Sayuki et al: People clearly qualifying for J Permanent Residency are being rejected by Immigration



Hi Blog. I have been receiving emails recently from people saying that the essential benchmark qualifications for Permanent Residency (eijuuken, or PR)–i.e. five years’ continuous residency if married to a Japanese, ten years’ continuous if not (aside from the obvious bits about law-abidingness and stable income)–don’t seem to be sufficient anymore, even in some cases where one would think candidates would be a shoo-in. Witness:

Dear David, I have just been to the Fukuoka Immigration center at Fukuoka Airport and was planning to submit my forms for Permanent Resident Status (永住権) after taking advice from your web page on this issue.

When I explained myself to the first staff member they said there was no way I would obtain this status because I have not been in Japan 10 years.

But I replied that I have lived in Japan over nine years, employed for all that time, married for six, two children who are Japanese nationals, and I am one of only a handful of people in Japan who has a permanent full-time position in an Elementary School.

I was passed onto another member of staff who told me to fill out some more forms for this application (which is fair enough) but I am seeking advice on this issue – espeically about application and marriage time – for they seemed not to understand the rule about five years of marriage to a Japanese national allows you to apply for Permanent Resident Status.

Any information, English or Japanese, which I could take down and show them on the date of my next meeting with them would be gratefully received.

According to HANDBOOK co-author Akira, Immigration says the requirements for PR are:

Guidelines for Permission for Permanent Residence

Legal requirements
(1) The person is of good conduct.
The person observes Japanese laws and his/her daily living as a resident does not invite any social criticism.
(2) The person has sufficient assets or ability to make an independent living.
The person does not financially depend on someone in the society in his daily life, and his/her assets or ability, etc. are assumed to continue to provide him/her with a stable base of livelihood into the future.
(3) The person’s permanent residence is regarded to be in accord with the interests of Japan.

In principle, the person has stayed in Japan for more than 10 years consecutively. It is also required that during his/her stay in Japan the person has had work permit or the status of residence for more than 5 years consecutively.

The person has been never sentenced to a fine or imprisonment. The person fulfills public duties such as tax payment.

The maximum period of stay allowed for the person with his/her current status of residence under Annexed Table 2 of the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act is to be fully utilized.
There is no possibility that the person could do harm from the viewpoint of protection of public health.

※ The requirements (1) and (2) above do not apply to spouses and children of Japanese nationals, special permanent residents or permanent residents, and requirement (2) does not apply for those who have been recognized as refugees

Special requirements for 10-year residence in principle

(1) The person is a spouse of a Japanese national, special permanent resident or permanent resident, and has been in a real marital relationship for more than 3 years consecutively and has stayed in Japan more than 1 year consecutively. Or, the person is a true child of a Japanese national, special permanent resident or permanent resident, and has stayed in Japan more than 1 year consecutively.
(2) The person has stayed in Japan for more than 5 years consecutively with the status of long term resident.
(3) The person has been recognized as a refugee, and has stayed in Japan for more than 5 years consecutively after recognition.
(4) The person has been recognized to have made a contribution to Japan in diplomatic, social, economic, cultural or other fields, and has stayed in Japan for more than 5 years.
※ Please see “Guidelines for Contribution to Japan.”
[which are not linked from this site, and unavailable despite a MOJ website search; see them here in Japanese]
March 31, 2006, Immigration Bureau of Japan, The Ministry of Justice

Japanese original:

Would have thought the first case cited above would suffice. Same with this case I just heard about the other day:

Bad news on my PR application — I was turned down after half a year on a student visa and 9 1/2 years on the current work visa. They want me to get married, change to a spouse visa, and then wait three more years before trying again. I hate to wait that long — I want to get a mortgage and buy a home; we can’t afford to keep renting!

The above is from a graduate student at Japan’s top university, who got in after passing his entrance exams in Japanese!

But what really beats all is the fact that SAYUKI, Japan’s first NJ geisha (more on her here.) was also recently refused her PR! This despite:
1) A total of fifteen years in Japan, ten consecutive in high school and university
2) Attending Japanese high school
3) Being the first caucasian woman ever to be accepted and graduate as a normal student from Keio University
4) Probably the first NJ caucasian woman to get the teaching degree in Japan (kyoushoku katei)
5) Being the first to work in the Japanese life insurance industry (ippanshoku to shite)
6) Being employed at Kyodo Tsushi, Reuters, NHK etc as a journalist
7) Making more than ten television programmes about Japan
8) Publishing three academic books on Japan
9) Being a Lecturer in Japanese Studies at university (National Univ of Singapore)
10) Currently the first foreign woman ever to be accepted as a geisha.


She concludes that it was in fact easier to get into Keio! This despite guidelines (Article 2(4) above) saying that ten years need not be continuous if, “The person has been recognized to have made a contribution to Japan in diplomatic, social, economic, cultural or other fields (which she clearly has) and has stayed in Japan for more than 5 years” (which she has). So why refused? Unclear.

There is, however, an unusual right of appeal for PR applications (not for other visa statuses), within six months. A person in the know advised:

There are many lawyers (bengoshi or gyoseishoshi) in Tokyo who deal with immigration matters. How about consulting with them? Just one hour or so consultation shouldn’t cost much. They may come up with a better solution after thoroughly examining your explanations/documents.

There is a high court case in which the court ordered to cancel the immigration decision of “non-permission of permanent residency.” But this is (partly) because of Immigration’s fault in the factual finding phase, not because “the guideline” is prejudiced or irrational. So you (or your lawyer) will have to overturn this kind of judgement in court. Hiring a lawyer will take a lot of time and money, and most of all, it’s very difficult even for a specialist lawyer.

