Japan Times Community Page May 28, 2008 on Permanent Residency: “Bad PR for Japan”



Arbitrary rulings equal bad PR

Article 44, May 27, 2008, Courtesy of http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/fl20080527zg.html
“Director’s Cut” with links to sources.
Getting to know Japan is hard work: a complicated language, cultural esoterica, mixed messages about prudent paths to take. People who find their way around and assimilate deserve kudos and respect.
News photo
Never enough?: Sayuki attended Japanese high school, graduated from Keio University, earned a Japanese teaching qualification, worked at Kyodo photo News and NHK, made TV programs and published books about Japan, lectured in Japanese studies in Singapore, and then became the first-ever white geisha. Despite having spent 15 years in Japan, her application for Permanent Residency was refused. KERRY RAFTIS PHOTO

And reward. The Japanese government should welcome them by granting Permanent Residency (“eijuken”). But recently people eminently qualified under PR guidelines are being rejected — even Japan’s first Caucasian geisha!

First, why PR? Well, try buying a house without it; most legitimate financial institutions (those run by individuals who still have pinkies) will not grant major loans.

Also, goodbye visa-renewal hassles, and you can take any kind of employment, change jobs, get divorced, etc., all without the risk of visa violation. PR is the next best thing to citizenship, without the identity sacrifice of giving up your native passport (since Japan doesn’t allow dual nationality).

Who qualifies? According to Immigration ( www.immi-moj.go.jp/), PR is a matter of time, visa tenure, and marital status.

In principle, people of moral fiber and legal solvency qualify after 10 years’ consecutive stay — half that if you are deemed to have “contributed to Japan.” For those with Japanese spouses or descendants (“Nikkei” Brazilians, for example), three to five consecutive years are traditionally sufficient.

That’s pretty long. The world’s most famous PR, the U.S. “green card,” only requires two years with an American spouse, three years’ continuous residency without. (Source: UCSIS.gov Section (I)8/(1)(A))

Still, record numbers of non-Japanese are applying. The population of immigrants with PR has increased about 15 percent annually since 2002. That means as of 2007, “newcomer” PRs probably outnumber the “Zainichi” Special PRs (the Japan-born “foreigners” of Korean, Chinese, etc. descent) for the first time in history.

At these growth rates, by 2010 Japan will have a million PRs of any nationality — close to half the registered non-Japanese population will be permitted to stay forever.

But I wonder if Japan’s mandarins now feel PRs have reached “carrying capacity” and have started throwing up more hurdles. Let’s triangulate from three examples this past month.

Jack Dawson (a pseudonym) is the head of an English department in Fukuoka, one of only a few NJ permanently employed at Japanese elementary schools. Having worked continuously in Japan for nine years, he has been married for six with a Japanese and sired two children.

Under PR guidelines, he should be a shoo-in. But Fukuoka Immigration told Dawson he didn’t qualify. “They said I needed to be here 10 years,” he says.

Mark Butler (also a pseudonym), an unmarried Ph.D candidate at Tokyo University, has worked for a Tokyo securities firm for 8 1/2 years. He’s been on a work visa for 9 1/2 years, after spending his initial six months here on a student visa.

“I want a mortgage,” said Mark, “but despite a lucrative job, seven banks refused me outright because I didn’t have PR. Some banks even told me to naturalize, just for a loan!

“So after 10 years, I asked Immigration if I qualified for PR. They said I’d probably get rejected because I’m six months short; when I changed my visa from student to work, the timer reset to zero. But they said I could still apply — a rejection now wouldn’t affect future PR applications.

“So I applied, and was rejected. They suggested I get married, change to a spouse visa, and wait three more years. But we can’t afford to keep renting!”

Mark stresses he’s not angry, and will reapply later this year.

But the case that takes the cake is Japan’s first Caucasian geisha.

Sayuki, a 15-year non-continuous resident of Japan, thought she qualified under “contributions to Japan.” Immigration’s Web site (www.immi-moj.go.jp/english/tetuduki/zairyuu/contribution.html ) includes examples like awards “internationally evaluated as authoritative” (such as a Nobel Prize or an Olympic medal), domestic medals (such as the Order of Culture), or other activities helping Japan “through medical, educational and other vocational activities.” They also gave 38 examples of successful candidates ( www.immi-moj.go.jp/english/tetuduki/zairyuu/eizyuu.html ).

Sayuki hasn’t gotten her Nobel yet, but felt she had done plenty. Attending Japanese high school and university for 10 consecutive years (the first Caucasian woman accepted and the first to graduate as a regular student from Keio), she earned a teaching qualification in Japanese, and became a regular journalist at Kyodo News and NHK.

After making more than 10 television programs about Japan, publishing three academic books and lecturing in Japanese Studies at the National University of Singapore, Sayuki topped these achievements off by becoming a geisha. Hence the name.

