Japan Introduces New Immigration Rules

New five year visas, changes to re-entry system and new Resident Card introduced from July

Have you heard that Japan is making changes to its immigration and foreigner registration rules this summer?

The changes take effect on July 9 and are designed to make life easier for foreign residents.

Weekender tells you what you need to know.

Japan’s Immigration Bureau is extending the maximum working visa length from three to five years and scrapping re-entry permits for trips abroad of less than a year. If you’re leaving Japan for longer than a year, you’ll still need a re-entry permit, but under the new rules you can get one valid for five years.

In July, the Japanese government will abolish its current alien registration system and register foreigners under the same system Japanese use.

Local governments currently register foreigners in one system and Japanese in another, which makes it hard to coordinate services and keep track of mixed-nationality households. The new registration system is supposed to fix this.

The biggest change you’ll see under the new system is a new gaijin (foreigner registration) card. Called a ‘residence’ or ‘zairyu’ card, this new card will replace the current gaijin card for everyone except diplomats and special permanent residents.

You’ll receive this card from immigration when you extend or change your visa after July. If you’re already a permanent resident, you must apply for a zairyu card by July 2015.

Compared to the current gaijin card, the new zairyu card will display less personal information. However, unlike gaijin cards, zairyu cards will store the information in your resident registry on an embedded IC chip.

The information that local government offices collect will also change: under the new system, you no longer have to register your address in your home country, place of birth, occupation or passport number, but will have to provide your health insurance and pension status.

The new rules affect who you notify when your work or personal circumstances change. Under the old system, when you moved to a new city or left Japan, you didn’t have to tell your former city office.

Under the new system, if you move you must notify both your old and new city offices. The offices will update your address for all government services automatically. Also, if you move overseas temporarily or permanently, you’ll need to tell your current ward or city office.

If any of the personal information on your passport changes (name, nationality, date of birth or sex), or if there’s any change to the work or family circumstances to which your visa is linked, you’ll need to tell immigration.

For example, if you’re here on a work visa and you change jobs, you have to let immigration know.

If you’re here on a spouse visa and get divorced, you’ll also have to tell immigration.

If you have a spouse visa and change jobs, however, you don’t have to notify immigration because your visa isn’t linked to your job.

Immigration knows their offices are a trek for most foreigners in Japan. They are thinking about accepting some notifications online or by mail, but nothing has been decided yet.

On the plus side, immigration will automatically notify your local government of any changes to your visa information, which means you no longer report those changes at the ward or city office.

Even if you’re not planning to move or make any changes to your passport information or visa-linked work or family situation, take a moment now to check that all the details on your gaijin card are correct.

Your local government office is busy preparing a resident record for you and will send you a copy sometime around May.

The resident record is based on the information on your gaijin card, so make sure that’s up to date. If there are errors in the provisional record you receive in May, correct them at your ward or city office.

If your gaijin card details are up to date and your visa is in order, there’s not much else you need to do right now. Just sit back and wait for the new rules to kick in and (hopefully) make life easier for everyone.

For further information visit the Immigration Bureau’s official site: www.immi-moj.go.jp

Text by Annamarie Sasagawa

25 Comments
  1. From what I know new cards will not be issued to short term visa holders.
    I wonder if that will strip them from all benefits it had . Like being able to get a bank account etc. since there would be no proof of address and so on.

  2. @Jakub:
    I am not sure what makes you say so. The description on the website states that tourists and other temporary visitors with permission to stay up to 3 months (the limit for visa-free travel) are exempted, but they don’t have an Alien Registration card under the existing system either. Since the existing Alien Registration System is being abolished, clearly anyone covered under it with the existing system would be moved to the new system (or would be here illegally in the first place).

  3. I came through immigration at Narita Airport today and they did NOT even look at my gaijincard.

  4. I’m on a permanent residence visa and I got a single re-entry permit today for a trip for a short time across the end of June and beginning of July. Was that just a waste of time? Shouldn’t they have told me just to apply for a “zairyu card”?? And do I need to go back again to do that before I leave for my trip, or will it be automatic when I return?
    I couldn’t believe that nobody told me about this before I filled in the form, or at least after I’d filled it in and asked where I should wait, obviously having a multi-re-entry permit application made out.
    After a long wait, someone did question my need for multi-re-entry, but didn’t say that single-re-entry would be unnecessary. By that time I just needed to get out of there!
    Any advice would be welcome.
    Thanks.