So a practical solution would be to wait for another couple of years and re-reapply IF you still can/want to extend your current visa for three more years.

The govenment is planning to change the law next year, and there may be major changes to permanent residency system.

Yeah great. But cripes, how many hoops must one jump through these days just to upgrade to PR? A Green Card in the US, for example, certainly doesn’t take this many years, and without PR in Japan, you can’t get home/car/etc. loans from financial institutions with pinkies, qualify for many credit cards, or, say, obtain the ability to divorce without the threat of visa violation. Also having Immigration demand that people marry or else (not everyone has that affectional preference; civil unions are not legal in Japan) is one of the worst kinds of “local-content requirements” for your working environment.

This much rigmarole from Immigration only puts Japan at a competitive disadvantage for attracting qualified, educated migrants to stay in Japan permanently. After this much dedication from them, then a slap in the face, many of them might think twice about staying on after all. Wise up, Immigration. You’re supposed to be helping Japan face it’s future.

Comments from others with successful (or not) experiences getting PR are welcome. Arudou Debito in Sapporo

44 comments on “Sayuki et al: People clearly qualifying for J Permanent Residency are being rejected by Immigration

  • And even when you finally get your PR, you still have to submit your criminal fingerprints at airports and pay the gaijin tax ie the re-entry visa.

  • I was rejected the first time I applied for PR (in Tokyo), but three weeks after rejection, my work caused me to move to Kawasaki, where I immediately reapplied, and was granted it. My circumstances hadn’t changed, only my address, so the only conclusion I can draw is that acceptance and rejection of PR applications are at the whim of the immigration official you see. If they’re cranky, or just plain racist, you will be rejected, whereas if they’re younger and more accepting of multiracial Japan, you won’t have any problems. As long as their reasons for deciding yay or nay remain secretive, however, it will be difficult to appeal or protest. One friend of mine in Kyoto lived in Japan for 23 years, applying I think five times for PR before it was finally granted. Hardly fair.

  • As people may make decision based on this blog, I kindly request to explain more about the reasons for refusal.
    For the first case, why they asked him to get married? He was in consensual relation or had not registered his marriage in Japanese system?
    For second case, How she could be both in Japan and Singapore? So she has been just 5 years in Japan before application . In examples of ministry of justice, none of exceptional case have been less than 8 years in Japan.
    Recently, they have been tough on foreigners and next regulations probably will make more difficult to get PR. For example recently, for getting driving license in Kanagawa, they refuse many applications on ridiculous grounds and from 50 applicants only 5 applications were accepted to attend exam.
    Japan is good for a foreigner who either fall in love with something, somebody related to Japan or someone who cannot go to any other developed country in the world.

  • Getting citizenship may be easier than permanent residency, although it may well depend on the place. People you didn’t get PR might want to go for citizenship.

    I got citizenship after only being in Japan continuously for 8 years and was on a student visa at the time! Although I had spent two years earlier here (giving a total of 10 years) and I had been working for about half of the 10 years. Also, although I was a student I had a well-paying part time job and, the clincher I think, was that my application was processed at the same time as my wife’s citizenship application (she met all the requirements on paper, just) and my new born son’s. We were done as a family/batch lot.

    Agree strongly with Debito’s comment that:
    “This much rigmarole from Immigration only puts Japan at a competitive disadvantage for attracting qualified, educated migrants to stay in Japan permanently. After this much dedication from them, then a slap in the face, many of them might think twice about staying on after all. Wise up, Immigration. You’re supposed to be helping Japan face it’s future.”

    I sometimes wonder if I have signed up for a trip on a sinking boat!

  • Mark in Yayoi says:


    I’m the graduate student mentioned in the example before Sayuki. (Before anyone thinks Debito got this wrong, despite my studies, I have indeed been on a working visa for just shy of 10 years. I attend graduate courses in the afternoons and work during US business hours, at night.)

    After 10 years had passed since I first arrived in Japan as a student, on 2008/1/7, I called the Tokyo immigration office to ask about applying for PR. The woman who answered said that my ten-year residence being broken into half-year and 9.5-year blocks would not prevent me from applying, and that I should prepare certain documents and bring them to Shinagawa.

    When I visited Immigration on 2/17, the person at the preliminary discussion counter tried to dissuade me from applying, saying that the residence clock reset to zero when my visa changed because I had returned to my home country for the summer. He saw my guarantor’s name and asked if she was my fiancee, and this is when he made the suggestion that we get married, with me switching to a spouse visa before making an attempt at PR at the same time that I renewed my spouse visa.

    The person behind the submission desk said that there was no penalty for having been refused in the past, so I went ahead and submitted it anyway.

    I’m not angry with their refusal — they have no obligation to grant PR to someone whose ten years are non-contiguous (actually they have no obligation to anyone, if you want to be really strict about it), but I had hoped that obtaining my master’s degree at a Japanese university, speaking the language well, having various qualifications, etc. would put my otherwise-on-the-bubble application into safe territory.

    I don’t think driver’s licenses have anything to do with immigration. Is this something that only happens to foreigners, or to Japanese drivers too?

    Kinpatsu, regarding your friend who’d been here 23 years before being accepted, I wonder if the standards are higher in places where there are many qualified foreigners. In Kyoto there are many well-educated long-termers who speak the language well; same in Tokyo’s Bunkyo-ku where I live; so I suspect that they can pick and choose only the most qualified people. I just hope I don’t have to wait 23 years also!

