My permanent residence visa…GOT IT!

After 5 long months of wondering “Will I get it???”, I got the call today from my immigration lawyer. I got my permanent residence status!! Booya! For those not familiar with the life of a gaijin in Japan, this is a HUGE deal. It means you are free to do what you want. You are no longer tied to an employer just for the sake of a visa. You can open a business. You can get a loan on the same conditions as a Japanese national. But mostly, it’s just the peace of mind knowing that you no longer have to go through the visa renewal process ever again. It makes Japan your home.

OK, without any further ado, here is the visa.

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This makes it official. I got the call from my immigration lawyer today. I went in, paid the remaining balance of 25,000yen (about $250) owed to their office (you only pay in the case of getting the visa), and I went next door to immigration and got the permanent residence status stamp on my passport. My shiny, new “Eijyuken” 永住権 stamp (永=forever 住=live 権=right). Domo! Otsukare!

OK, I’ve been here 17 years, paid my taxes, kept the same job the entire time, and haven’t done anything illegal, so I’m not surprised that I got it…but I am relieved. The immigration office is notorious for refusing people with no explanation. Also, the average time it takes to get the visa is something like 10 months to a year. Mine was 5 months, almost to the day. So it was quite fast. And well timed, because I was about to go and reapply for my normal work visa on Friday. The only bad news is that when I applied for the tax papers I needed, they found that I had missed paying a certain part of my taxes for a year – an honest mistake on the part of the city hall office – to the tune of almost $5,000. That hurt a bit. But I got my visa, so I still think it was worth it. Who’s kidding who, you gotta pay taxes anyway, right?

Well, since this visa really doesn’t change much for me, there’s no point in going on about it. I just wanted to share the good news. So now on to the more important information — about the application procedure in case any other hopeful gaijin are reading this with the intent of getting their Eijyuken. Here’s the story of my application ordeal…

First, before you start, let it be known that the amount of paperwork involved in applying for the Eijyuken is significant, and it’s all in Japanese. I’d heard from friends who had it that the actual application was easy to do, but I hate hassle, and I didn’t want to take a chance of screwing up, so I applied via an immigration lawyer. I’m glad I did. If you are applying, I’d recommend you do the same. The initial fee was 25,000 yen (about $250) and I paid the same again today. I think it was worth every yen. Even assuming I had no problems (which I did, see below), having to go into the immigration office and get the Japanese forms explaining what I need, then trying to hunt that stuff down without guidance would have been annoying and challenging, even for a guy with the Level 1 Japanese proficiency (which, as it turns out, I have).

What really makes the law office worthwhile is the insider information. They know exactly what the immigration people look for — particularly about tax documentation. As it turns out, there was a small problem with mine. It seems that for 1 year the city hall had not collected my city tax off of my paycheck. This required further forms, plus a letter that city hall wrote for me explaining that this was entirely their fault, and I was in no way responsible for the screw up. But that was an expensive letter, as I had to pay half of my outstanding 430,000 yen tax bill in one shot to get it. Then I kissed a good chunk of my last royalties check goodbye in February to pay the rest. Leggo my money, yo!

In any case, going through the law office was exactly the right thing to do. I never would have finished the application had it not been for the guidance I got from them. Plus, the guys I dealt with were super nice, spoke fluent English, and became good enough friends that I’m taking them out for beers next week to celebrate. The office I went through is the one beside the immigration office at the Chiba City Hall in Chiba Minato. I think they are about the cheapest in Japan, so if you live in Chiba, Hi-5s all around. If you live in Tokyo or other prefectures, you need a slightly bigger piggy bank.

And now, for other foreigners thinking of doing their residence visa, here’s a rundown of what you need. Note that in addition to your own forms, you also need to ask a gainfully employed Japanese national to be your “guarantor” (保証人). I am lucky to have an amazingly cool Japanese buddy who did this for me. It’s asking a lot — they have to reveal all their tax information to you. So Masa, I am going to take you out for major beers and all the 焼肉 you can eat for this one, bro!

From the guarantor:
1. Their proof of citizenship
2. A certificate of employment
3. One copy of their most recent earnings statement from work. Just one year
4. A form the guarantor must sign saying how they know you

From you (required)
1. Your alien registration card (“gaijin card”)
2. Proof of current employment (from employer)
3. A copy of your earnings statements report for the last 3 years (from employer)
4. A copy of your citizen’s tax form for the last 3 years (from city hall/city tax office)
5. A copy of your payment of tax forms for the last 3 years (from city hall / city tax office)
6. A copy of your bank account balance or other proof of current wealth level
7. Passport

Other documents (optional, but suggested)
1. A letter stating your reasons for requesting the visa. Good time to show commitment to community and Japan.
2. Your Japanese proficiency certification
3. A copy of any degrees or other qualifications

And if you need this stuff in Japanese, here it is:
身分保証人から:
1.住民票
2.在職証明書
3.源泉徴収票または、住民税課税証明書
4.本人と保証人の関係の説明書

本人から(必要)
1.外国人登録証明書
2.在職証明書
3.源泉徴収票(3年分)
4.住民税課税証明書(3年分)
5.住民税納税証明書(3年分)
6.遺産の証明:残高証明書、通帳コピーなど
7.パスポート

本人から(追加)
1.本人が書く説明書。永住権を申し込む理由、日本においての貢献などの説明。
2.日本語能力試験結果書
3.修士課程などの卒業書のコピー

So what does all this paperwork look like?

Good luck!!

As for me, no more visas, baby! Time for a few drinks!

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