Six Requirements for Naturalization and Acquisition of Japanese Citizenship


In order for a foreigner to be naturalized in Japan, they must meet all the requirements prescribed by law. Here are the basic requirements for applying and the special circumstances under which acquisition of citizenship is permitted.

▼Requirements for naturalization and acquisition of Japanese citizenship

  • At least 5 years of residence in Japan
  • Of legal age and capable of judgment
  • Recognized good behavior
  • Able to live independently
  • No dual citizenship (loss of original citizenship if the application is approved)
  • No involvement in anti-social forces

Requirements for the acquisition of Japanese citizenship (naturalization)

Naturalization is a procedure for obtaining Japanese citizenship and is a procedure for full recognition of your rights as a Japanese citizen, including the right to vote. Once you apply and receive approval, there are no restrictions that apply to foreigners. However, the application requirements are very strict.

Meet the requirements of Article 5.1 of the Nationality Act

You may apply for naturalization only if you meet at least all the requirements of Article 5.1 of the Nationality Act. The article contains the following provisions.

  1. You must have had an address in Japan for at least 5 years
  2. You must be at least 18 years old and have the capacity to act in accordance with the law of your home country
  3. You must have recognized good behavior.
  4. You must be able to support yourself from your own assets/abilities or be supported by your spouse or other relatives
  5. You do not have citizenship or should lose your original citizenship by acquiring Japanese citizenship
  6. After the effective date of the Japanese Constitution, you have not formed or joined any political party or other organization that seeks or insists on forcibly destroying  the Japanese Constitution or the government established under it.

Obtain the permission from the Minister of Justice

Just because you meet the requirements does not mean you will be naturalized. The application must be approved by the examiner, more specifically, the Minister of Justice.

The approval/non-approval decision is made based on the required documents, which are different for each applicant. Therefore, you should check with the Legal Affairs Bureau responsible for your place of residence to find out what documents are required in your case.

Details of the requirements that must be met when applying for naturalization

The requirements of Article 5.1 of the Citizenship Law are somewhat difficult to understand because the laws and regulations are intended for persons who originally hold Japanese citizenship. Below is a simple summary with explanations of all the important details.

Proof of residence in Japan for more than 5 years

The first requirement for a naturalization application is proof of legal residence for more than five consecutive years. Since it says “legal," you need some kind of status of residence while living here. Please note that illegal periods of residence, such as an overstay, are not included.

Age of majority and good judgment

The second requirement for a naturalization application is that you have reached an age that is considered to be of legal age under Japanese law and that you have the capacity (= full legal capacity) to enter into contracts and perform other transactions.

▼Age recognized as an adult

18 years old (20 years old if you have applied for naturalization before April 1, 2022)

▼Conditions recognized as having full legal capacity

  • Not a minor
  • Not suffering from dementia, etc.
  • No guardian/caretaker/assistant is required yet

<Recognized good behavior

The third requirement for applying for naturalization, “good conduct," means that you have no criminal record, that you are not working part-time (overtime) over the permitted limit for outside qualifying activities, and that taxes are properly paid.

The conduct evaluation includes traffic violations that anyone can commit. If you have a criminal record, such as aggravated assault, your naturalization application will be accepted only if you meet at least the following requirements.

▼If you went to prison

You have been sentenced to probation and have completed the sentence without it being revoked (extinction of punishment).

▼If you didn`t go to prison

You have not been criminally prosecuted or You have not been criminally prosecuted or 10 years have passed since your release without receiving a fine or higher penalty. (extinction of punishment).

▼In the case of a fine

After payment of the fine, 10 years have passed without receiving another fine or higher penalty. (extinction of punishment).

Independent livelihood

The fourth requirement for applying for naturalization is an income that allows you to live without welfare. The calculation is based on “household income." So if you are married and living with your spouse, you can add your spouse’s income.

In addition to the amount of income, financial stability will also be checked, so you may be asked for documents proving your profession and the nature of your employment.

When you become a naturalized citizen, you lose your previous citizenship

The fifth requirement for applying for naturalization is that acquiring Japanese citizenship will cause you to lose your current citizenship. In China and South Korea, which are often the countries of origin of naturalization applicants, citizenship is automatically revoked if the application for naturalization in Japan is approved under the laws of that country.

No involvement in anti-social forces

The sixth requirement for a naturalization application is that you are not involved with gangs or organizations that seek to destroy the government by force. Of course, you are not allowed to start an organization yourself or try to do so on your own.

If you are a business owner or sole proprietor, you may inadvertently be involved with anti-social forces without knowing it. If you have an idea, you should consult an expert.

Other factors affecting admission/non-admission

In the naturalization examination, the question of whether it is possible to live permanently in Japan is assessed in several ways, independent of the above legal requirements. The following issues are also considered and may be the main reason for rejection in some cases.

▼Are your Japanese language skills sufficient?

You should have Japanese language skills that enable smooth communication not only with family members but also with people from other departments at work and with neighbors.

▼Have you been working in the same workplace for a long time?

The number of job changes is a disadvantage when applying for a naturalization permit. This is because your independent living skills are not yet properly developed and for some reason you cannot adapt to the workplace.

FAQ For naturalization application [period and rate of approval]

It is at the discretion of the examiner whether or not he/she can finally acquire Japanese citizenship. The examination does not take place immediately after you submit your documents; you will have to wait for a certain time.

Finally, here are frequently asked questions from foreigners who have applied in the past.

How long does it take for a naturalization application to be approved?

On average, it takes about one to two years for naturalization to be approved.

If you plan to get married, start a business, sign a loan agreement for a real estate purchase, etc., you should allow enough time for the process.

What is the approval rate for naturalization applications?

The final approval rate for naturalization applications has been over 90% every year since 2019 (according to Ministry of Justice statistics). If you meet the listed conditions and are well prepared, you do not need to be aware of the risk of rejection.

Conclusion │ Carefully check the conditions when applying for naturalization in Japan

Naturalization applications are carefully reviewed to ensure that Japanese citizens can live in harmony with society in the future. It is important that you carefully review the conditions for acquiring citizenship so that you can immediately present documents when asked for proof.