Nevertheless, Immigration rejected Sayuki’s application, with the stock answer of, “Your actual achievements up to now cannot be acknowledged as sufficient for granting PR.” [Original Japanese is 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。]

It was a slap.

Don’t let your ‘visa clock’ reset

“Continuous residence in Japan” is crucial for upgrading your visa status or getting Permanent Residency. Stays of five to 10 years are meaningless if they are discontinuous.

If you go outside Japan for any length of time, you must get a Re-Entry Permit (“sai nyukoku kyoka”) beforehand. Without it, your “visa clock” will reset to zero.

Even if you already have PR, if you leave Japan without a valid REP (or it expires while overseas), you will lose your PR and have to start all over again.

More information in “Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan” (Akashi Shoten Inc. 2008).

“The utter ridiculousness of me being rejected just because my fifteen years were nonconsecutive!” wrote an indignant Sayuki. “Whether or not I was here, I have been contributing to Japan since I was 22 years old. I was busy making television programs, lecturing and writing books on Japan overseas, and promoting Japanese culture to hundreds of students and academics worldwide.

“Then I became the first foreigner to represent Japan as a geisha, the most recognizable icon of Japaneseness. They wouldn’t take any of that into consideration.”

So maybe people shouldn’t bother learning Japan’s language and culture. Why not just put in the time, get married, and let inertia coast you through?

Because even that is no guarantee. PR requirements seem to depend on at which Immigration branch you apply, and which bureaucrat you talk to. Immigration’s English and Japanese Web sites even differ, according to respondents to the Debito.org blog (www.debito.org/?p=1664 ). Some applicants wrote that they got PR after only three years, others were told they needed to have put in the better part of a decade — yet others closer to 20 years!

“Looks like Immigration bureaus have no standard procedure,” says Dawson. “It’s poor management by the government.”

Most ironic is that naturalization requires only five years’ continuous residence regardless of marital status. It’s arguably easier to qualify for citizenship than PR!

The point is that Immigration seems overly eager to reset the “visa clock,” as opposed to judging people on their individual merits and contributions. Sorry, but too much emphasis seems to be put on continuous residence and spouse. Life is often more complicated for those of us who aren’t bureaucrats.

In some ways, the PR regime appears to be anti-assimilative, especially when you consider the lack of transparency. For one, despite the deliberation process being supposedly case-by-case, the “rejection process” is anything but: The mandarins need not reveal their reasons for turning down an application. What’s to keep officials from denying PR because, say, they had a bad “bento” boxed lunch that day, or because your revenue stamp was stuck on crooked? We’d never know.

You can appeal the ruling but, according to Akira Higuchi, administrative solicitor and Immigration consultant, precedent won’t be on your side.

“One time the High Court ordered Immigration to reverse their rejection of a PR application. But that was partly because Immigration made a mistake collecting information. If you appeal but there were no mistakes, you must show PR guidelines are wrong or too inflexible. That’s extremely difficult to accomplish,” says Higuchi.

“You can contact Immigration lawyers (“bengoshi” or “gyosei shoshi”). An hour or so consultation shouldn’t cost too much, and they may come up with a better solution after examining your explanations/documents. But I suggest people just wait and reapply later. . . . There may be major changes to the PR regime next year.”

Whether Immigration is planning to ease or standardize the qualifications is unclear, but without more transparency, the results will be largely the same: We reject you — tough nuts.

Ultimately, this degree of arbitrary rigmarole puts Japan at a competitive disadvantage for attracting qualified, educated migrants. As the New York Times reported May 17, 2008, “Japan is running out of engineers,” adding that “Japan had 157,719 foreigners working in highly skilled professions in 2006, a far cry from the 7.8 million in the United States.”

Lots of newcomers not only know Japan, but also know stuff Japan needs. Must we require they devote up to an eighth of their life-span without a break, or else get married (the worst kind of “local content” requirement, and not a legal option for many; Japan does not recognize same-sex civil unions) before deigning to allow them to stay here securely?

Many of them might (and do) think twice about coming here at all.

Wise up, Immigration, and help Japan face its future. We need more people to stay on and pay into our aging society and groaning pension system.

Remember, non-Japanese do have a choice: They can either help bail the water from our listing ship, or bail out altogether.

Sayuki can be contacted via her Web site at www.sayuki.net. Send comments and story ideas to community@japantimes.co.jp

44 comments on “Japan Times Community Page May 28, 2008 on Permanent Residency: “Bad PR for Japan”

  • hello debito, i enjoyed the article because it was honest and straightforward very unlike to games at immigration. the problem with the japan immigration system is that they want to have hurdles for foreignors to climb because that is part of there job to make the hurdles for me and you to fail, it is a secret system that they have at immigration that is why they never clearly state the guidelines for obtaining PR, because they are overlt worried to opening up the so-called floodgates, but this be honest would a talented young person that has a choice to go anywhere in the world what to even put up with such a foreign unfriendly environment????

