Permanent Residence Visa
If you plan on living in Japan for a long time, you should get a permanent residence visa (永住ビザ eijū bisa). Why? Because it gives you more control of your life, and there are no drawbacks.
When I first came here, I had an instructor visa, which allowed me to teach English, and I've renewed that visa several times. To renew the instructor visa, I need proof that I have a full-time English teaching job with a decent salary, a letter from my employer, and some other trivial paperwork. That's simple enough, but it puts constraints on me: I have to teach English, I have to work full-time, I'm highly dependent on my employer completing the proper paperwork, and I have to be employed.
The permanent residence visa doesn't require any of these things. You can work part-time, and many people like to work a combination of two or three part-time jobs. Or if you have savings, you don't even have to work at all. And you can shift from teaching English to whatever other kind of work might come your way.
According to the Ministry of Justice in 2016, here are some requirements for me to obtain permanent residence. If you're married, or can use some other special application procedures, the requirements are different.
- Good behavior.
- Financially stable. The minimum required income is not stated. I read on some website that it was around ¥3,300,000 per year.
- Ten years residence in Japan. You can apply partway through your ninth year because the process takes at least four months.
To apply for a permanent residence visa (永住許可申請 eijū kyoka shinsei), it would be useful if you speak decent Japanese or have a spouse who does. Or you could hire a professional to apply on your behalf. The English-language documentation is sparse, but Japanese help pages exist.
The Ministry of Justice describes the procedure. Here's the required paperwork.
- Application form. Print it single-sided.
- ID photo. 4cm x 3cm. Affix to application.
- Residence Card.
- A color copy of your contract (契約書 or 辞令). If it's expiring soon, bring the current and new one.
- Proof of salary. For example, a copy of a paycheck, or a copy of your contract (if it shows your salary).
- A copy of a bank statement showing you have some money saved.
- Jūminhyō (住民票) with nothing redacted. Get this residence document from city hall.
- Nōzeishōmeisho (納税証明書) for the last three years. Get these tax documents from city hall.
- Kazeishōmeisho (課税証明書) for the last three years. Get these tax documents from city hall.
Your guarantor (身元保証人) needs to complete some paperwork, too. There is no legal or financial liability for the guarantor, but you still need one. I asked a coworker.
- Mimotohoshōsho (身元保証書). This form should be completed by your guarantor.
- Jūminhyō (住民票). Ask your guarantor to get this residence document from city hall.
- Kazeishōmeisho (課税証明書). Ask your guarantor to get this tax document from city hall.
- Zaishokushōmeisho (在職証明書). Ask your guarantor to get proof of employment from their employer.
I went to the immigration office in Tachikawa but I only had half of the above papers. The man gave me an envelope and a list of the things I still need to submit. I have two weeks to gather the remaining papers and send them in.
Six Months Later
The postcard came in the mail. I had moved apartments, and although I was worried about whether the mail would forward properly, everything was fine. After years of experience waiting for hours, I learned that if you arrive at the visa office at 7:30 — an hour and a half before it opens — you'll be first in line. So I grabbed my postcard, passport, Residence Card, and two ¥4,000 yen revenue stamps and headed down to Tachikawa. Sure enough, first in line. Fifteen minutes after the doors opened, I got the card and was gone. The second guy in line joined me at the convenience store for a cold beverage to celebrate the occasion.