  5. Hi! I would like to ask what should we do we change jobs frequently? I’m talking about blue-collar job workers here in Japan. Some of them work only for a few weeks because of contracts and of course if they can work long despite tough working conditions. If they have to report this everytime, it would be bothersome.

  6. I wonder if I have to report additional jobs other than the main one I have. My work visa is only good for a year. Under the new rules, will it automatically be updated, or do I need to get a sponsor to renew my visa to the 5 year status?

  7. Please confirm if this is an official email address of the Immigration Bureau of Japan:

    immi_mojgojp@yahoo.co.jp

    I’ve got a job offer and when I accepted it the HR of the company directed me to apply for COE to the bureau using the above email. I just want to be sure I am dealing with the right people.

  8. the first part of the mail address looks correct , though hard to believe they use Yahoo…
    give it a shot though

  9. the first part of the mail address looks correct , though hard to believe they use Yahoo…

  10. @Joe Wein

    I am not sure what makes you say so. The description on the website states that tourists and other temporary visitors with permission to stay up to 3 months (the limit for visa-free travel) are exempted, but they don’t have an Alien Registration card under the existing system either.

    Under the current system, those on tourist visas can voluntarily get an ARC. Its necessary in some situations, such as Belgians tourists who want to drive in Japan.

    Since the existing Alien Registration System is being abolished, clearly anyone covered under it with the existing system would be moved to the new system (or would be here illegally in the first place).

    Actually, there are some big holes left by the abolishment of the ARC with respect toward things like bank accounts, cell phones, and drivers licenses that apply to both tourists and short time “residents” such as students on short course programs. They will not be covered by the new system and may not be able to access some of the services that may be vital to them. We’ll just have to wait and see how the businesses will accommodate the change.

  11. Hi I been in Japan for five years on an investor visa, I’m a manager and have two staff my visa is still one year and others are three years. In the new
    rules can I get a five year?

  12. I’m a student from Nepal, I’m coming Japan as student this october. Is there any change for students? What will be their status after their Japanese language course?What is there working hour? Could you please expain the rules of immigration from the perspective of students?

  13. Hi Kiran, we will look into that. Mohammad, hopefully someone reading can help you?

  14. I have received a message from Japan embassy in Beijing that the Japanese government is giving preferencial treatment for those who didn’t over stay their entry in Japan to acquire residence permit to stay in Japan with a minimum money to invest in Japan.

    I just want to confirm from you since I will be very much interested in such a move.

    Regarded,
    Kumi Kwasi

  15. I have a permanent visa and my reentry permit is already expired. My problem was, when I went to some other countries, they kept looking for my Japanese visa and even if I show them the Permit for Permanent Residency seal in my passport, they would not believe it. I think they were still looking for a valid re-entry permit, even though on the Japanese disembarkation (immigration) card it was stamped there that I was out of Japan under special reentry permit.

  16. if you are a holder of a permanent resident permit and plan to divorce your Japanese Spouse. Will you be asked to return to your country? this are some misinformation that are circulating.Please reply.

  17. I Want to Come @ Japan to study …But i need the job to stay there….so i want to conform how much hour we can do the job …plz Reply me…

  18. Hi, ask if do need to apply this I’d immediately? My current alien card will expire 2014.I have a multiple reentry permit until 2015. I’m planning to go for a vacation philipine. So anybody pls ?

  19. I AM THE STUDENT FROM NEPAL AND TRYING TO APPLY FOR JULY IN TAKE IS THERE ANY CHANGE IN RULES AND REGULATION FOR GETTING VISA

  20. Hi, i currently hold a multiple entry visa valid for 1 year with a maximum 30 days per stay for Japan. Will i be eligible to apply for a residence card as I will be travelling to Japan more often and would like to open a bank account there for my convenience. I’m not quite sure if there are any banks in Japan that accepts passport for opening accounts as most of them require the residence card. I would appreciate if you can advise on this.

    Thanks!

  21. if you are a holder of a permanent resident permit and plan to divorce your Japanese Spouse. Will you be asked to return to your country? this are some misinformation that are circulating.Please reply.

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