  • Probably similar to the we-won’t-tell-you-how-to-pass-the-drivers-test thing. I got mine easily though, by being positive, cheerful, having a wife and two kids and a marriage which my wife’s parents obviously were happy with. My wife was sure they’d drop me the first time just to teach me a lesson about filling out my form more まじめに but it was easy. And lest anyone think it’s because I’m an American, at the drivers’ test place I’ve seen a tendency to be more understanding of the Peruvians and Brazilians and less for me, since I’ve “got it easy” as an American, supposedly.

  • Well, in a sort of answer to Jim – a talented young person – Amelie Nothomb for one decided that she has had enough, have you read her “Stupeur et Tremblements”? (What’s that in English – please, if someone knows). There’s another one of her books about her childhood years spent in Japan – “Metaphysique des Tubes”, it’s also very instructive – for someone who knows a bit of the local specifics.

  • Mark in Yayoi says:

    Elenaz, that book is called “Fear and Trembling” — a delightfully over-the-top look at being a young foreigner working in a traditional Japanese company. Funny and sad, and it’s a short read. Highly recommended!

  • Other than PR,there are other major problems. Many countries in the world give a one or two years temporary work permit to foriegn student after graduation to let them to be absorbed to the job market. In Japan, nothing. Just recently they have introduced a visa entrepreneur category for foreign student who establishes a company with minimum 5-10 million yen captial. Which is funny expectation.
    This immigration policy, is the main reason for why they cannot absorb the foreign student graduates, while they are in need of young working force. Even most of these students have been sponsored with Japanese tax payer money.

    For my case, they have spend for me couple of senman yen and also company had invested a lot on me. This JT article is the final shot, I will leave. Better for Japan and me.
    “We had built this country without foreigners, we will continue also “; let’s see it is myth or not.

  • Mark, thank you, I’ll know the name now. I’ve read in a wonderful Russian translation, the second one I read in Russian as well, but I know there exists a Japanese translation of the “Fear and Trembling”, that is, I specifically bought it to try to give my Japanese acquaintances an idea that there might be something wrong in the system, but either the translation is bad (I did not check it), or the story itself does not somehow sound right in Japanese (although after watching some TV one might wonder why), the people I gave it to told me that “they always had problems getting that foreign humour”, meaning, of course the terrible acid satire that is all over in the book.

  • 10 years of continuous residence… What if a member of your family is dying of cancer and you have to go back home for a couple of months ?

  • Mark in Yayoi says:

    I’m very happy to see the extra bit with the warning about being stripped of your PR if you don’t keep your reentry permits valid.

    Human rights aside (how permanent is “permanent” if it can be taken away so easily?), the cheap travel of the past decade is disappearing as oil prices skyrocket. It will not be nearly as easy to make casual trips to Japan from abroad in a decade or so, and it is easy to envision international couples raising kids abroad for four or five years only to find that the foreign parent can’t return to Japan when the kids are grown because s/he couldn’t get back to Japan in the interim.

    Is it possible to renew a re-entry permit at a Japanese embassy abroad, or do you have to actually return to the Japanese islands? We should begin agitating now to get this law revised to reflect the increased difficulty in maintaining one’s PR. PR is a lifetime visa that took over a decade to obtain, and should carry with it a lifetime re-entry permit. Even if the re-entry permit system (do other countries have this?) can’t be abolished entirely, how about a 10-year re-entry permit for people stationed abroad long-term?

    –Well put. Agree totally. Thanks for this. Write the Japan Times and have this printed as a letter!

  • E.P. Lowe says:

    >10 years of continuous residence… What if a member of your family is dying of cancer and you have
    >to go back home for a couple of months?

    I can think of two responses, both of which I have encountered in Japanese Society:

    1/ Can’t be helped, you’ve broken the rules.

    2/ Errr…you have to go abroad to see your family?

  • “What if a member of your family is dying of cancer and you have to go back home for a couple of months ?”
    If you have time remaining on your current visa, and you have a valid re-entry permit, so that you leave and re-enter the country on the same visa (in other words, your visa is valid for the entire time you are outside the country) there should be no problem.

    If you leave without a re-entry permit, your visa is canceled when you leave and you will have to start all over again when you return. If your visa expires while overseas and you do not renew it before that happens, same thing.

    “10 years continuous residence” in practice means “10 years of continuous, back-to-back visa possession”, not “physically in Japan for 10 continuous, uninterrupted years”. The clock doesn’t get reset if you set foot outside of Japan for vacation, as long as your visa and re-entry permit stays valid.

  • It seems immigration have changed a lot this time. I got my PR in 2004 after 4 years living here. My first visa was for one year, second also 1 year and third for 3 years, which end up with stamp “CANCELED” in year 4 because I got my PR. I was waiting for PR 8 months after my appli has been submitted

  • “The utter ridiculousness of me being rejected just because my fifteen years were nonconsecutive!”
    Yes, funny, that – enforcing the rules and all.

