How to obtain Japanese citizenship? Procedure for applying for a naturalization permit


Applying for permission to obtain Japanese citizenship (naturalization procedure) is complicated in terms of criteria and required documents. Let us first take a look at the legal requirements for the application and the procedure.

Requirements for the naturalization procedure

In order for a foreigner to be naturalized in Japan, they must meet the six requirements listed in Article 5.1 of the Nationality Act. The naturalization procedure refers to the process of proving that the applicant meets the requirements and issuing permission based on the documents submitted to the Legal Affairs Bureau.

Legal requirements

The following are the six requirements set forth in the Nationality Act. The first are (1) residency requirements and (2) age and other requirements.

Since the age of majority was lowered by the law that went into effect on April 1, 2020, you can generally apply for naturalization at age 18.

  • You have had an address in Japan for at least 5 years.
  • You are of legal age and of full capacity to act according to the law
  • You are of good conduct (not fined, imprisoned, deprived of liberty, or punished by juvenile criminal law).
  • You are able to support yourself in Japan, based on your income, assets, and abilities and those of your family
  • You renounce the citizenship of your home country and acquire Japanese citizenship (avoid dual citizenship).
  • You are not involved with anti-social forces such as gangsters

Who can apply for a naturalization permit?

Naturalization process (formally an application for a naturalization permit) is not limited to persons who meet all the requirements of the Nationality Act. Spouses and minor children of persons who already hold Japanese citizenship may also go through a procedure known as simplified naturalization.

In practice, it is common for the entire family to apply at the same time in order to reduce the burden of the procedure.

Individuals who may apply for a naturalization permitTypes of naturalization proceduresOverview
Adults who have been residents for more than 5 yearsRegular naturalizationMust meet items 1 through 5 of Article 5.1 of the Nationality Act
Spouse/Child of a Japanese citizenSimplified naturalizationRequirements for items 1, 2, and 4 of Article 5.1 of the Nationality Act are relaxed
Individuals who have made special achievements in Japanextraordinary naturalizationEven if the applicant does not meet the requirements of Article 5.1 of the Nationality Act, they can naturalize with the approval of Parliament

Documents required for naturalization permit application

The documents required for the naturalization process are determined individually for each applicant. Generally, a set of application documents with a fixed format is required, and additional documents are requested upon prior confirmation by the Legal Affairs Bureau.

Since only standard documents are presented in this article, you should discuss the details with an administrative official or the Legal Affairs Bureau.

Set of prescribed application documents

The documents that must be submitted when applying for a naturalization permit consist of the following eight types. Many of the documents cannot be completed correctly without additional documentation. Therefore, it is advisable to collect and organize all additional documents before completing these documents.

  • Application for naturalization permission
  • Written motive for naturalization
  • Resume
  • Oath
  • Description of your 
  • Description of how you make your living in Japan
  • Description of your business/occupation
  • A document describing the occupation
  • Maps of the vicinity of your residence and workplace 

Documents from home country

Documents that need to be ordered from the home country page are listed individually for China, Vietnam, and Korea, as many applicants are from these countries. 

▼For Chinese nationals:

  • Applicant`s birth certificate
  • Parents` marriage certificate, etc
  • Parent(s)` death certificate, etc.
  • Parents` divorce certificate
  • Certificate of family relationships

▼For Vietnamese nationals:

  • Citizenship certificate
  • Birth certificate of the applicant and their siblings
  • Birth certificate of the applicant and their parents
  • Marriage certificate of the applicant and their parents
  • Parent(s)` death certificate 

▼For Korean nationals:

  • Basic certificate
  • Marriage certificate
  • Family relations certificate
  • Social welfare certificate
  • Adoption certificate
  • Certificate of removal from the family register

Documents that can be acquired in Japan

The following documents, which you can apply for at your local government office, etc., are also required as certificates for your residency status in Japan. They can be broadly divided into three categories: (1) identity and address, (2) income and other assets, and (3) tax and social security payment status.

▼Certificates to prove identity, etc

  • Copy of residence card
  • Copy of family register (certificate of all affairs)
  • Certificate of information to be indicated on birth certificate
  • Certificate of information recorded on foreign resident registration file

▼ Information on income/assets 

  • Salary statement
  • Withholding tax certificate
  • Copy of final tax return
  • Certificate of employment/work certificate (for employees)
  • Blue declaration resolution or financial report (for executives and companies)
  • Copy of business license, etc. (as above)
  • Registration certificate (as above)Business summary (as above) 

Application procedure for naturalization permission

1. Prior consultation at the Legal Affairs Bureau

First, contact the appropriate Legal Affairs Office (main office) and inform them that you would like to inquire about naturalization and reserve an appointment to speak with someone familiar with the process. On the day of the reservation, they will ask to see your passport and residence card to better understand your situation and let you know if you can apply and what documents are required in your case.

Please note that consultations at local offices are usually not possible.

2. Collecting the required documents

After the prior consultation, you need to start collecting the required documents before your living and working conditions change. Documents that need to be requested in your home country can be requested from the consulate or embassy.

3. Second consultation at the headquarters of the Legal Affairs Bureau

Once you have collected all the instructed documents, you must consult again with the Legal Affairs Bureau to see if any documents are incomplete or missing. In many cases, you will also be instructed to prepare additional documents.

At this stage, you will be informed about the naturalization process itself and what your life in Japan will be like after obtaining Japanese citizenship.

4. Preparation of application documents + final check

When the legal office staff confirms that all documents are prepared, you will complete the application documents and submit them for the final check. Please note that there are documents that need to be hand-written, such as the motive for naturalization.

If no problems are found during the final check, you can finally begin the application for naturalization approval.

5. Acceptance of application documents (start of examination)

Finally, the document review process begins when you submit the application materials over the counter or by mail. Refrain from changing jobs or moving during this time and renew your visa when your current visa is about to expire, as you normally would.

Interview with the person in charge of legal affairs (applicant and close relatives)

Applications for naturalization permits are interviewed during the review process. Usually, the applicant and their close relatives are notified of the interview date two to three months after the application is submitted.

The interview lasts approximately one hour, but the format varies depending on the applicant. If you are married, three appointments are often scheduled: an interview with the applicant, an interview with the applicant and spouse, and an interview with the spouse.

8. Notification of approval or denial

When the review is complete, the Legal Affairs Bureau staff will notify you of the results  – usually one to two years after your first consultation.

If your application is approved, you must immediately provide the Legal Affairs Bureau with consular proof that you will be leaving your home country.

Conclusion │ The naturalization procedure is difficult if you apply for it yourself

The naturalization procedure (application for naturalization permit) in Japan can sound extremely complicated for people who were born abroad and have spent most of their lives outside Japan.  The Legal Affairs Office will help you, but even from a Japanese perspective, it is difficult to collect all the documents, and expert help with handwriting and free designation is essential. 

You could also hire an administrative scrivener so you can focus on your work and family life.

▼Main points of the naturalization process

  • Adults who have lived in Japan for more than 5 years can apply (with exceptions for a wife/child of a Japanese citizen)
  • Required documents must be confirmed beforehand for each applicant
  • You must renew your visa during the process
  • You must submit a consular certificate after revocation of citizenship in your home country