There comes a time in every foreign resident’s life where their visa expires. For most, that is three years from when you set foot in Airport and get the fancy visa sticker on your passport. If you would like to continue residing in Japan, then the challenge of renewing your visa is not necessarily a hard one. It is just very tedious. Not that long ago, I renewed my visa without any advice, and yes, it was a headache. Hopefully I can make it a little easier for you.
If you are currently employed and have a valid visa you can apply for an extension of your work visa. If you do not have a work visa and would like to get one, then you need to coordinate with your future employer to assemble the needed documentation. If you are a student and become employed, then you are switching your visa’s status and that requires a different procedure. If you decide you wish to quit your job and join a judo dojo that too is a different process. This and the next blog post will concentrate on the extension of the normal “Engineer/Specialist in Humanities/International Services” status visa that is common for the Foreign workers in Japan.
You become eligible to extend your visa 3 months before your current expiration date. The expiration date is listed on your resident’s card. It would be wise to get started on the paperwork as soon as you become eligible. Getting everything listed below can take a couple of weeks to a month. In order to apply for an extension, you will need the following documents:
– The Application Form – You can find this under “Application for Extension of Period of Stay” on the Immigration Services Agency of Japan website. There are different application forms based on your type of work (under “Purpose of entry”). Some of the titles are long winded so thankfully they list examples next to the titles. A quick search for “engineer” had me classified as #7 or “Activities of Highly-Skilled professionals who engage in services which require knowledge pertinent to natural science fields or human science fields”. Linked is a pdf and excel spreadsheet of the necessary documentation for both you and your employer. When your company fills out the form they will need to stamp the last page with the company seal. Scans are not acceptable; you have to bring the real thing to Immigration or your application will not be accepted.
– Passport/Resume Style Photograph – This is a 4cm by 3cm picture. You can find a photo booth at almost any metro station. If you completely forget your picture there is also a photo booth in the Immigration Bureau in Shinagawa (my location) and quite probably your particular location. You only need one copy of your photo to be put on your application form. It needs to be glued, not stapled. This is the photo that will go on your new residence card, you do not want to have a hole in your head where the staple was inserted.
– Residence Card and Passport – You need your residence card (that should always be with you) and your passport. If you’ve gotten a new passport since you received your visa sticker, don’t worry about bringing the old passport. Point to note: you will not get a new visa sticker when you get your extension.
– Proof of Employment – In order to show that you do have a steady income you will need to present your “last year’s withholding tax slip” (前年分の給与所得の源泉徴収票).
– Documents Certifying Tax Payment – You can get your local taxes at your ward office. Ask for “jyuu-min-zei no kazei-shou-mei-shou” (住民税の課税証明書, municipal tax declaration certificate). Keep in mind your ward office is not the same as your municipal office; the place you registered your address when you moved into your apartment.
The 5 Year Highly-Skilled Foreign Professional Visa
Normally when you apply for a visa extension it is for three years. If you are a skilled individual you may qualify for the Highly-Skilled Foreign Professional visa, which is for five years. The Highly-Skilled visa was introduced in 2012 and is a point based visa, meaning if you meet a certain level of requirements you are eligible to apply for the visa. The Highly-Skilled visa is great, not only because it is a five-year visa, but it also allows the ability to change visa statuses (so you could be a working/researching/teaching engineer) without having to go through the paperwork to change your status for each purpose. You also get preferential processing of entry and residence procedures, leniency when applying for permanent residence, and having your parents accompany you in Japan (under certain conditions).
As I said before, the Highly-Skilled visa is a point based visa. The points are based on your education, work accomplishments, salary, and Japanese proficiency (10 points if you passed the N2!). The Ministry of Japan has a “Points Calculation Table” where you can measure your abilities and see if you can apply for the Highly-Skilled visa. The Points Calculation Table leans highly towards young working researchers but if you have a good deal of experience and passed the N1 or N2 you could have a shot at getting the five-year visa.
Overall, if everything goes smoothly it should only take one to two weeks to fill out all the paperwork and get all the necessary items assembled. The Ministry of Japan does a good job of translating most of the essential web pages relating to visa extensions but it is still lacking a good handful of details that can only be found on the Japanese language sites. Outside of the paperwork listed above it would also be wise to find a good book, a stack of manga, or something else to read while waiting/sitting at Immigration. It is a tedious and sometimes crazy road ahead when you finally go to the Immigration Bureau.
But that is a subject for another blog. See you back here for Part II!
Application for Extension of Period of Stay – Immigration Services Agency of Japan website
The Paperwork (Japanese)
Software Engineer and Blogger at TalentHub
Usually coding, writing, or exploring Japan.
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