    “Whether or not I was here, I have been contributing to Japan since I was 22 years old. I was busy making television programs, lecturing and writing books on Japan overseas, and promoting Japanese culture to hundreds of students and academics worldwide.”
    Efforts gratefully acknowledged, but none of this has anything to do with the requirements to qualify for a PR visa.

    “Then I became the first foreigner to represent Japan as a geisha, the most recognizable icon of Japaneseness.”
    A difficult hurdle to surmount, but Sayuki persevered and made the cut. Having to keep that hair and a kimono on at all times in public is difficult enough, never mind when a Geiko is actually working. Congratulations are certainly in order, but a Geiko is a long way from making a “contribution to Japan”. There are a few people who do it every year, and as far as I can tell they do so without any official accolades or recognition as being “exceptional people”.

    I don’t think Sayuki is a very good poster child for the cause of making the process of granting PR visas more transparent and understandable.

  • Peter Payne, for better or worse, has a point. I’ve never, ever had an iota of a problem with immigration, police or other authority in my 19 years here. I’ve been reading your site/blog for years, Dave…oops, Debito, and there have been times when it got me almost paranoid. I’ve had none of the problems detailed in the pages of debito.org. (And, if I may say as a very quick aside, the places that are outlined which say, “Japanese Only” are places I wouldn’t want to spend my money in the first place. Filipina nightclubs and hostess bars? Yeah, whatever.)

    Maybe I’m lucky, but I do, like Peter, have a positive, cheerful personality and I really think that helps. Dammit, I can be Mr. Florida Sunshine when I gotta be. And it has gotten me far here. I got my PR in 2001. I was told to wait 6 months, it came back in 2. I went to Yokohama immigration just yesterday to renew my Re-entry permit. I applied and had just a blue-sky-and-happy-day disposition about me. Well, you know, you gotta go out the door and around the corner, etc. to get the revenue stamp. We all know the gig. 5 minutes, 32 seconds for me round trip (Yep, I timed it). This go, my re-entry was processed and waiting when I returned. When I came back in, before I got to the counter, the immigration lady who processed me shouted from across the room, “XXXさん、もうできましたよ!”. And no, I’m not giving my last name.

    In 1994, I was riding a scooter to work. To get to work at that time, you had to take a maddening maze of one-way streets. One day, I cut corners, went the wrong way and was busted by the cops, fair and square. I admitted fault and was expecting to get hit with a big-time fine, etc. They let me off with a warning (“Don’t do that again, OK?”)

    Two years, I went house hunting. After several months of searching, we came upon one we truly wanted. As it turns out, my family was in competition with another “pure” Japanese family for the same house at the same time. The same bank manager interviewed both of us for the loan. When it was our turn, we sat down. At the outset, he was a stuffy, old, tight bureaucrat, but after our 30-minute conversation, we had clinched the house and he told the other couple the bad news.

    I dunno…some people got it; some people don’t. It’s not because I’m American…nationality never enters into the mix. I’d venture to say that people skills and the ability to get to the human side of things go a long way in dealing with authority in Japan. I can only speak generally, but if you are taking a hard-edged, grim, this-really-sucks attitude, then you’re going to get what you deserve.

    –No need to get paranoid by reading Debito.org (that’s not its intention, by any means), and to be sure, sunny attitudes do help. But not everyone is as lucky as Gladstone Gander (and your breaking the law like that on one way streets yet being let off by the cops can be put down to one thing–luck).

    In fact, some people seem to have strings of bad luck when walking/cycling/whatever while colored, and getting stopped by the cops. Mark in Yayoi himself has been stopped for the crime of cycling at night more than 100 times–sometimes by even the same cop who by now knows him–yet still radioes in to check his ID. No other conclusion to draw but the fact that he’s foreign-looking.

    And if you think the “Japanese Only” signs up on the RG site are confined to Filipina and hostess bars, look again, please.

    Be sunny if you like (and I do recommend it–have said so in the past). Just please don’t portray it as a panacea. Charm might work for some people, like American Idols for a few weeks, but it’s only sometimes and it’s not something that everyone is blessed with. And please don’t say we’re getting what we “deserve” when it doesn’t work, especially when we’re not doing anything illegal.

  • It was only a rhetorical question… but anyway thanks. Still, 10 years! I think the standard of most “Western countries” is around 2-4 years. As far as I know, the useless-time-consuming-take-half-a-day-off-to-get-a-6000yen-stamp-in-your-passport (the re-entry permit, you know) system doesn’t exist in most “Western countries”. Oh, but I forgot that “here, Japan”.