  • I don’t know, I got mine on my first attempt. I’ve never had an ouch of 被害者妄想 because I’m not treated exactly like I am treated in the U.S. (in truth, I’m usually treated better here in Japan, from denkiya employees fixing my vacuum for free to getting a little extra attention from the ladies here, if you know what I mean). Maybe being bitter and reading websites like this and imagining that you’re the living in the Left Bank just because a police man wanted to check the ownership of your bicycle once isn’t the best way to go about things. No offense, Debito, since it’s kind of your raison d’etre, just saying. Overall, Japan has been exceptional to me, and I can say all discrimination has been 70% or more in my favor, even though not everything is perfect. Not only did I get my PR easily, but a Filipino-American guy who works for me got his, and he was frigging born in the Philippines (and moved to the U.S. at the age of two).

    Srsly people, do we have any real data that there’s been a shift in the policies, or is this three people who said they were rejected? I was also rejected several times for getting my drivers’ license, but it was my fault for screwing up the test many times.

    (I don’t mean to be calling you out on this and I’d appreciate feedback on my comments. Incidentally, Debito, I plan to carry your book on my site since I think there’d be a lot of interest.)

    –Thanks Peter. And thanks for the well-balanced, reasonable comments and critique (and for passing on word about HANDBOOK). Why can’t all critics be this endearing, darn it?

  • Either the immigration employee does not know the rules which would be surprising as they are not that complicated or they are practicing some sort of discrimination.

    The applicants should file an official complaint.

  • Just Wondering... says:

    I wonder if getting an aka-kippu (6 points all at once, triggering mentei all by itself) is worse than getting up to 6 points via a collection of lesser offenses.

    An aka-kippu (which you can get by going fast enough over the speed limit, for example) involves a court proceeding (which most people avoid participating in by simply admitting guilt). You get slapped with a big fine (like 6 or 7 man), and I am pretty sure it counts as some kind of criminal judgement against you. Not a big deal for any Japanese person, to be sure, but I wonder if it would keep NJ from getting permanent residency.

    –Dunno. Any reckless drivers out there…?

  • I received my PR last year from the Nagoya Regional Immigration Bureau despite accidently letting my Spousal Visa run out. Stupid, I know, but a complete misunderstanding on my part that I actually wish Immigration could have made me aware during the submission of the paperwork.
    I applied for PR in March, 2007 and then thought that because I had applied and immigration had acknowledged my application in my passport that I would not need to renew my visa. I was wrong. I received a letter in October telling me to go to Immigration immediately. I called them and said that I thought I wouldn’t need to get a new visa if they had acknowledged my PR application, but the Immigration Officer told me that that wasn’t the case and that I should go to Immigration immediately to sort it all out. I did this the same day the letter arrived right after calling them up. However, I really thought that I’d completely blown my application for PR despite being on a Spousal Visa for more than five years and graduating from university with Japanese. I had officially overstayed my visa after all. I went, nervously, to the Bureau expecting the worse but luckily all I had to do was write down (in English) why the mistake happened and say sorry. The Immigration officers were courteous, friendly and understood the mistake I made. One was in his twenties and the other mid-forties.

    Consequently despite officially overstaying I still got my PR. I have a strong feeling that it all depends on the officers and the Bureau that you apply to.

    –Sapporo Immigration was (and I think still is) reasonably friendly. Famous story about that…

  • i got mine after 7 yrs very easily-I had no intention of applying for it but when I went to the immigration centre they asked me to apply.this was 2003 so i dont know if attitudes have changed but I think it really depends on where you go-there are two i can use-
    one in sendai has a lot of people all the time and the staff are not very friendly(when i realised my prev visa was running out in 3 days and i asked them to renew it quickly,they said they couldnt and that i would have to leave japan and my family!) the other one where i got the permanent residency are very helpful.
    usually i think there are at least 2 centres in each region people can use-so it may be worth trying both..

  • ps i am interested in amirs comments about driving licences in kanagawa..
    is there more concrete info he could send to debito for putting on the blog??

    –Let us know, Amir. Here for starters, maybe separate blog entry if there’s something substantial? Thanks.

  • I got my PR after being in Japan for eight years, married for four, with one kid. Five of these years I was self employed.

    I gathered together all the necessary paperwork after looking through a few websites (including the not-very-informational Immigration Bureau site) and placed a call to double check that I had everything. The official rattled off some extra documentation that I needed so I prepared this also.

    When I went to submit everything, the person behind the counter didn’t seem to know what to do, so I repeated the explanation that I received on the phone and turned everything in (including a questionable map depicting the route from my house to the nearest station). Three months later I got a postcard telling me to come and get a new stamp in my passport.

    The biggest hassle of the whole ordeal is that my mother-in-law wanted to come along to see what the Immigration Bureau was like. She thought that it was a little too shabby and complained to everyone that it needs to be kept tidier. She still refers to the Yokohama branch as 日本の恥.

    –I kinda like your mother-in-law’s moxie…

  • Wow, folks seem to be having a lot of trouble. In contrast, my application was painless and efficient. Married in 1992 to a Japanese national, I had spouse visas renewed yearly until we left in 1995. We returned in 2001, me with a 3-year spouse visa issued overseas. In 2002, September, I applied for Permanent Residence, and received my postcard at 1500h on December 6th 2002. I jumped on the train and went to the Immigration office, arriving at 1545h on that Friday afternoon. I handed the card over the counter with my passport and ARC, and went to sit down. In less than 6 seconds they called my name, I paid the fee, and was handed my passport and ARC, with a cheery “Omedetou-gozaimasu!” I was done, and out of the office before the clock struck 1550h! Others I know have had similar experiences to me, at the Nagoya Regional Office, Hamamamstu branch.

