Ultimate Guide to Zairyu Card (Residence Card in Japan)

Yumiko Kijima
09.04.21
4 minute read

If you’re planning a move to Japan for work, study, or simply to immerse yourself in Japanese culture, you’ll need to know about the Zairyu Card.

A Zairyu Card is issued to most foreigners in Japan who have medium or long term residence passes. Your Zairyu Card shows your residency status, and is a legal proof of ID. Learn about how to get this important document, what to do if you’ve lost your residence card, and what to do if your Zairyu Card expired, here in this handy guide.

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What is a Zairyu Card (Residence card)?

Your Zairyu Card is issued as part of the registration process for foreign nationals. It’s used as an ID document, and you’ll often need to take it along as proof of identity when opening a bank account, renting a property, or setting up basic utilities and services.

Zairyu Cards are issued to most foreigners in Japan who are staying longer than 3 months. The exceptions to this are usually only if you’re a tourist, on a temporary visitor visa, or in a specific situation such as working as a diplomat or official, seeking refuge or under a special permit to reside.¹

Your Zairyu Card captures a set of personal information which is part of the registration process. The details shown on the card include:²

  • Name
  • Date of birth
  • Gender
  • Nationality
  • Address
  • Visa category or status
  • Period of stay, including the date of the card being issued and expiring
  • Photo

The Zairyu Card system was introduced as a replacement to the previous Alien Card. The system was set up to reduce the admin required when registering or changing personal details and status, as well as giving the Japanese government granular detail about which foreigners are in the country, and their residence.

How do I get my Zairyu Card?

Most international arrivals coming through Narita, Haneda, Kansai, or Chubu airports can get their Zairyu Cards at immigration in the airport. However, if you’re arriving through another means you’ll need to find your local immigration department and apply for your Zairyu Card there.

Here’s what will happen, either at the airport or immigraion department:

  • You’ll be asked to give your fingerprints and have a photo taken, as well as showing your passport, visa and other supporting paperwork
  • Subject to checking all documents, your card can then be issued on the spot
  • Within 14 days of moving into your new home, register your residential address with the local authorities³
  • These details will be added to both the card and the immigration database

How do I renew my Zairyu Card? Where can I do it?

When your Zairyu Card is running out, you’ll need to head to the local immigration bureau wherever you live to renew it. This should be done within 30 days of your card’s expiry date. Here’s what to do:

  • Check the procedures of your local immigration office, and make an appointment if necessary
  • Visit the office, taking along your Zairyu Card, passport and any other required supporting documents
  • Apply for a new Zairyu card, which may be produced immediately depending on your circumstances

I lost my Zairyu Card. What should I do?

If your Zairyu card has been lost or stolen you’ll need to apply for a new one at the local immigration department wherever you live.

  • Make an official record of the loss of the card - with the police if stolen, for example
  • Check the procedures of your local immigration office, and make an appointment if required
  • Visit the office, taking along your police report, passport and any other required supporting documents
  • Write a statement explaining what happened to your card, in Japanese - take along a translator if required
  • Apply for a new Zairyu Card, which may be produced immediately depending on your circumstances

What happens to my Zairyu Card if I leave Japan?

If you’re planning on leaving for under a year, you don’t need to do anything in particular with your Zairyu Card. It will still be valid for reentry to Japan.

However, if you’re going to leave for a longer period you’ll need to apply for permission to return to Japan prior to leaving the country. It is not possible to apply for this special reentry permission from outside of Japan. You can apply for single or multiple reentry permission, depending on your needs. If you apply for multiple reentry, you won’t need to complete the application every time you leave Japan. ⁴

Special reentry permission is usually issued for up to 5 or 6 years. If you’re not expecting to return to Japan at all, you should hand your Zairyu Card to the immigration officials at your point of departure. ⁴


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As an expat living abroad, there are always lots of new things to understand and get used to. Getting your Zairyu card is one big step in setting into your new life in Japan - with it you can more easily access services, prove your identity and resident status, and rent your new home. Another smart way to hit the ground running in Japan is to get a new international account from Wise. Cut the costs of sending, converting and receiving money from abroad, with convenient and secure services for everyone. See how much you can save with Wise today.


Sources

  1. 総務省|Basic Resident Registration System for Foreign Residents
  2. 総務省|Basic Resident Registration System for Foreign Residents|Resident Record
  3. 総務省|Basic Resident Registration System for Foreign Residents|Move in / Move out
  4. Immigration Services Agency of Japan|Q&A

This publication is provided for general information purposes only and is not intended to cover every aspect of the topics with which it deals. It is not intended to amount to advice on which you should rely. You must obtain professional or specialist advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the content in this publication. The information in this publication does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from TransferWise Limited or its affiliates. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether express or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.

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