Applying for Japan Permanent Residence

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Japan Permanent Residence allows the holder to live in Japan with few restrictions on terms similar to a Japanese national. In particular, Permanent Residence does not limit the holder's activities or period of stay.

Japan Permanent Residence status is only generally available to applicants who already reside in Japan under another status of residence (“visa”) or to those who are eligible due to birth or previous renouncement of Japanese nationality.

Anyone considering applying for Japan Permanent Residence should understand that such applications are scrutinized far more closely than applications for other visa. Processing time for a Japan Permanent Residence application is up to one year.

Why You Should Apply for Japan Permanent Residence

There are several reasons to apply for Japan Permanent Residence as soon as you are eligible. These include:

  1. Freedom. Once an individual has Permanent Residence, they are technically able to undertake whatever activities they desire in Japan.
  2. Relationship breakdown or death of a spouse. Individuals often live in Japan for years on a spouse visa. If that relationship breaks down or the Japanese spouse dies, the non-Japanese spouse may be left without a legal basis to remain in Japan. Individuals on a spouse visa should apply for Japan Permanent Residence as soon as possible.
  3. Home loans. It may be very difficult to obtain home financing from a bank without Japan Permanent Residence.

Advice for those Planning to Apply for Japan Permanent Residence

The following is some practical advice for anyone considering applying for Permanent Residence.

  1. Apply as soon as you are qualified. This point cannot be emphasized enough. Your circumstances may change. You may get divorced, your spouse may die, you may lose your job, you may be unjustly (or otherwise) accused of a crime, or be involved in a major traffic accident (see Point 2 below on the importance of having a clean record). Or the rules may change. There is regular talk of introducing a stringent language requirement to the Permanent Residence application process. Something will eventually preclude you from applying if you wait long enough. Apply as soon as you can.
  2. Remember that being approved for Permanent Residence requires a (nearly) perfect record in terms of your conduct. This means more than having no criminal convictions. Being briefly detained when a friend’s friend is found with drugs, being peripherally involved in a bar altercation, or being involved in a traffic accident could all make a Permanent Residence application difficult. The longer the delay, the greater the chance than an incident will arise that may cause your Permanent Residence application to be denied.
  3. Ensure that your current activities are consistent with your current visa. After living in Japan for some time, individuals may begin undertaking activities in addition to the job that is sponsoring their current visa. For example, someone working in a professional firm may have also taken on a part-time lecturing position. Additional activities need to formal approval by way of an application for “Permission to Engage in Activity Other than Permitted by the Status of Residence Previous Granted.” Consult with a Japanese immigration professional regarding your current circumstances.
  4. Apply with at least one year left on your current visa. An application for Japan Permanent Residence often takes approximately one year to process. One requirement for obtaining Permanent Residence is that your current permitted stay is the longest allowed under your current visa. In addition to being inconvenient, renewing your visa while a Permanent Residence application is pending involves a risk that your renewal will be granted with less than the maximum period of stay. This could cause immediate rejection of your pending application.
  5. Pay your taxes. At the time of applying for Japan Permanent Residence you will need to provide certified tax records from the national tax office and local tax office, which will show any accrued delinquent interest and penalties. It is easy to meet your tax obligations if your regular job withholds tax every month. However, if you need to submit your own tax returns, make sure it is done on time. Japan has no extensions on individual tax returns.
  6. Use a professional to assist with the application. It is possible to handle a Japan Permanent Residence application without professional assistance and many self-submitted applications have been successful. However, an experienced professional will ensure that this important area of your life is smoothly handled. The professional can also assist with the required substantial leg work, at minimum, trips to the national tax office, the local tax office, and the local ward office.

Legal Requirements for Japan Permanent Residence

Based on guidelines issued by the MOJ in March 2006, the following are the broad requirements for Permanent Residence applications.

  1. Good conduct

    The Applicant for Permanent Residence must have observed all Japanese laws during his stay in Japan. In addition, the Applicant's lifestyle should not be one that attracts “social criticism” – for example via membership to radical (though technically not illegal) organizations.

  2. Financial stability

    The Applicant for Permanent Residence should be able to support herself financially. This means having sufficient assets or the ability to earn an independent living.

  3. Interests of Japan

    The granting of Japan Permanent Residence should be in accord with the interests of Japan.

    There are four aspects to this requirement as follows:

    1. The Ten Year Rule

      For most foreigners, this will be the largest obstacle to obtaining Japan Permanent Residence. The Applicant should have been in Japan for at least 10 consecutive years. Those 10 years must include at least 5 consecutive years in which the Applicant held a work visa.

      There are some exceptions to the 10 Year Rule which are noted below.

    2. The Applicant must have never been fined or imprisoned. She must also have fulfilled her public duties, especially with respect to payment of taxes.
    3. The Applicant must have been granted the maximum period of stay allowed for his current visa.
    4. The Applicant should not pose a risk to public health. It should be noted that Japan does not currently require applicants for Permanent Residence to undergo a health exam.

Exceptions to the 10 Year Residence Rule in applying for Japan Permanent Residence

As noted above, in most cases a Permanent Residence Applicant will need to have lived in Japan for at least 10 years. However, there are exceptions which include the following:

  1. The Applicant is the spouse of a Japanese national, special permanent resident, or permanent resident, and
    1. Has been married for more than three years, and
    2. Has been in Japan for at least one year.
  2. The Applicant is the child of a Japanese national, special permanent resident, or permanent resident, and has been in Japan for at least one year.
  3. The Applicant has been in Japan for more than five consecutive years under the Long Term Resident visa.
  4. The Applicant has been recognized as a refugee and has been in Japan for more than 5 consecutive years following such recognition.
  5. The Applicant has made a recognized contribution to Japan in diplomatic, social, economic, cultural, or other fields, and has been in Japan for more than 5 years. It should be noted that very few Applicants are able to utilize this category. It covers Applicants whose achievements have been recognized at the highest levels.

The above is provided for general information purposes only and does not constitute advice to undertake or refrain from undertaking any action. Only qualified Japanese professionals are able to advise on Japan immigration, legal, and tax matters.