  • I have 10 years of dealing with immigration under my belt, and I have to say that after I learned to speak Japanese well enough, i have never had a misunderstanding or any other issue with any of the immigration officers. They have always been helpful and answered all of my questions. I have had issues with the people, non immi officers, who try and translate and give information to people in foreign languages. I had an exceptional time trying to explain that the company that hired me did not hire me as a contract employee and therefore there was no contract, so there was no way that I could submit a copy of my contract. I do agree, thou, that the lack of transparency is a serious issue. I am very surprised at all of the problems others have had. I am not a PR, but I have a mortgage, credit cards, and a substantial credit line, and I am not rich and only married for a short time. The question i would like to ask is why does everyone have such a hard time, or am I just lucky?

    A final note: the Drivers test requires its own complaint section. What a joke. Speaking of jokes, isn’t it funny how the police…(fill in appropriate example here).

  • Reentry visas for PR holders are outrageous but as they are a great cash source, I guess this will never change. I too wonder is japan the only country that does this “gaijin tax”?

  • “Yes, funny, that – enforcing the rules and all.”

    What rules? No-one knows what they are. They just make them up as they go along, and then don’t have to be accountable for their decisions.

    Any succcessful digital technology enterpreneurs out there. Japan needs you to help its economy and prop up its dwindling tax base…

    Yes, me. But unfortunately I’m getting ready to leave…

  • John in Yokohama says:

    I’m reading your note and thinking, “Wha….?”
    My re-entry expired in early May and I came back the day before expiry. I asked the immigration officer at Narita what would have happened if my trip were extended by a day or two.
    Her answer was that you can buy a single-use re-entry permit on-the-spot at Narita. It is, admittedly, a one-time deal, but the situation is not as harsh as you describe.

    Also, about the re-entry terms. Yeah, you make sense from a pure logic standpoint, but since when were governments – ANY government – operated by logic? The whole re-entry thing is nothing more than a revenue driver for the government. That’s all it is. This has nothing to do with “control” and everything to do with an additional cash stream. It won’t change because immigration gets a small, but steady, cash flow injection from re-entry permits.

    –According to a previous respondent to the rough draft of this essay on this blog, she told Immigration that her REP had expired while overseas, and they completely cancelled her PR, without consultation, or offering her the single-use. She now lives overseas, in disgust.

    See that post here http://www.debito.org/?p=1664#comment-159461 (post 17)

    That “revenue driver”, alas, is also being used as a means to deny people a more stable lifestyle here in Japan. That will not do.

  • I’m not sure if someone replied to Mark about renewal of reentry permits abroad – I did it in 2000 while we stayed in France for more than a year, I had a one-year permit when I left Japan. So it is possible.

    But are they not talking now about changes in the registration of foreigners and among other things related to that – about abolisihing re-entry permits? I think I read something like that?

    –I’m afraid I’ve heard nothing about abolishing Re-Entry Permits.

  • “Also, about the re-entry terms. Yeah, you make sense from a pure logic standpoint, but since when were governments – ANY government – operated by logic? The whole re-entry thing is nothing more than a revenue driver for the government. That’s all it is.”

    Why don’t they charge us the 6000yen when we get the visa instead ? Or they could simply offer a visa-and-re-entry-permit package… Oh, sorry, yeah it is true, they’re not logic. Let’s base Japanese society on stuff written in “Kokka no hinkaku”… Kafka would probably come back from the dead. And don’t tell me that most foreigners here don’t need to go abroad. When I was studying here I had a 1 year visa and I admit that I didn’t need a re-entry permit. Now I’ve got a 3 year visa, and to be honest, I need to go back home to see my family and friends at least one time within that period. I just think it is counter-productive because I need to take half a day off for something that takes about 15 minutes.

    And for people complaining about the fingerprinting p0licy, stop complaining and DO something: rock climbing, play games all day long or just get sandpaper… I heard that British authorities want (are they already doing it?) to take a DNA sample of every visitor (I can imagine myself bringing my dog’s saliva sample and putting it in my mouth just before they get the sample, wan wan).

  • “What rules? No-one knows what they are. They just make them up as they go along, and then don’t have to be accountable for their decisions.”
    In this particular case (Sayuki’s) the rule IS clear: 10 years continuous residence in Japan. Not 15 years off and on, 10 years continuous. She did not meet the requirement, therefore she did not qualify for a PR visa. Her bitching about the “ridiculousness” of it and carrying on about “all she has done for Japan” even when not actually IN Japan is meaningless. All it does is make her look like a self-centered git who thinks she should get special treatment because of all she has “done”. As if Japan should just humble themselves before her and throw the rulebook, such as it is, out the window and extend preferentially discriminatory treatment.

    Forgive me here, but I thought the goal was to END discriminatory treatment, not push for it or encourage it if it was to the benefit of one of “us”.

