Friday, March 15, 2013

Permanent Residency

I've just returned from the immigration center in Osaka, where I received my permanent residency permit. This makes me happy.

So far I've stayed here on Researcher or Professor visas. They are time-limited — usually to one or three years — and tied to your employer. I can work only in research or teaching1, and if I don't have a job when it's time to renew it I'm out of luck.

The permanent residency permit doesn't normally expire. You can take any job, with a few limits2, and you're not dependent on a guarantor for staying here. For many purposes you have the same rights and obligations as a citizen. Also, people will take you a bit more seriously in some situations; it's apparently easier to qualify for loans and to find a job when people know you intend to be here for the long term.

I don't normally have to renew the permit, and with the new immigration system the permit is only recorded on your residence card so I don't have to do anything when I renew my passport. The residence card has to be renewed every seven years but I can certainly live with that. I can leave Japan for up to a year, and with a re-entry permit I could live abroad for three years at a time without losing the residency.

To get the permit you must have lived here for ten years or longer; not been arrested; and been working, paying taxes and earning enough to support yourself. If you're married to a Japanese citizen you can get permanent residency without the ten-year time and without fulfilling all other requirements. As I'm married to Ritsuko it didn't matter that I've been here only nine years so far.

We applied last June and got it now in March, so it took about nine months. It can apparently go as fast as six months or take up to a year, so it's important that you keep your normal visa up to date while you wait. I think there are seasonal aspects to this; going over New Year probably slows down the process, and I suspect it's not a coincidence that I received it in mid-march, when people try to clear out work before the end of the fiscal year.

It's not really difficult to apply for it yourself, but it involves a lot of forms and documents and a fair amount of legwork. We chose to hire a paralegal rather than do it all ourselves. Basically, he made sure to get all supporting documents, filled in all forms correctly and made sure the office would be satisfied. We only had to check the finished forms and visit the immigration office once to submit the application. To me it was well worth it to avoid the stress and having to take time off work multiple times.

So, am I here for good? We'll stay here in Japan, but for how long we can't know. At least until retirement is my guess — but then, I thought I'd return to Sweden after one year when I first arrived, and see how that turned out. And if anything, permanent residency would make it easier to leave, since you can stay abroad for years without losing your right to return as long as you have a valid re-entry permit.

Having permanent residency is convenient of course. and it can be useful for job hunting and things like that. But what this mostly means to me is peace of mind and a sense of stability. My life here with Ritsuko just got a little more permanent, and that makes me happy.

Me, feeling very peace of mindy. Aren't you happy you let this guy into the country?

#1 I get asked to sell rights to a picture now and again but usually turn people down, partially for this reason. I'm technically not allowed to make a living as a photographer, and the rules seem fuzzy enough that I'd rather not take a chance on this. The other reason, by the way, is the difficulty of receiving small payments from abroad. The only way I've found are bank transfers, and the transfer charge is almost as much as the typical cost of an image license.

#2 The exception is public-sector jobs limited to Japanese citizens only. It surprisingly includes grade- and high-school teachers, while anybody can teach or do research at national universities. Come to think of it, this is generally the case: grade-school teachers need years of training and practice, while any PhD student with a pulse can lecture at a university.


  1. Congratulations you suave man!

  2. Congratulations! You are an idol for me! :)

  3. おめでとう!

    About licensing pictures:
    In a hopefully not-so-distant future, using the Ripple network (or something like it) might be a more convenient option than bank transfers. But it's still in beta, and it will probably take a while before it gains in popularity (if it does).

    In case you want to read about how it works (quite interesting, even if the system itself not that useful yet):

  4. We'll see. Any system would have to be accepted for use by corporations, not just individuals, for it to become a viable payment system. And it would need to comply with a complex patchwork of financial rules and regulations in large parts of the world.

    For Japan it's notable that Paypal, for instance, refuse to forward money here, presumably because they'd have to follow Japanese financial regulations if they did.

  5. Omedetō Gozaimasu!

    One one level left: naturalization / citizenship. ☺

  6. When Japan allows dual citizenship I will certainly consider it :)

  7. You could do as I did for a period, use paypal to get in payments and then use paypal to pay for random small stuff I wanted to buy online from america. As Paypal registers the money in one currency and you decide if you want to convert it, just decide to keep it in a convenient currency and go with it. I used it for buying and selling stuff on ebay.

  8. Um, no, they really don't seem to want business from here at all, and I don't want to risk getting shut out from the account.

    I'll just refuse foreign sales for now. It's less frustrating.

  9. Hi! I was researching permanent residency and came across your blog. I know it's been a few years since you applied. Wondering if you can give me the contact information for the paralegal or company in Osaka that helped you apply for the visa. Thank you for your assistance, Taube

  10. I'm sorry, but I no longer remember the name at all. I probably have it somewhere in a box of documents, but I'm not going to go dig for it.

    Thing is, that paralegal was not specialized in this sort of thing. He accepted the job because he worked with one of our business contacts that recommended him. You should instead pick a lawyer or paralegal that does this kind of thing for a living.


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