Articles related to Permanent Residency (eijuuken) in Japan

Gaikokujin/More foreigners calling Japan home

By Tokiko Oba/Daily Yomiuri Staff Writer
Sept 6, 2002

Peter Mathae, 43, knew that he wanted to live in Japan permanently shortly after arriving in 1984 as an international student at Osaka University of Foreign Studies.

Mathae immediately contacted the immigration authorities to inquire if he was eligible for permanent residency. He learned that those who did not have Japanese spouses generally had to live in Japan for 20 years before they could apply for permanent residency.

He married his Japanese wife, Chisako, in Austria in 1983, but she took Austrian citizenship at the marriage, so it did not help him accelerate the residency process in Japan.

However, the Austrian was undaunted.

"I never thought of giving up because permanent residency was very important to me," Mathae said in fluent Japanese. "I was not going back to Austria, and I had fulfilled my duties here as a member of the community. So, I felt that I was duly entitled to permanent residency status."

He made similar inquiries each year after he began teaching German literature at Saitama University and even after he moved to Suwa, Nagano Prefecture, to start an import business. Mathae was finally awarded permanent residency in 1996.

Mathae is one of an increasing number of non-Japanese seeking to live in Japan permanently, but who are not willing to relinquish their original nationalities.

The total number of permanent residents has more than doubled in the past five years.

According to the Justice Ministry's Immigration Bureau, the number of permanent resident status holders was about 184,000 in 2001, a sharp rise from 82,000 in 1997.

The figure excludes about 500,000 special permanent resident status holders--the so-called oldcomers--who were brought to Japan from its colonies before and during World War II--and their descendants.

"An increasing number of foreigners are living in Japan longer and are seeking to establish a permanent base in this country," said Kifumi Oki, an Immigration Bureau official. "They're seeking a stable status here."

Oki also said many of the long-term residents are seeking permanent residency "because they want to extend their rights in this country, but they don't want to go as far as giving up their nationalities."

The steep increase in the number of permanent residents can also be attributed to a major relaxation in the requirements to obtain permanent residency in 1998.

In the face of criticism that the 20-year domiciliary requirement was unreasonably long, it was shortened to 10 years.

Tapash Barua, 43, is a permanent resident who acquired his status after the change was made.

Tapash, a Bangladeshi, obtained the status in 1999 after arriving in Japan 1987 as a student and working as an engineering consultant for eight years after graduating from an information technology college.

The cumbersome annual visa renewal procedure prompted him to apply for permanent residency. "I thought I wouldn't have to worry about my status any longer after I become a permanent resident," he said.

Tapash is now trying to obtain the same status for his 33-year-old wife, Chanda, whom he married in Bangladesh, and two of his three daughters.

Chanda and two of their children moved to Japan in 1995 to join Tapash. Their youngest daughter has permanent residency as she was born in Japan last year.

Chanda's current status is "spouse of a permanent resident," which requires her to renew her visa every three years.

In the case of couples who married overseas three or more years ago, with spouses who have lived in Japan for at least one year, the spouses may also seek permanent residency.

According to the Immigration Bureau, to become a permanent resident, one must be well behaved with no arrest record, and have sufficient financial backing and vocational skills to support oneself.

Atsushi Kondo, a professor at Kyushu Sangyo University, said Japan's 10-year domiciliary requirement is very strict by global standards.

Many nations with significant immigration levels, such as Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States, do not impose a domiciliary requirement on permanent resident applicants, he said.

"They are countries that accept immigrants on entry to the nations," Kondo said.

Kondo said the standards of European nations are easily compared with that of Japan. The domiciliary requirement is four years in England, five or eight years according to the applicants' skills in Germany, five years in the Netherlands, and about five years in Switzerland.

Kondo said the requirements for permanent residency for those who have high professional skills should be relaxed.

"Japanese policy doesn't look as attractive when compared with other countries for Chinese or Indian professionals seeking to migrate," Kondo said. "The domiciliary requirement in Japan should be shortened for them."

Kondo said: "Japanese people are not used to communicating with foreigners, so they have been unable to accept them in their communities. As the number of permanent residents continues increasing, Japanese communities are going through a transition. As the ratio of permanent residents increases, the communities, and eventually the government, will increasingly accept permanent residents."

Copyright 2002 The Yomiuri Shimbun


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