    Also, the rules ARE clear, and publicized. What is not clear is the decision making process behind whether or not someone who meets the requirements contained in those rules is granted a PR visa. In other words, you the applicant have to jump through certain hoops and meet certain requirements before you can have a chance of success after applying. You can apply anytime you want, but if you don’t meet the published requirements all you are doing is wasting people’s time. Objectively, Sayuki did not meet those requirements. Using her as an example to illustrate the flaws in the system is pointless. Now, find someone who has been living in Japan for 10 years or more, AND is married to a Japanese for 5 years or more, with a pile of cash in the bank, no criminal record etc. and yet still gets rejected without explanation and you’ve got a case.

    But as for bureaucrats making rules up as they go along and not being accountable – I always thought that was part of the job description. Something government employees everywhere put on their resume: “Able to pull nonsensical answers out of my ass at a moment’s notice. Adept at procrastinating and shifting blame to others.” 😉

  • Elenaz, I thought I had read something about it also.

    Regarding the consideration of abolishing re-entry permits for permanent residents…


    In return, foreigners in Japan will “receive better administrative services,” including simplified procedures for renewing stay permits and a possible extension of the maximum stay period, as well as easier access to health-care and educational services.

    The panel also called for a review of the current system whereby long-term residents are required to have a re-entry permit when they leave Japan.

    –Yes, quite. Thanks for bringing that up. I still doubt it’ll lead to an abolition. Government bureaus everywhere love fees, and a “Japan Use Tax” such as this, with PR hanging in the balance, has all the carrots and sticks in place. And nothing to encourage a discontinuation of the regime except us complaining, excuse me, trying to raise awareness of how silly it is.

  • scott lucas says:

    LB says it well:
    “In this particular case (Sayuki’s) the rule IS clear: 10 years continuous residence in Japan. Not 15 years off and on, 10 years continuous. She did not meet the requirement, therefore she did not qualify for a PR visa….. thought the goal was to END discriminatory treatment, not push for it or encourage it if it was to the benefit of one of “us”.
    But once we have our PR then we are only PR as long as we abide by the 3 year re-entry rule. Now, it would be nice if that was changed so PRs don’t need one. But where bureaucracy and money are concerned that ain’t likely to happen.

  • If Mark Butler has worked for more than eight years at a Tokyo securities firm and “can’t afford to keep renting,” he needs to find a better securities firm or stop living in Azabu/Hiroo/wherever.

    Last time I renewed my work visa (2005) I looked into getting PR and was told my two options: stick around a bit longer on the present work status and go for PR in 2008, by which time I would have cleared the 10-year requirement, or switch to a marriage visa and apply for PR in three. It would have ended up being the same year for me either way so I didn’t worry much over the details. I’ll be applying for PR in November this year so maybe I will have more data for the graph at some point in 2009.

    I’ve been on my present work visa since 1996. Before that I was on a different work visa for the three years from 1993, and I was a dependent from 1985 to 1988, but both of those statuses of residence lapsed. And yes, they only look at the most recent one.

  • “But once we have our PR then we are only PR as long as we abide by the 3 year re-entry rule.”
    True, but as someone pointed out, it is apparently possible to either get a one-time re-entry visa upon landing or get a new re-entry visa overseas. I would want to check those out with immigration/the Japanese Embassy or consulate nearest where I was going before leaving for an extended period overseas if there was a risk of the re-entry visa expiring, though.

    “Now, it would be nice if that was changed so PRs don’t need one. But where bureaucracy and money are concerned that ain’t likely to happen.”
    Agreed and agreed. That is, IMHO, one of the three big changes that need to be made to visa policy – the others being to allow people on a student visa to transfer that in-country to a work visa if they have graduated and find a job here, and to eliminate the “special permanent resident” status.

  • Mark in Yayoi says:

    Durf, I’m the one in the article, and I live in Yayoi, not Azabu or Hiroo or any of those expensive places — Bunkyo-ku is much more pleasant!

    When I say “can’t afford”, of course I don’t mean gettimg my rent paid from month to month. I mean “afford” in terms of long-haul finances. I had enough for a down payment on an apartment just like the one I live in now when I moved in six years ago, and could have been building equity all this time. Millions of yen simply given away because regulations prevent banks from trusting me! (My partner is a part-timer; we can’t get a mortgage in her name either.)

    Years from now I’ll be poorer than I should have been, because I had to rent longer than I should have had to. Housing prices are based on the presupposition that buyers can borrow to get into their first home; if you’re cut off from credit, you have to pay cash — and only the super-elite are rich enough to do that. Unless I’m buying a cramped single room, which is no place to raise a family!

    John in Yokohama — As you can probably guess from Debito’s reply, I was thinking of that person whose PR was stripped when I made my post. The availability of single-use re-entry permits at the airport (and I mean legally-guaranteed availability, not relying on the whimsical kindness of the person at the desk) would go along way towards making things easier for PRs who spend long periods outside Japan.