  • About the “aka kippu”

    I lost my license due to a bit of speeding in Hiroshima (41 km/h over the limit while passing a farmer-bob kei-truck). I had to go to court and to traffic school for a day. I also had a parking ticket a year or two prior due to being parked too late at night (although no hours were posted).

    Neither of these seemed to have an impact on getting my PR status. In fact, the judge seemed to like my attitude and asked me to sign up as a court-interpreter (to be called upon if needed) while the license bureau had me translate/edit their English tests (for which I got PAID).

    However, sitting through traffic school was torture. Somehow I was always “volunteered” to be first in the simulator, answer questions, etc. by guy giving the lecture. If there was any crime committed, it was the terrible blue suit that he was wearing.

  • Kakui Kujira says:

    I came here on a Working Holiday visa back in early 1994, which I changed to a Spouse visa in 1995, via a bridging one the name of which I forget now. The first Spouse visa was for one year. When this was renewed, it was for three years. At that end of this period, we had two kids and the wife was very keen to buy a house. But of course, no bank would loan us money if I did not have a PR visa. So the wife insisted I apply for it.
    So I did. They only applicable application form in the rack appeared to be a tad ambiguous about the time period. So I asked the immigration official, in Japanese, if this was the correct form to apply for PR. He said ‘Hai’. I filled in and submitted this form, along with the re-entry permit application, as I had to return to say farewell to my cancer-stricken Gran. The three-year Spouse visa expired while I was away, but all the correct forms were submitted.
    The day after I returned, I was to pick up my new visa. I went to the office handed over my passport and the postcard and sat down next to the usual assortment of various nationalities. After getting through a few chapters of the book I always take to such situations, my name was called and my passport returned. With a three-year extension of my Spouse visa.
    I asked if my application for a PR had been rejected. No, the official said, you didn’t apply for one. I said I did. That official over there told me that was the correct form to apply for a PR. “Usou!” that official said.
    At this point, I am ashamed to say that the red mist took over and I went into a tantrum. I was exhausted by my emotional trip and called a liar, but that’s no excuse. The various nationalities and the immigration officials were treated to a request for the correct forms that used every known swear word in the English language, many of them more than once and all of them at great volume from a red face. I happen to be quite large to boot.
    The various nationalities included nations less fortunate and of darker-skinned people (generally) than my nation. I could see them thinking what would happen if they behaved in that way, as they edged as far away from me as they could. The obvious yakuza gentleman escorting several young ladies, kindly holding their passports, thought he was in for a bit of theatre with the police and I.
    But the official merely slapped the correct forms in front of me, from behind him and not from the accessible rack, with a stony, silent stare.
    Quite furiously, I started to fill out the form right there, but shortly discovered that my Father-in-law would have to fill out part of it. So I saw a huff and left in it, muttering a few more swear words.
    I thought I was furious, but when my wife got home from work, her fury put mine to shame. I had called her to tell her the story while waiting for the train home and she had got right on to immigration. I had thought she had been a tad harsh to a waiter or two who had made a mistake and of course I had done a thing or three to upset her over the years. We’ve been divorced for a few years now, but I think she is still more angry at the officials that day than me. I submitted the forms a few days later and less than a week after that, I had my PR visa.
    I am not proud of my tantrum and perhaps I should have realized I was handing in the wrong form, but every time I went to that office, there was some problem, whether I was just getting a reentry permit of changing my visa status entirely. A few years ago, the office moved and none of the staff from the original office appear to have moved with it. Since then, the only problem I have had is remembering which amount I need of revenue stamps.
    On a slighty related topic, remember that the form for a reentry permit used to ask why you need a reentry permit? I always used to put, “I don’t know, it’s Japanese law”.

    Oh, and let`s not forget that “permanent” residency isn`t permanent. After 18 years in Japan, I committed my first sin against officialdom a year and a half ago…my multiple re-entry permit had expired by about a week. As a result, an official at Narita took away my permanent resident`s permit. No explanation, no interview, no nothing. When I went to Immigration, I was told that I was welcome to re-apply from the start, but suddenly I found that I had kind of lost my burning desire to live in Japan.

    Call me a wimp.

    I think experiences vary from place to place. WHen I went to apply
    for my 3 year renewal after only 3 years in Japan, the desk person at
    immigration told me I should apply for permanent residency at the same
    time. I did apply and got it.

    They are always friendly and helpful at Utsunomiya.

    A few years ago, I was fortunate enough to meet one of the rarest types
    at immigration – a helpful person. She told me that the key
    requirement for permanent residency was either a) 10 years continuous
    residence; or b) completion of a three year spouse visa.
    When I checked MOFA’s visa pages last year when I finally got around to
    getting my spouse visa, this information was still valid.
    Beware, the information on MOFA’s page, the information faxed to me by
    one immigration office and the information my wife got on the phone
    from another office were not the same.
    It might help to bring in the print outs of the MOFA page to add weight
    to your argument.

  • Jeff Korpa says:

    Hi Debito:

    “This much rigmarole from Immigration only puts Japan at a competitive disadvantage for attracting qualified, educated migrants to stay in Japan permanently. After this much dedication from them, then a slap in the face, many of them might think twice about staying on after all.

