VISA & Immigration

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(Updated on December 1, 2016)

Entries into and departures from Japan, including immigration and emigration, are controlled through a double-check system with the issuance of visas, handled by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, along with permission to obtain status of residence handled by the Immigration Bureau of the Ministry of Justice of Japan. In order to obtain visas and status of residence, applicants need to make careful preparations and follow step-by-step procedures.



About Visas

In principle, a non-Japanese person who intends to enter Japan is required to hold a valid passport along with a valid visa issued by a Japanese consulate. Depending on the purpose of the visit, visas are roughly classified into short-stay visas, highly skilled-professional visas, working visas, general visas, specified visas, visas for medical stays, diplomatic visas, official visas, and others. Application procedures will differ depending on the visa classification, the purpose of the visit, and the applicants nationality. 

For further details on such procedures, please refer to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan website.



Status of residence

In order for non-Japanese people to enter Japan and stay for a certain period, they first need to obtain a status of residence. There are 27 classifications for status of residence and either one of them must be obtained depending on the purpose of their visit. Status of residence is roughly grouped into the following three types: 

1) Status of residence for working purposes

For diplomats, officials, professors, artists, religious activists, journalists, highly skilled professionals, business managers, people involved in legal/accounting services or medical services, researchers, instructors, engineers/specialists in humanities/international services, intra-company transferees, entertainers, skilled laborers and people engaging in technical intern training

2) Status of residence for purposes other than working

For cultural activists, temporary visitors, students, trainees, people visiting their families, and people engaging in designated activities


3) Status of residence based on status and positions

For permanent residents, spouses or children of Japanese nationals, spouses or children of permanent residens, and long-term residents


Different requirements and procedures are necessary for each status of residence. For further details, please refer to the Ministry of Justice of Japan website.



Procedures to obtain a visa and a status of residence

First, the applicant or a certified administrative scrivener/attorney (representative of the applicant) approved by the Immigration Bureau of Japan applies for a certificate of eligibility at the local immigration bureau in the place of residence. Following the screening at the bureau, a certificate of eligibility is issued and granted to the applicant or his/her representative. The representative then sends the certificate to the applicant (if the applicant is residing in his/her country). The applicant who has received the certificate or the representative who possesses a letter of proxy applies for a visa at the local Japanese consulate. If a certificate of eligibility is presented at the local Japanese consulate to apply for a visa, preliminary screening on the conditions for landing in Japan related to the status of residence by the Minister of Justice will be considered to be completed, and screening for visa issuance will be conducted promptly. When the applicant receives a visa, and arrives in Japan with it, a simplified landing examination will also be conducted promptly.


Obtaining the right of permanent residence (status of permanent residence)

The right of permanent residence is the right of a non-Japanese person to reside permanently in the country. In general, after obtaining a status of residence and staying in Japan for a certain period, a non-Japanese person can apply for the right of permanent residence if certain conditions are met. The conditions to obtain the right of permanent residence in Japan are as follows:

1) Good conduct (no traffic violations, tax payment delays, etc.)

2) Ability to make a living on his/her own (with stable income and assets)

3) To be of benefit to Japan

4) Ten years or more of residency in Japan

5) Three years or more of residency in Japan after marriage for a spouse of a Japanese national


For further details, please refer to the Ministry of Justice of Japan website.



When the above conditions are met, the non-Japanese person can apply for permission for permanent residence at the local immigration bureau that has jurisdiction over the area where he/she resides. The standard time required for the completion of such process is four months, but in some cases, one year or more is required.

You should be careful regarding the following points when applying for permission for permanent residence.


Do not cause any violations such as traffic violations, parking violations, or tax payment delays.

A person who lives outside of Japan for most of the permitted period of stay cannot obtain permission for permanent residence.

When the application process consumes a considerable amount of time and the deadline for extending the period of stay is approaching, applications for an extension of the period of stay should be prioritized over applications for permission for permanent residence.

The Social Security and Tax Number System (also known as My Number System”), which was enforced in January 2016, also applies to non-Japanese people including permanent residents, mid-to-long-term residents, and special permanent residents. Under such system, their payments of social insurance premiums and taxes are recorded. Therefore, if the non-Japanese person has unpaid social insurance premiums and taxes, the permission for permanent residence could be cancelled when applying for an extension of the validation period of the residence card


Obtaining Japanese citizenship (naturalization)

When a non-Japanese person obtains the right of permanent residence in Japan, he/she can reside permanently in Japan while still having citizenship of his/her own country. However, a person who intends to obtain Japanese citizenship needs to apply for naturalization. The application for naturalization should be addressed to the legal affairs bureau/district legal affairs bureau in the place of residence. Below are the general conditions to apply for naturalization.


1) Five years or more of continuous residence in Japan up to the time of application

2) Age 20 or above and has reached the age of legal adulthood in his/her own country

3) Good conduct

4) Ability to have a stable life in Japan

5) In principle, his/her previous citizenship will be lost by naturalization

6) No connections with anti-government forces and organizations


Advantages of obtaining right of permanent residence and Japanese citizenship

When a non-Japanese person obtains the right of permanent residence, his/her period of stay and activities during the stay in Japan will no longer be limited while the citizenship of his/her own country is maintained. However, when Japanese citizenship is obtained, he/she will lose their previous citizenship, and therefore, it must be noted that life in his/her own country might be affected.

Social credibility in Japan will be strengthened.

Housing loans can be obtained at many financial institutions as borrowing requirements are met.

When incorporating a company, a status of residence (business manager) can be obtained as requirements for the status of residence are already met.

Obtaining a family members right of permanent residence will become easier.

Even if he/she loses his/her Japanese spouse by death or divorce, the status of residence will not be affected.

・When Japanese citizenship is obtained, equal rights as a Japanese person, including political rights and rights to social welfare, will be granted.




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