gaijin Card they also require your Passport. When I asked why they need a passport, the reply was simple: “Company Rule”!

    Shinsei bank only requires a Gaijin card:

    Of course, whatever kind of ID I choose to show, I don’t take issue with them wanting to check who I am. It’s the practice of always taking a copy ‘for the record’ that I don’t like. Isn’t copying my passport forgery?

  • Isn’t copying my passport forgery?

    No, though it could be forgery or fraud if they had the intention to decieve someone with it. But not if it’s just kept for records.

  • I was in Japan from July-September as a temporary visitor (tanki taizai) and I was able to get a cell phone, even though technically I shouldn’t have been allowed (this was at the Harajuku Softbank store). I had applied for the toroukushou but hadn’t received it at that point, but all they asked for was my passport. Apparently they neglected to check my status of residence.

    As I understand it the identification requirements were recently increased by the government under “administrative guidance”, i.e. they just went to every cell phone service provider and asked them to do it, under the implied threat that things will become difficult if they don’t. Supposedly they did this because of some kind of fraud that illegal Chinese immigrants were engaging in. Bureaucrats have a lot of power in Japan, and unfortunately for us they seem to be more nationalist than the general populace. To a lot of them, every problem can be reduced by making foreigners jump through more hoops. And of course, a problem caused by a foreigner is much worse than a problem caused by a native…

    The contract with my phone says that I am required to return the phone and cancel the contract if I leave Japan, but I have done no such thing, and I intend to use the phone again when I come back in 6-9 months.


    I was just asked for three pieces of information from a national university where I teach: my passport, my ‘torokusho’ and some other document neither I nor any of my Japanese colleagues have ever heard of. I sent them a photocopy of my ‘torokusho’ with a note, written in Japanese by a colleague, saying that there was no need to send them a copy of my passport, as my ‘torokusho’ serves this purpose under the law. I’ll let you know what response I get.
    My main university, where I’m a full professor, has not asked me for anything; nor has XXXX University, where I teach part-time, nor has another part-time university I’ve taught at for two years. Strange but understandable it would be a national that asked. I refuse to be fingerprinted and photographed after living and paying taxes here for thirty years. If it means not leaving the country until they amend this silly law, so be it. I am advising all my friends and family around the world not to come here for tourism or business.

  • is blocking any post that mentions the upcoming fingerprinting requirement. I thought I’d post something about it there just to get a discussion about it happening, and to let prospective tourists know about it. But my posts were never put up on the forum.

  • When I went to file a change of address last year at Shinsei bank, I presented by Japanese drivers license as proof of the address change. However, once the clerk realized I was not Japanese, I was asked for my Gaijin card. The clerk made a copy of it and had me fill out the change of address form.

    I can understand the need for showing it when opening an account, but it’s ridiculous that it needs to be shown for a mere change of address. Per Shinsei’s webpage, whether it be opening a new account, change of address, etc., all they will accept from foreigners is a Gaijin card of Certificate of Registered Matters. I have an account with Mitsui Sumitomo Bank and this can easily be done online. Looks like I’ll be giving all of my business to them instead.

    As for Softbank, when I signed up with Docomo about 2 years ago, all I had to show was my gaijin card (I didn’t have a drivers license at the time). Since I’m on a spouse visa, that was all I needed to show. (I believe PR holders were in the same boat as well) However, for everyone else, I believe they also required a passport if memory serves. When I looked at their webpage concerning ID a few days ago, the passport requirement seems to have disappeared.

  • My wife is Japanese. She has lost her mobile with USIM card inside. After a few days we decided to go to Softbank to purchase new USIM with her current phone number.(next phone was bought on Yahoo Auction). All what they asked her was Softbank phone number and in minutes she got her new USIM card. No ID`s were necessary at all.

  • Aren’t visitors to the USA also required to be fingerprinted? I am sure my wife was fingerprinted last summer in Hawaii.

  • I would show someone my gaijin card to open an account BUT they cannot copy it can they? I thought that was now not allowed. At one of my workplaces they staff insisted I present a copy of my alien registration for their files but when I stood firm and told them that this was actually not legal now ( how do i know?) they explained that they needed the copy when they completed the information to send to the Mombusho or whoever. I made them feel uncomfortable by getting their assurance that thereafter they would be shredding the information? They were a little pressured by my insistence though I wasn’t sure if I was in the right or not.
    “And as for Gaijin Carding by employers, under the new law (Article 28) you are under no obligation to say anything more than what your visa status is, and that it is valid. Say you’ll present visual proof in the form of the Gaijin Card, since nothing more is required.

    If your main employer forces you to have your IDs photocopied, point out that the Personal Information Protection Law (Kojin Jouhou Hokan Hou) governs any situation when private information is demanded. Under Article 16, you must be told the purpose of gathering this information, and under Article 26 you may make requests to correct or delete data that are no longer necessary.

    That means that once your visa status has been reported to Hello Work, your company no longer needs it, and you should request your info be returned for your disposal.”

  • SURUGA Bank denied a bank accout unless they get a copy of “alien card.” I showed a Japan-issued driver’s license, but they refused a bank account. I filed a lawsuit.

  • Be aware that Shinsei is sending you mail regularly. If not delivered and get returned, they block your withdraw card and internet banking. You can’t get access your money anymore. Want to change your address, yes you need to show you gaijin card with your new address!!
    Moving abroad? there your only option they offer is closing your account!! And they charge you few thousand yen for that.
    Softbank? Worse!! I bought an iphone (ichibarai)and moved out of Japan few month later. I continued to keep service for one year in case I go back and recently decided to cancell line. First they cahrge you 10,000 yen fee. Then they dont unlock your iphone until…. never !!!
    [leap of logic rant deleted]


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>