Differences between Naturalization and Permanent Residence – Advantages and Disadvantages of the Two Procedures

When foreigners settle in Japan, they can apply for naturalization and become Japanese citizens, but some choose to become permanent residents instead. However, many do not really understand the difference between naturalization and permanent residency. In this topic, you will learn more about the system of naturalization and permanent residence, as well as the advantages and disadvantages of both procedures.

What is naturalization?

Naturalization is the acquisition of Japanese citizenship by a foreigner.

When you obtain Japanese citizenship, you can use the name you had before you applied for naturalization, but you can also use the Japanese name you chose for yourself.

However, there are restrictions on the name after naturalization is approved. The Family Registry Law states that 'the range of common and simple letters is determined by a decree of the Ministry of Justice.

The letters that can be used in the name are as follows.

  • Hiragana
  • Katakana
  • Common Kanji (1,945 characters)
  • Personal Name Kanji (984 characters)

Naturalization is divided into ordinary naturalization, simplified naturalization and grand naturalization.

Ordinary naturalization is a general naturalization allowed when seven requirements are met, including residence, ability, conduct, livelihood, ideology, and the Japanese language.

Simplified naturalization is possible if certain requirements are met, such as when the applicant is the spouse or child of a Japanese citizen. Compared to normal naturalization, the requirements are relaxed or exempted.

Grand naturalization has a special status in Japan and is carried out by the Minister of Justice with the approval of the Diet.

What is permanent residence?

The term permanent residence refers to the ability to obtain permanent residency in Japan and to remain in Japan permanently. The residence status for permanent residence in Japan is a permanent resident visa.

As the name implies, the main feature is that you can stay in Japan permanently as a foreign citizen.

There are three requirements for permanent residence: good conduct, independent living, and conformity with national interests. In order to obtain a permanent residence permit, you must provide proof of long-term residence in Japan.

Advantages of naturalization

  • You obtain the right to vote

Since you can obtain Japanese citizenship, you also obtain the right to vote (and be elected).

  • No restrictions on activities in Japan

There are no restrictions on activities such as professions or changing jobs.

Disadvantages of naturalization

Since dual citizenship is not recognized in Japan, you will lose your original citizenship.

Advantages of permanent residency

  • no restrictions on activities in Japan

As with naturalization, there are no restrictions on activities such as professions and job changes.

  • You can stay as a foreign citizen

You can stay in Japan as a foreign citizen.

Disadvantages of the permanent residence permit

If a reason for deportation applies to you, such as if you commit a crime, you can be deported. Since you are a foreign citizen, you cannot vote.


The difference between naturalization and permanent residence is whether you obtain Japanese citizenship or remain a foreigner. The requirements are also different, but there are no restrictions on employment for either.