    I agree and direct your attention to this particular news article:

    High-Tech Japanese, Running Out of Engineers
    New York Times (05/17/08) P. A1; Fackler, Mark

    Japan is starting to run out of engineers and is facing a declining number of young people entering engineering and technology-related fields. Japanese universities are calling the problem “rikei banare” or “flight from science.” The decline has prompted the launch of advertising campaigns that make engineering look sexy and cool, and companies are now importing foreign workers or sending jobs to where the engineers are, such as Vietnam and India. Educators, executives, and even young Japanese people say Japanese youth are behaving like Americans and choosing better-paying professions such as finance and medicine, or more creative careers such as the arts, instead of following their parents into what many see as the less-glamorous world of engineering. Although the first signs of a declining interest in engineering in Japan were seen almost two decades ago, only now are Japanese companies starting to feel the pressure.

    The Japanese ministry of internal affairs estimates that the digital technology industry is already half a million engineers short. The problem is likely to worsen because Japan has one of the lowest birthrates in the world. Efforts to import engineers have been largely unsuccessful, partially because of Japan’s ingrained xenophobia, the country’s language, and a closed corporate culture. The county has started to accept more foreign engineers, but nowhere near the number the industry needs.

    –Yes, I was about to blog that. You beat me to it. I’ll have it up soon. Bests, Debito

  • [quote]I sometimes wonder if I have signed up for a trip on a sinking boat![/quote]

    I`m sorry to say that but you did. Giving up own citizenship? Never! Unless you are from third world too so I would go for it. Easier to move around the world with J Passport.
    I cannot understand people from “Western” countries did such thing like taking J Citizenship, but it`s not my problem anyway. Debito, I didn`t want accuse anybody.

    –Then don’t make it sound as if we people from “Western” countries are out of our minds for wanting Japanese citizenship.

  • I heard that the two most important requirements are the length of stay (3 or 10 depending on visa types) and at least 2 million (per person if it’s a family application) in savings. Nowadays they want you to photocopy all the pages of your savings book(s) to show the history of your savings, so that you can’t just borrow some money somewhere temporarily.


    You’ll be asked to produce photocopy of the saving book to prove you have sufficient assets. I don’t know or heard of 2 million per person. I think I had cases who got permanent residency with less than 2 million per person.

    I don’t think they deny your permanent residency “just because” you don’t have 2 million yen. Who said this?

  • I didn’t have to show any savings information at all and I only got my PR in December 2007. Maybe that’s because I’ve been married for 6 years…

  • Mark in Yayoi says:

    I had to show my entire savings history when applying for a mortgage, but not PR. I wonder why they bothered to take nine years of bank passbook pages (several books’ worth, and I have an impeccable record BTW) if they weren’t going to offer a loan to a non-PR anyway!

    What really needs to be solved about this PR issue is that not only are there no hard-and-fast rules about who gets it, but no reason is given when PR is refused.

    I recognize the government’s right to refuse PR to people they deem unworthy, but if they’re going to have you invest time and money into preparing all these documents, they owe you an explanation for their decision.

    My own case was turned down with the exact same wording that the Peruvian in the above-linked court case got: あなたのこれ までの在留実績からみて,永住を許可するに足りる相当の理由が認められません。

    This is a non-explanation — it could mean anything from “you’re several months short” to “we don’t want people who don’t sign up for health insurance” to “you have a criminal record”.

    This isn’t limited to PR applications — credit card applications and mortgages are handled the same way. The applicant’s “I accept that you refused me; what can I do in the future to obtain the mortgage/loan/PR? What was wrong with my application?” is answered with “We refuse to say.”

    Lack of accountability from people with power is a common theme running through many of the complaints brought up on this blog. A lot of things would be more tolerable if we could get this solved.

    –Quite, thanks Mark. This will be one of the points made in my next Japan Times article–they commissioned me to write this issue up for next Tuesday’s ZEIT GIST Community Page yesterday, have just finished draft three. FYI. Debito

  • Got my PR last year after being in Japan 13 years, married to a Japanese for 6 and on my second 3-year spousal visa. No problems at all, went in with the missus and the immigration officer was very friendly. Told us there should be no problem getting approval as I had all of the requirements covered, but we had to steel ourselves for a wait of a year to a year and a half due to backlogs in Tokyo. It actually took only 8 months to get the postcard back saying “come get your visa”. And they never checked my bank account or called the house at 7 a.m. to make sure I lived there – being from another first-world nation has its benefits.

    The person in the first case listed is probably right to protest. The law does indeed say that an exception can be made for the 10 year rule if one has been married to a Japanese national for at least 3 years. However like the rest of the statute this only means one can apply for a visa, not that one will be granted a visa. PR is a privilege, not a right. Just because one has been living in Japan for 10 consecutive years or married to a Japanese for 5 doesn’t mean they will get PR. It just means they meet the minimum requirements to apply. There is no “fair” about it – who told you all life was fair?

    Mark already spoke for himself, so no need for comment there.

    As for Sayuki, I’m not sure becoming a Geisha qualifies as “(making) a contribution to Japan in diplomatic, social, economic, cultural or other fields”. Nor working in a life insurance company, being a freelance journalist whose work has been used by Reuters etc. (a bit different from “employed by”? Writing bad op-ed pieces for the Japan Times doesn’t make one an employee after all). A Geisha is just a fancy hostess, not a “living national treasure” after all.

