If you have been living in Japan for a while, you should definitely consider applying for permission for permanent residence. This will allow you to freely choose your profession, participate in elections, and expand the range of activities available to your entire family.
However, before you apply, you should consider the following points.
What is permanent residence?
For foreigners living in Japan, there are usually restrictions on how long they can stay and what they can do. If you obtain a “permission for permanent residence" under Article 22 of the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act, you are not subject to these restrictions.
The permanent residence visa is, in a sense, “the right to live as if you had Japanese citizenship."
Differences from regular residence statuses
There are different types of visas for foreign residents, depending on the type of activity, such as studying abroad or working in a particular industry. The differences between these and permanent resident visas are summarized in the table below.
|Points for comparison||Permanent Resident Visa||Other visas|
|Duration of stay||Indefinite||Determined|
|Activities||Free||Depend on the type of visa|
|Permission to engage in activities other than permitted under the status of residence||Yes（part-time job, working two jobs, etc.）||Separate permission required(Even with this permission, there are restrictions on working hours, etc.)|
|Voting rights||No（Possible in some areas)||No|
|Immigration/Residence of family members||No restrictions for the duration of stay and type of employment||There are restrictions for the duration of stay and type of employment|
Benefits of a permanent residence visa
The benefits of a permanent resident visa in daily life can be roughly divided into six categories. Life planning opportunities are immediately expanded for the whole family and their life in Japan is greatly improved.
▼Free from burdensome residency rules
If you live in Japan with a different residency status, you have to go through certain visa procedures every time you change jobs or temporarily return to your home country. You must also carry your residence card with you every day, and you will be fined if you leave home without it. With a permanent residence card, there are no complicated rules like the ones mentioned above.
▼Free choice of profession
The best thing about a permanent resident visa is that you can do any type of job and freely choose where you want to work.
You can work part-time to earn income or gain experience. Even if you start your own business, you do not have to meet the requirements of the “management" residency status, such as preparing a certain amount of capital.
▼It becomes easier to borrow money
If you have a visa to study or work abroad, it is difficult to pass the credit check. This is because there is a possibility that you will leave Japan before full repayment.
If you have a permanent residency permit, you can easily take out a mortgage or business loan as long as you meet the income and asset standards.
▼No work restrictions for spouses
If you join your spouse on a family member visa, you are generally only allowed to work up to 28 hours per week. If you wish to work longer, you must apply for special permission.
If you have the residence status “spouse of a permanent resident, etc.", the above restrictions do not apply and you are also free to change jobs.
Requirements for obtaining permanent residence
In order to obtain permanent residency in Japan, you must first meet the legal requirements. One of them is that you must live in Japan for at least 10 years.
The requirements for obtaining a permanent residence visa are also listed on the government website.
The legal requirements for obtaining a permanent residence permit can be roughly divided into three types. Let us go through them in order.
The first requirement is that you abide by the law and conduct your daily life in such a way that you will not be criticized socially. You must obey traffic laws every day and not inconvenience your workplace or your neighbors.
You must have enough assets or skills to be able to make a living independently
The second requirement is that you are not a public nuisance in your daily life and that your assets or abilities allow you to live a stable life in the future. Simply put, you are able to work or have the assets and income to support yourself.
The applicant’s permanent residence should be in the interest of Japan
The third requirement is that your stay can be recognized as “in the interest of the country" by taking into account your stay in Japan up to the time of application. Specifically, this includes the following requirements.
- Generally, a length of stay of 10 years or more.
A 5-year work visa (except for technical interns and specified skilled workers (i)) or a residence permit is required. Illegal stays, such as an overstay, mean that you do not meet this requirement.
- You have no criminal record and meet your public obligations
If you have been sentenced to prison or fined, it is almost impossible to obtain permanent residency. Even if you do not have a criminal record, you must meet your tax obligations and comply with the procedures set by the local government or the Japanese Immigration Service.
- Currently you have the visa for the maximum allowed period of stay
When applying for or renewing your residency status, the length of stay is determined individually based on your background and skills. To apply for permanent residency, you must be granted the maximum length of stay allowed by law for your current residency status.
- You do not pose a threat to public health
Simply put, this means that you must keep your environment clean and not have any dangerous contagious diseases.
Exceptions to the basic 10-year residency requirement
In general, there are certain exceptions to the rule that you can only apply for permanent residency only if you have lived in Japan for 10 years or more. Even if you have lived in Japan for a shorter period of time, you can apply in the six cases listed in the table below.
|Status of the applicant||When is it possible to apply for permanent residence?|
|Married to a Japanese citizen or permanent resident||After a stay of 3 years or more|
|Have a “long-term resident" status||After a stay of 5 years or more|
|Recognized as a refugee||After a stay of 5 years or more|
|Contributes to Japan through legal activities||After a stay of 3 or 5 years or more|
|Has more than 70 points in Points-based preferential Immigration System for Highly Skilled Foreign Professionals||After a stay of 3 years or more|
|Has more than 80 points in Points-based preferential Immigration System for Highly Skilled Foreign Professionals||After a stay of 1 year or more|
How to apply for a permanent residence
To obtain permanent residency in Japan, you must submit the required documents to the immigration office responsible for your place of residence. The documents are briefly introduced below.
Documents that need to be submitted to the Japan Immigration Office
The following documents are required from the applicant. You can download the Application for Permanent Residence Permit and Consent Form as a PDF files from the government website (link).
- Application for permanent residence
- Photograph (4cm×3cm)
- Residence card (+Permission to engage in activities other than permitted under the status of residence)
- Passport or certificate of status of residence
- Documents proving employment (certificate of employment, etc.)
- Documents certifying the status of payment of taxes and income
- Documents certifying the status of payment of public pensions and compulsory health insurance
- Hand-written consent
Required documents for a spouse/child
If you are applying for residency status for your family as well, you must prepare the following documents in addition to the basic applications.
▼Documents proving the identity
Copy of the family register, marriage certificate, birth certificate, etc.
▼Certificate of residence for the entire family
It is available at the municipal administration of your place of residence.
Conclusion │ Consult a professional before applying for permanent residence
Even if you meet all the requirements and prepare all the necessary documents, it does not mean that you will definitely receive a permanent residence permit. The final decision on approval/rejection rests with the Japanese Immigration Department (more specifically, the Minister of Justice). To improve your chances of obtaining a permit, you can seek the help of an administrative scrivener or a professional familiar with the life of foreigners in Japan.
▼What to consider when applying for permanent residency?
- In general, you must have resided in the country for at least 10 years at the time of application
- Many documents are required as proof, such as tax payment status, insurance payment status, occupation, etc.
- If you meet all the requirements and get the permit, you can live almost as freely as a Japanese national