    LB — It’s not entirely clear to me if Sayuki considers it “ridiculous” that she’s not being granted an exception to the rule, or that the rules require your 10+ years to be consecutive. If it’s the latter, then I agree with her entirely. In either case, the government has explicitly stated that contributions to Japan can balance out an application with less than 10 consecutive years, and they give many examples on their site. I don’t blame her for assuming that her impressive personal record puts her at the top of that list.

  • i cannot understand why all these PR people have not more vocally protested this crazy gaijin tax, why do you all continue to endure and just be silent when you all know its wrong for you to have to continue to get a reentry permit? this is just a tax that pays the immigration staffs summer and winter bonuses.. oops is forgot this is japan, gaijins here just GAMAN..they dont want to be the nail that gets hammered down..

  • @ Mark in Yayoi (26): The situation as you describe it makes much more sense than the brief blurb in the original post. Thanks for clarification.

  • “But once we have our PR then we are only PR as long as we abide by the 3 year re-entry rule.”

    Compared to the U.S. PR, I think it’s quite generous.
    U.S. PR can have their status revoked if they do not return to U.S. within 6 months. If you intend on not returning to U.S. for within the 6 months, you can apply for a re-entry permit but is only valid for 2 years at a cost of $170.

    –Send us a link to substantiate this information if you have one, please.

  • I’m a long term non-permanent resident with a fairly stable work and living history. Although I am still waiting for pr status, I have been able to secure two motorcycle loans, a car loan, and a major credit card over the past 14 years.

  • Send us a link to substantiate this information if you have one, please.

    On arbitrary rules and 6 month deadlines

    “There is no “golden rule” that port of entry inspectors use in deciding whether a person has abandoned status. A green card can be used as a valid entry document as long as absence from the United States is not for more than one year. However, visiting the U.S. once a year is not enough to maintain status. An absence of more than six months raises a presumption that the person has abandoned U.S. residence. Several other factors are considered in making this determination: 1) a person’s intent upon departure from the United States; 2) whether the travel abroad has a specific purpose and a definitive end date; 3) payment of taxes in the U.S. as a resident; and 4) ties to the United States: employment, property ownership and residency indicators (e.g., valid driver’s license, active bank accounts and credit cards, club/church/association memberships).”


    On $170 fees for re-entry status:

    “Permanent residents considering traveling abroad for one year or more should apply for a re-entry permit before leaving the United States. The application is Form I-131, and it is filed with a $170 filing fee either by mail OR by on-line filing before you leave the United States. You may not request a re-entry permit while you are out of the country. If you are already outside the United States, it is very important to return within one year of your departure.”


    No information on whether you have to take a five minute walk around the block to get a stamp though…

    –Thanks very much!

  • Thanks Big B.

    The six month rule is not written in stone but

    “Some Permanent Green Card Residents have a mistaken notion that they can be considered to be Permanent Residents even if they return to the U.S. for a few weeks every six months. They take into consideration the rule, which says that an alien cannot go out of the US for more than 6 months. Many Permanent Residents have lost their status because they showed no intent to consider U.S. as their permanent home.”


    Q. Is there any required amount of time that an LPR must remain in the U.S.?

    A. Yes. Absences of one year or more may result in loss of LPR status unless a reentry permit is applied for in advance of departure from the U.S. Absences of six months or more may result in questioning upon return to the U.S. as to whether the LPR has abandoned his or her residence in the U.S.


    I should of qualified my statement with “sometimes”.

    What’s written in stone are as follows:

    You may be found to have abandoned your permanent resident status if you:

    -Move to another country intending to live there permanently.
    -Remain outside of the US for more than one year without obtaining a reentry permit or returning resident visa. However in determining whether your status has been abandoned any length of absence from the US may be considered, even if it is less than one year.
    -Remain outside of the US for more than two years after issuance of a reentry permit without obtaining a returning resident visa. However in determining whether your status has been abandoned any length of absence from the US may be considered, even if it is less than one year.
    -Fail to file income tax returns while living outside of the US for any period.
    -Declare yourself a “nonimmigrant” on your tax returns.


  • we should all protest this 10 year rule, we should all join FRANCA ASAP. who came up with this stupid rule that says you have to stay in japan for a decade…we should get a big yellow school bus with loadspeakers and hit the highway,,,oops we are foreignors and we would be arrested in a heartbeat, why you ask? NO its not because we have the wrong colored bus! NO its because we dont have freedom of speech.. remenber this is japan…

  • Where does freedom of speech come in to this discussion, Jim? Mark in Yayoi has expressed his views in the article above, but he has not been arrested. The ten year rule is longer than most countries,and works against an open and in my view sensible immigration policy. But let’s not go down the paranoid ‘hate Japan’ road, please.


    I appreciate David Aldwinckle’s relentless effort to bring equality for foreign residents and overall openness to the Japanese society. Although my approach is generally milder than David’s, the issues he cover in his extensive writings are very relevant and deserve attention from the lawmakers and Japanese society as a whole.