    While we are on word choice, I didn’t see anywhere above that the immigration office suggest people “marry or else”. It was a suggestion from someone who probably thought they were being helpful. Hardly cause to get one’s shorts in a knot. It is also unfair to contrast Japan’s procedures with the US’s. A nation of immigrants with a couple of hundred years’ worth of experience under its belt is not comparable to an island nation with no such history. Not that this will dissuade you from beating that dead horse…

    But hey, if we’re comparing why not mention that the US is deadly serious about deporting green card holders who are convicted of crimes, and has been for years now? Whereas I have met (had the misfortune to meet, some might think) a couple of PRs who were convicted of crimes, done jail time, gotten out and still kept their PR visa.

    –Hi Lance. I think the biggest horse ever beat to death is the “island nation” canard thrown up by the intellectually entrenched, portraying Japan as a society forever imprisoned by its past. But never mind.

    If you seriously believe that becoming a geisha (one of the fundamental symbols of Japan) is not culturally significant, I daresay you know little about the history of the trade domestically or its worldwide historical impact. And you insult those who have gone through the training by calling them mere “fancy hostesses”. How ignorant.

    Finally, about the unwarranted needle about “bad op-ed pieces for the Japan Times” (a gratuitous swipe completely unrelated to the points at hand), no doubt you’ll write another letter of complaint to their Letters Page. And be answered by people who see more utility in what people like us are doing.

    Feel free to write a “good” op-ed of your own someday, not just weaselly comments to a blog. Show us how op-eds are done.

  • Hi there
    About Kanagwa driving license, the law requires that you should have drived at least 3 months with your driving license in issuing country to be eligible for attending the test. But they don’t accept passport as proof of residency or they accept it with difficulty. With excuses like, “there is no proof( visa) on your passport that you have been on your native country”(Is any country in the world issue visa for their own citizen?) or “Your passport has too many entries and exits and is confusing”, “may be you have/had another passport”,…So they refuse many applicants. You should include another proof for your residency like work reference, university transcript,…. This is the story that heard from my friends.
    About accepting Japanese citizenship. Even I am from third world (Middle east), I never drop my nationality for acquiring Japanese ones. Other than problem of identity, where I can escape with this bankrupted social security system? More over with 8 trillion$ public debt, accepting citizenship means burdening 5 million yen debt.

    The only hope for Japan for attracting skilled migrants is their scholarship program. Unfortunately, they are not willingness or successful to keep the graduates. With this immigration policy they are able to only attract poorest people in the planet to do menial jobs, who will cost them more than they think!


    Dear David,

    in the process of becoming a long term resident in Japan,
    I also took a look at the helpful information on your webpage.

    While trying to extend the period of stay for another 3 years,
    I tried to follow the instructions on the English webpage of the
    Japanese Immigration Bureau:

    The application forms are at:

    3. Application for extension of period of stay

    tells about the necessary documents:
    Necessary documents

    * Application form 1copy
    * The supporting documents to be submitted
    on the occasion of application are shown in Table 3-2 1copy
    (As applicant sometimes needs to submit document material(s)
    other than stipulated in the Immigration Control Act Enforcement
    please refer to your regional immigration office or immigration
    information center.)
    * Passport and alien registration card
    * A document that proves the status (if a legal representative
    or agent submits the application form on behalf of the applicant)

    Then the table
    tells for the case
    “Spouse or Child of Japanese National”

    1. In cases where the person concerned is a spouse of Japanese national,
    a copy of the family registration of the Japanese national concerned and
    the copy of his or her resident card.
    2. Documents certifying the profession and the income of the person
    concerned or his or her spouse or his or her father or mother.
    3. In cases where the person concerned is a spouse of Japanese national,
    a letter of guarantee by the Japanese national concerned living in Japan.
    In cases where the person concerned is a child or an adopted child of
    Japanese national, a letter of guarantee by the Japanese national
    concerned or another person living in Japan.

    I followed all this, and then was told by the immigration officer in
    Mito, that this information is not sufficient.

    So “copy” seems to be a wrong translation, it should be “registered copy
    not older than 3 months”.

    The correct list of documents is shown on the Japaneses version of
    the immigration website:

    (quite different from the English version)

    However, I am asking myself, what is the point of the English
    immigration website, when part of the information has been translated
    incorrectly, or is completely missing,
    like the example for the guarantee 身元保証書,
    or the 外国人登録証明書 (on the English site it says, just the card is

  • Well Debito I would hardly call the “island nation” or “island community” concept a canard. It is not unique to Japan, and is a well-known societal phenomenon that has been extensively researched, documented and discussed by social anthropologists. But since they don’t agree with you, I guess mainstream thinking is a sign of being “intellectually entrenched”, or an “apologist”, “debate dilletante” or whatever your phrase du jour is.

    About geishas – yes, they go through years of training. They learn how to play instruments, do difficult dances, pour drinks, keep the customers entertained – in other words, hostesses. With multiple skills, but at the end of the day, hostesses. I’ve actually known one or two (retired ones, I ain’t got that kind of money and even if I did I wouldn’t waste it trying to get an introduction so I could be served), and they seemed quite open about what they did. “Traditional Japanese hostesses”. Their words, so I guess you think them ignorant too.

    Nice links. Do you fail to see the irony in being defended against the legitimate, verifiable (right here on!) claims of a fellow long-term resident of Japan by some guy from Sydney, Australia, when you yourself shouted down Matt from when he corrected you by saying he didn’t live in Japan and so didn’t have a right to speak on your site and should fuck off? Don’t bother answering, I know you can’t see it. [rest of off-topic diatribe calling me inter alia a “hatemongering racist” snipped]

    –Sigh. You really should learn some reading comprehension and how to quote people in context…

  • sorry to hear about that, Amir. I didn’t like going to Futamatagawa, but in the end I got my license.
    I thought the instructor from the Driving school on Sunday helped me pass the test.
    I went there about four times.

