Permanent resident visa in Japan: Application guide

Yumiko Kijima

Considering applying to become a permanent resident in Japan? You’re in the right place.

This guide walks through the advantages of becoming a Japanese permanent resident, and the process for making an application.

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What does it mean to be a permanent resident in Japan?

Here’s a brief rundown of the reasons for applying to be a permanent resident in Japan:

  • Your permanent residency is valid indefinitely - no more renewing or extending your visas
  • You’re free to take any job you like, with no need to apply for a different visa if you start working in a different field
  • If your visa is based on your spouse being a citizen or PR of Japan, PR status allows you to stay in Japan even if your relationship ends or your spouse dies
  • Being a PR may mean you may get favourable treatment from Japanese banks, and can access loans and credit more easily

There are still some formalities you’ll need to manage as a permanent resident of Japan. For example, you’ll need to renew your permanent resident card from time to time, and will be expected to apply for a re-entry permit if you leave the country for over 12 months. But overall, being a PR reduces your paperwork and admin burden significantly compared to being a long term visa holder.

How to become a permanent resident in Japan: Requirements

The guidelines for becoming a permanent resident in Japan are laid out on the Immigration Services Agency of Japan’s website¹. In order to be eligible to apply you’ll need to:²

  • Be of good character - you must not have been sentenced to fines or imprisonment and you must comply with public duties like paying taxes
  • Be financially stable based on your existing assets or skills
  • Have been in Japan for 10 years, and worked there for 5 - there are some exceptions to this rule, which we’ll cover in a moment
  • Demonstrate that you are not a risk of harm to public health

Under certain circumstances it is possible to become a PR without having resided in Japan for a full 10 years. The eligibility criteria here are complex, so if you think this may apply to your situation it’s worth checking out the small print online. However, the main situations in which the 10 year rule may be reduced include:

  • Spouses of Japanese nationals, PRs and special PRs may be able to apply after being married for 3 years, and having lived in Japan for 1 year
  • Children of Japanese nationals, PRs and special PRs may be able to apply after living in Japan for 1 year
  • People with long term resident status, and those who make an outstanding contribution to the country may be able to apply after 5 years
  • Highly skilled professionals who meet certain eligibility requirements may be able to apply after as little as 1 - 3 years of residence
  • Refugees may be able to apply after 5 years

Documents required when applying for Japanese permanent residence

When you prepare your application for Japanese PR status you’ll need a set of supporting documents which may vary according to your situation. Here are some key documents usually required - be sure to check out the list before you apply to make sure you’ve covered everything needed in your case:³

  • Completed application form (in English and Japanese) - you can also get the form at Regional Immigration Services Bureaus
  • Your photo taken within 3 months of the date of application
  • Your existing residence card
  • Passport (or Certificate of Eligibility)
  • Supporting materials according to your situation - for example, your family register and birth certificate if you’re applying as a child of a Japanese citizen, PR or special PR

Who is a Guarantor (身元保証人)?

When you make your application to become a permanent resident in Japan you’ll usually need a guarantor. This could be your spouse or parent if you’re applying on the basis of family relationships for example.

The guarantor will have to be a Japanese citizen or PR⁴, and will need to sign a letter of guarantee (in English) (or the Japanese version)

How long does the process take?

When you apply, you’ll need to take your paperwork to your local Regional Immigration Services Bureau. (See the list of immigration offices to find your nearest one). The standard processing time is around 4 months, but it can take longer based on the demand in your local area.³

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What is a ‘spouse of permanent resident’ visa?

If you’re married to a Japanese permanent resident, you can apply for a spouse of permanent resident visa. You may then choose to apply for your own permanent resident status at a later stage. To be eligible for PR you’ll need to have been married for 3 years, and have lived in Japan for at least 1 year.

The spouse of permanent resident visa can be issued for 5 years, 3 years, 1 year or 6 months, depending on your personal circumstances. If you choose to stay in Japan longer than the validity of your visa, you’ll need to renew it - or apply for PR status yourself. ⁶

Application and required documents

To apply for a spouse of permanent resident visa you’ll have to collect the following documents:

  • Your passport
  • Visa application form - contact a Japanese embassy
  • Passport photo
  • Certificate of Eligibility

Some nationalities will need to take along multiple copies of these documents, or additional evidence based on country of origin. There are also extra requirements for Chinese nationals applying for this visa type. Contact a Japanese embassy for more details.

Certificate of eligibility is issued by your local Regional Immigration Authority, and is evidence that you’re eligible to be in Japan, based on meeting the eligibility requirements at the point of landing, and your activities since. ⁶

Acquiring Japanese permanent resident status can be a good option for people who have been in Japan for an extended period, and who expect to remain settled there for the longer term future. It can remove some of the bureaucracy and paperwork involved in regularly extending or renewing your visa, and make it easier to be flexible about your working arrangements. It also gives you assurance that you’ll be able to remain in Japan even if your personal situation changes.

Use this guide as a starting point to learn all you need to know about applying for permanent residency in Japan - and don’t forget, as an expat in Japan you could cut your costs using Wise. Get international transfers which use the real mid-market exchange rate, with no markups and no hassle. See how much you could save with Wise today.

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  1. Permission for permanent residence (Immigration Control Act, Article 22)
  2. Guideline for permission for permanent residence (revised on May 31, 2019)
  3. Application for permission for permanent residence
  4. FAQ - Status of Residence/Naturalization/Permanent Residence - TN Immigration Lawyer's Office (Consultation is Free of Charge)
  5. LETTER OF GUARANTEE Date To:Minister of Justice In connection with Mr Mrs Miss 's application for .( . ) . I hereby guarantee th
  6. Specified visa: Spouse of permanent resident

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