    In relation to a recent Japan Times article (Tuesday, May 27, 2008 THE ZEIT GIST “Arbitrary rulings equal bad PR), I wish to add one more important issue which has got little media attention so far.

    Under current visa regime in Japan, there is no place for aging/ill parents of foreign residents even though they pay social security premiums to support the aged. To make things worse, even permanent residents or naturalized citizens of Japan cannot assume that they will be able to take care of their aging parents, if the need arises. This is because, there is no visa status in Japan that allows foreign parents to come to Japan as “residents” rather than “tourists”. Obviously, as tourists, they are not eligible for social insurance benefits including the health insurance, that is crucial in old age. A limited period resident visa is available, but the minister of justice has to approve the application to avail that visa.

    The following internet citings discuss the above problem. They may be a bit old but I do not think the visa rules have changed after this pieces were publeshed.



    I wish to request David Aldwinkle to address this topic in one of his writings on Japan Times and his website in the future.


    A permanent resident of Japan

  • 18 years at Tokyo University in service to the Japanese government and over a year waiting for that PR… Still no word.

  • thaT is a very good point that he brings up about getting visa for ill parents/family memebers, you would think that japan, that once to be known as a family friendly nation would already have such a law in place but oops i forgot its only for japanese and not for foreignors, so what should i do if im the only child and noone is able to take care of my sick parents,,,? AND again how could japan even ask for a seat on the UN security council??…

  • I think big b is a little confused because when does commenting on human rights in japan become hateful, again his energy is misplaced wasted and could be better spent with more productive ways to change japan from within, remember we cant be afraid to speak our mind, big b. …


    I was referring to “Visa Category = Specified Visa” and “Status of Residence = Long Term Resident 定住ビサ ” as described in MOFA website http://www.mofa.go.jp/j_info/visit/visa/04.html.

    According to the following legal counseling website http://www.visajapan.jp/teiju.html (see item #3), a 定住ビサcan be used to sponsor sick dependent parents for medical treatment when Minister of Justice approves it under humanitarian(人道的) reason. However, what constitutes a humanitarian reason is not clear. I think this is completely at the personal discretion of the Minister of Justice.

    If we assume that the story in http://www.yanagiharashigeo.com/report/imin_report2.htm is genuine, a 定住ビサ was denied even when Japanese doctor in Japan declared that the foreign parent was unable to live by himself/herself. Does this not qualify for humanitarian(人道的) reason?

    I think the lawmakers should think more deeply on this issue by putting themselves in the shoes of a PR or a naturalized citizen. Does a PR or a naturalized Japanese citizen have to leave his/her family+ job+home in Japan to go back to his/her country of origin to care for a dying parent just because Japan does not have a visa for dependent parent? Additionally, isn’t this a discrimination against the naturalized Japanese citizen… becuase he/she is being denied the basic human right to care for his/her aging parent … a right which is natural and unquestionable for other Japanese citizens?

  • –Masters degree (PhD pending)
    –Own a condo in fucking Denenchofu for the past 3 years
    –Married to a Japanese for 14 years
    –Worked for Hitachi 20 years
    –Lived in the Land-of-Concrete(tm) for 23 years

    She-e-e-it, still no Permanent Resident visa—No reason given for refusal–Most likely because I walk with a limp (as that matters for an engineer, sheesh). Groucho Marx said it best: “I wouldn’t want to join a club that would have someone like me as a member.”

  • The Ministry of Justice asks for copies of bank books, domestic and foreign. The bulk of my money is in the States (only 3 million in Japan). Will this — the fact that I send my money abroad — work against me when being considered for FPR, and if so, should I move money back?

    — FPR?

  • well, i turned in my ARC but they did not stamp “cancel” or “used” on my Permanent Residency. They did write in by hand “単出”. I got over a bad divorce and headed home with a “multiple re-entry” permit. After licking my wounds, i called customs and they said that they cannot accept my PR visa as they said that i “handed it in” and wasnt coming back to Japan.
    Well, what if i do go back to japan before the multiple re-entry stamp expires? will i get a visitor visa and my PR is canceled!? the clock with be reset?? but i already spent 15 years in japan.

    Nothing in the law that says that i have a canceled status. i am saddened.

  • Brooks Slaybaugh says:

    Got turned down for PR. I read that they got strict with paying taxes on time. This started in July, 2019 and was the idea of the Nagoya immigration office. My wife pays the bills and paid a few late, like health insurance 11 days late once last year and for the pension a few were late. I read a website from an immigration lawyer in Tokyo named Watanabe who mentioned this. I think almost half of people are getting rejected for PR these days. Had to wait almost 10 months to get rejected but now they will tell me the reason in person but I must wait over two weeks. I can contest this too, with a lawyer if I choose, but that costs money. I have to put off buying a house in Osaka.


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