    People from western Europe, Canada, Korea, and Australia and New Zealand really have it easy.
    I heard some stories from people who had a tough time getting a license.

  • About 10 years ago, immigration policy towards spousal visas seemed to take a more leniant view. Immigration started to make a concerted effort to see that the visas they were issuing were for the appropriate recipient. So, while it meant that they began to crack down more on people who entered on student or cultural visas and then worked, it also meant that they began to encourage long term (define long term?) spousal visa holders to change over to permant residency. A close friend of mine was happy to just continue as he already had been and couldn’t see paying the processing fee to change his visa over so he ignored a couple of requests to go in and change his visa status. After a time they called and simply told him to come in and pick up his permanent residency visa.

    I came in 1994 but returned to my home country for about 6 weeks in 1998. I did as instructed and handed in my gaijin card on my exit even though I knew I would be returning. I would be returning when the paperwork for a new working visa was complete so I didn’t think anything of it. When the paperwork for my new job came through, I went to the embassy and had a new visa stamped.

    Upon my return to Japan, even though I was still within my time and reentry on my previous visa, Immigration entered me under the new visa.

    Upon going to apply for pr in 2004, I was told that I would have to wait until 2008 as it had to be 10 years. They had all the information there about everything I had done along the way. Six weeks vacation back home meant another 4 year wait.

    Technically, I’ll reach the 10 year mark (at 14.5 years in country) this year although my current visa is still good for another 2, I think. I expect that I will be told to wait until my current visa expires before applying for pr. Even at that, I expect that for whatever reason, as a matter of course, I will be refused on my first pr application and then accepted on the second – should there be one.


  • i wonder why in the f**k, the immigration has no set guidelines or policy in regards to a criteria for PR, thats why japan is not respected in the international community and the worlds best and brightest are turning there noses up to japan, because the immigration continues to turn there nose up at foreignors like we are GOMI, or trash. the keystone immigration cops havent a clue…

  • I do not know if you have ever seen this page before:

    It gives 38 examples of successful Applicants for Permanent Residence Status and 12 examples of Unsuccessful Applicants.
    After I read them several times, I notice:
    – There is no any example of someone with spouse visa.
    – Many of the successfuls granted their PR on periods less than ten years although it is not mentioned that they were on spouse visa!
    – Most of successful applicants were University professors or assistant professors who have published many scientific papers!
    – The first 4 cases of unsuccessful said (The applicant allegedly!!).
    – I see some cases among the unseccesfuls who seemed so similar to some of the successfuls. Still, they were judged as (The immigration control authority denied the permanent residence status because the authority does not find it contribution in Japan’s ……… field so much).

    What that tells us???

  • Mark in Yayoi says:

    Ahmed, I also read that page before applying, and thought that since my case was similar to some of those listed (#1 and #17 in particular, plus I’ve been working at a company as well, where I already have “permanent residence” as a seishain), that I could expect the same treatment as those applicants.

    The repeated use of “allegedly” for the unsuccessful applicants is particularly insulting. (Presumably all it means is that Immigration didn’t confirm the stated facts, but in English, when we say “allegedly”, it carries a high degree of doubt, and implies that fruitless attempts have been made to confirm the facts.)

    Consider also the amateurish level of English (“armature”?) used repeatedly on that page. I’m not very good at Spanish, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything written that badly on any US immigration documentation, and of course the EU takes great pride in being multilingual. It was probably penned by some poor overworked bureaucrat digging out his high-school English skills, and I hate to demean the effort of such a person, but official public documentation like this deserves a little more care and a little more respect for its readers.

  • im not surprised at all from the comments that people have posted because immigration has failed to set clear guidelines for PR, and they have done this on purpose so they can secretly pick and choose who they want in the country, because they dont want to open up the floodgates,,remember we are all hooligans just like they said during the worldcup in 2002, this country will never be ready to host the games in 2016, or 2061 for that matter.

  • This was a timely article to read after applying for PR last Friday. As I’ve only been here for 9 yrs and 2 months (continuously), I went in with the feeling that my application is not a shoo-in. In my favour, I work for a Japanese “famous” company and clearly meet the requirements set out there. I also have all the other req’ments in order. I’m definitely not banking on it being granted though.

    What I now think is a little weird is that there doesn’t seem to be a seperate application process for those who are applying under the “contribution to Japan” scenario. And if there is, it wasn’t bought to my attention when I handed over my application.

    Another point I find a little confusing is that if 10 years is to be a strict req’ment, why does the Ministry accept applications from people when it is clearly obvious that it’s wasting the applicant’s and the Minstry’s time. Isn’t that just a tad perverse?

    A final point, under the “Economic and Industrial Field” req’ments, it makes specific reference to working for “publically listed Japanese companies”. In the case of Mark in Yayoi, I wonder if he works for a foreign-affiliated firm. I don’t think it should make any difference but I can see why a blinkered bureaucrat might nit-pick on such a point.

    It doesn’t appear that working for a foreign company is included in the contribution to Japan case. Excuse my cynicism, but I could see how it might work against an applicant.

  • Mark in Yayoi says:

    J. C., my firm was an American-Japanese joint venture for the first four years before being bought by a Japanese company in 2004. The parent company is listed on the exchange and is highly respected — the president is a household name.

