Today is one of those days… The day most expats in Japan dread almost as much as going to the Doctor or Dentist. At first you think there’s still plenty of time, and you put it in the back of your mind, but eventually it creeps up on you faster than the calories from that all-you-can eat pizza party. Yep, it’s about that time of the decade again to take the long, ardous trek down to immigration and “enjoy” a half day of waiting and filling out forms to renew your Visa.

This pilgrimage to immigration happens every 3-5 years for most expats in Japan who are not on a permanent resident visa, and is enjoyed about as much as a root canal. If you have all your paperwork in order, however, it’s a relatively painless ordeal in comparison…

Visa Renewal

Tom Petty sang it best: “The Waiting Is The Hardest Part”, and that’s certainly true for this pilgrimage. Since there are usually pretty long waiting times, in the past, bringing a good book was a must, and key component of this journey, but with the advent of modern electronics, it has gotten a lot more bearable In recent years.

Japan has been in the limelight over its immigration policies quite a bit recently, but let me assure you that renewing a Visa in most cases is a mere formality and well within the realm of reasonable possibility. If you’ve ever been in that situation, or if you think you might be in the future, here’s a quick outline of the process of renewing your visa in Japan.

_Please note: There are some extra steps required if you apply for a (1st) Visa outside Japan. More info on that can be found HERE

Currently there are 27 different types of Visa’s in Japan, so make sure you apply for the correct one pertaining to your situation; so the first step below is the most important, as you first have to consider which of these different types of Visa’s you want, or need to apply for. After that it’s the seemingly endless battle of getting the right paperwork, filling everything out, and submitting it. Here’s an outline of the most essential steps involved:

  1. Obtain the correct application form
  2. Bring a copy of your Contract with your employer, a letter of appointment, invitation letter, or any other documents such as a certificate of employment, to prove your activities, position, salary, period of time you will need to stay in Japan, etc.
  3. Bring a copy of your Company’s certificate of registry (Tokibo Tohon, 登記簿謄本). Most companies will provide this automatically if they’re your sponsor.
  4. Bring a copy of your Company’s most recent financial statements (Balance Sheet and Profit and Loss statement), and your tax payment certificate (if it isn’t provided by your company already)
  5. Don’t forget your Resident Card (住民票), as a new one will be issued with the Visa Grant Notification.
  6. Bring a recent passport-sized photo (no older than 3 months). If you don’t have one on hand, there are usually photo-booths in most immigration centres. It costs about ¥700 for a set of 4 pictures.
  7. With all the documents gathered, go to your nearest immigration centre, and grab a number at the counter. When your number is called (might take a while), you have the chance to submit the paperwork, and will receive a receipt. They Also ask you to fill out a post-card with your name and address, which will be mailed to you once the application has been processed.
  8. Just like the old Tom Petty song suggests, the waiting is the hardest part, and that’s what you’ll be doing from here on out. The whole procedure usually takes about 2-4 weeks, but can take up to two months in certain cases.

That’s pretty much it! See, pretty easy, right? Overall, it’s a straight-forward process if you work for a bigger company, as most of the paperwork will be prepared for you by the company’s HR and Accounting Departments. Since company sponsorship is the norm in Japan, this is the fastest and smoothest way to renew your visa. Things can get a little tedious if you work for a smaller company, or are self-employed, however, due to having to request and submit all the necessary paperwork by yourself.

The next step, after getting your self-addressed card in the mail, is to make the trek to immigration again, (with the postcard you received in the mail, your passport, your old gaijin card, and ¥4,000) to pick up your new Visa/Foreigner Card, which means that once again, you’ll grab a number at the counter and play the waiting game until your number comes up. Then a quick signature, payment of the aforementioned sum, exchanging the old gaijin card for your new one, and just like that, you have your brand-new Visa. Congratulations!

New Visa Japan

Finally, here are some important Tips to keep in mind, after getting your new Visa/Foreigner-ID Card.
If you move to another apartment, or another city, you have to report the departure to the city hall / ward-office of the place where you used to live, and also the arrival to the new city hall / ward-office within 14 days of the change.

From July 9, 2012, it is no longer required to have a Re-entry permit in your passport, if you will be back in Japan within 12 months. Should you wish to leave the country longer than that, you are required to obtain a re-entry permit in advance.

Whether it’s a renewal, or your first Visa, I hope this information will help you navigate the intricacies of the Visa-renewal process and smoothen the whole experience for you.  For any further questions, comments, or concerns, please refer to the following Page: Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

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