What is the meaning of “naturalization” │ Differences with foreign permanent residents


Naturalization in Japan (application for permission to naturalize) is a procedure by which the Minister of Justice grants you Japanese citizenship so that you can act as a Japanese citizen rather than a foreign resident. It is different from a permanent residence permit and makes a big difference in your daily life and travel.

Differences between naturalized citizens and foreign permanent residents

There is no difference between a naturalized person and a foreign permanent resident in that they can continue to live in Japan. However, while naturalized persons are “Japanese," permanent residents are still referred to as “foreigners who are allowed to reside in Japan."

Below are the specific differences you will experience in your daily life.

You can have a family registry

For Japanese, there is not only a resident registration system but also a family register system that proves kinship from birth to death. Foreigners can use the family registry system only if they have permission to naturalize.

The family register has several functions, one of which is to determine the beneficiary of public pensions and insurance entitlements. In addition, based on Japanese inheritance law, it has the function of clarifying the person who has the right to acquire the inheritance (= legal heir).

The right to vote

Only those who hold Japanese citizenship have the right to vote or run in national elections in Japan. Naturalization satisfies these requirements.

In local elections, there are more and more areas with ordinances stating that “foreigners can also vote," but it is still difficult to run for office. If you want to be more active in politics, you must be a naturalized citizen, not just a permanent resident.

You can get a Japanese passport

As of 2022, you can travel to 192 countries without a visa with a Japanese passport (according to a study by Henry & Partners). This far surpasses major countries such as the United States and China, and the Japanese are considered one of the few nationalities that can most easily travel around the world.

Naturalizing and obtaining a passport will not only improve your life in Japan but also your comfort when traveling for business or pleasure.

For employment and all kinds of transactions, you will be treated as a Japanese citizen

If you are a permanent resident of another country and are in the position of a “resident foreigner with a residence permit," you often face inconvenience when conducting business. If you do not have any residential qualifications, your activities will be further restricted and your main business may be hindered each time you renew or change your visa.

Since you will be treated as a Japanese citizen after neutralization, you need not worry about the above problems.

Important information about the naturalization application

When deciding whether someone should be naturalized, the situation of each applicant is assessed individually. The most important thing to remember is that the procedure is complicated and lengthy.

Duration of the naturalization application and required documents

The documents required for naturalization vary from person to person, and it takes about a year after submitting the documents for you to be notified of the results. However, there are some points during the screening that might alert you, for example, if you are invited for an interview.

【For reference】Required documents for office workers with Korean citizenship (Special Permanent Residents, etc.) to apply.

A set of application formsApplication for naturalization, hand-written motive for naturalization、resume, written oath, etc.
Documents you can obtain in Japan as a foreignerSpecial permanent resident certificate, copy of the family register, birth certificate, etc.
Documents issued by home countryBasic certificate, marriage certificate, family relations certificate, adoption certificate, etc.
Certificates of public obligationsNational and local tax payment certificates, receipts for various insurance premiums, etc.
Certificates proving financial statusCertificate of income and withholding tax, payslip, income tax certificate, certificate of employment, etc.
OtherFamily tree, medical certificate from the attending physician, etc.

Dual citizenship is not allowed [you will be treated as a foreigner in your home country]

Dual citizenship is not allowed in Japan, and you must renounce the citizenship of your home country when you naturalize. In other words: If your naturalization is approved, you will be treated as a foreigner from the perspective of your home country’s government. If you try to re-enter the country, you will have to go through the usual immigration and residency procedures.

For these reasons, it is better for those who will be returning to their home country frequently in the future to apply for permanent residency rather than naturalization.

Conclusion │ If you plan to live in Japan for a long time, you should apply for a naturalization permit

Obtaining Japanese citizenship through naturalization is beneficial in all situations, such as employment, inheritance, and insurance claims. It is recommended for people who have many opportunities to travel while having a base in Japan, as many countries allow Japanese to enter without a visa.

The remaining problem is the complexity of the naturalization application. Also, there are certain requirements to pass the screening, and you must prove that you meet the requirements with the necessary documents. When tackling the naturalization process, you should get help from someone who is as familiar as possible with the process in Japan.