    To be honest, I wonder why companies aren’t pressuring the government to make the immigration laws more transparent and less arbitrary. How can a personnel manager make plans for long-term employees with such uncertainty hanging over their status? Think how much easier it would be for companies if they could hire, say, a 22-year old foreigner with the secure knowledge that they would have to sponsor a 1-year visa, then three 3-year visas, then expect a detailed phone call from Immigration to confirm permanent residence.

    Instead they’re stuck obeying the arbitrary whims of people and not laws.

    I considered asking the president of my company to write a short recommendation letter to submit with the PR application, but didn’t want to burden him (and also believed that my research done in addition to my full-time job would easily fill in the deficiency created by being 5% short of 10 consecutive years). I’ll probably ask him for it when I pass 10 consecutive years and apply again, just to be safe.

    My boss was very disappointed that I was turned down, as he wants the security of having me around without having to worry about visa hassles, and my professors were a bit upset that original Japan-related research and a degree from their institution count for so little. Of course, they don’t dare complain to Immigration, as they know that that would only make things tougher for me.

  • One thing I highly recommend when applying for anything related to visas is to use only the Japanese instructions available at the Department of Immigration website. The Japanese is VERY clear, and the instructions are simple to follow.

    It’s best to print out these instructions, gather all the necessary paperwork, and then when you go to the immigration building to turn in the paperwork, make a point of pulling out the instructions again and going through them with the immigration official. It’s seems pointless, but it’s the best way to verify with the official that you absolutely have the correct paperwork, and it’s much better than just handing them a stack of paper.

    I haven’t had any problems dealing with immigration officials when using this approach. They are usually very helpful.

  • it may just be easier to hire a immigration lawyer to submit all the paperwork for you.
    if you want a PR so bad, then spend a few bucks since you work at a famous company then i sure you can afford it.

  • I just received a letter from immigration and got “nit-picked”. No PR after 9 years and 3 months with the last 5 years in a listed Japanese company.

  • I got my PR after only 2 years & 2 months residence in Japan. I was on a spousal/heritage visa. The Matsuyama immigration office was really helpful! I’m looking into applying for citizenship soon but I’m not sure about giving up my Canadian passport yet.

  • I got my PR last week. I am from India, did my PhD from a Japanese University and have been working at a premier university in Japan for last six years as researcher. When I went to enquire, the immigration guy in Shinagawa sang the same old song. I can’t get the PR coz I am not married to a Japanese and have not stayed here for 10 years. He said I should apply after I complete 10 years in Japan. But, I applied with 9 years 6 months in Japan with almost 3 years of my Professor visa still remaining (I just renewed). They sent the PR postcard exactly on the day I completed 10th year in Japan. Another friend of mine, an Associate Professor heard the same song even after staying here for 13 years and working for almost 8 years. But, he applied and he got it in 5 months. He is also an Indian.
    My half Japanese half German friend (German nationality) applied just after his PhD in Japan (thats a stay of 3 years) despite repeated discouragements from the immigration when he went to discuss about it. He insisted he just want to apply and got his in 10 months. They said the easiest way to get his PR would be to marry a Japanese or be on a Child of a Japanese Visa for one year. But, he applied directly without any tax slips, any savings proof putting his mother as the gurrantor.

    What I understood from these three cases is that, it does not matter what the immigration guys say. If you qualify in one or two key fronts (5 years working visa, 3 years taxes; Japanese connection, Japanese Spouse for 3 years etc), just prepare the documents and submit. They can not refuse to accept any application with the minimum documents. I personally feel that getting a Japanese gurrantor with a good status is a very strong point. When I went to submit my application, the guy looked at my application and was awed by the fact that my gurrantor is the Director of a National Institute.

    Also, since the Japanese appreciate perfection and at times consider some trivial things as important, I think it is always better to prepare the application very neatly; probably use the Excel application than a handwritten one, put all documents neatly (without folding) and put in a clear-file. I submitted 3 years tax documents, savings proof, employment proof, alien registration (from city office with all addresses till application printed on it), my alien registration file copy from city office(stamped by city office, same as the previous, but copy of original file), required documents from my gurrantor, printed map showing my residence from the nearest station (mentioning the train line). Nothing was handwritten except my signature.

  • Can a Japanese eijuuken holder marry a non Japanese woman from some other country? and what if that woman have children from a non Japanese father. what would be the status of those children? Can those children get an immigration with a mother?

    I shall be very thankful If I get answers to my questions!

    — Unless you marry a citizen, your marriage in Japan will not be registered in Japan. You will have to register your marriage in both of your countries of origin. Your children will not be Japanese citizens either even if born in Japan (if there has been no connection, as you write, to a Japanese citizen), so no, they cannot get any immigration status with their mother (or you, or the birth father). That’s the Nationality Law of Japan. Unless you marry a citizen or naturalize, you will be foreigners perpetually in Japan.

  • Thanks a lot for answering my query. what visa they can get so they can accompany their mother when I marry her? Because I am working here and I want them to stay here with me. Is there any way they can come here and live with me?

    P.S little daughter is just 12 years old and it would not be possible for her mother to leave her there!

    — You are asking for free Immigration advice. Better to talk directly to Immigration, consult an Immigration expert (such as legal scrivener and co-author Akira Higuchi), or buy our HANDBOOK FOR NEWCOMERS, MIGRANTS, AND IMMIGRANTS TO JAPAN (now with a new Second Edition coming out in December).

  • Sam, your new family will be on “dependent” type of visa, or 家族滞在 in Japanese. Eijuuken holders have different documents to submit for their families, but you can find the info on MOFA’s home page, or you can call your immigration office.


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