In the last entry, we delved into the paperwork involved to extend your work visa. In this entry I will give my experience finishing the process, play-by-play. Hopefully you won’t make some of the same mistakes as I did.
The First Immigration Office Visit
Living in the capital of Japan means you need to go to Tokyo Regional Immigration Bureau in Shinagawa to apply. The Tokyo Regional Immigration Bureau is responsible for handling not only foreigners living in Tokyo, but most of the neighboring prefectures: Ibaraki, Tochigi, Gunma, Saitama, Chiba, Kanagawa, Niigata, Yamanashi, and Nagano. To find out where you should go check out Japan’s Immigration Services Agency of Japan website under Organization/Structure (link below).
I prepared for the worst and prayed for the best. Since the Immigration offices are only open on weekdays, I decided to use half of a vacation day to go and submit my paperwork in the morning. I prepared to get their early, right when they opened, but I made a crucial error: I forgot my local tax documentation. Thankfully, my local government offices were open early, and via a couple of bus rides I got my paperwork and proceeded to Shinagawa Station.
Once I arrived at Shinagawa Station, I went to the bus stop designated for the Tokyo Regional Immigration Bureau. (Yes, there is a bus specifically for the Immigration Bureau, and in the morning it reaches capacity quite quickly.) Once I arrived everything played out as follows:
9:45AM Got in line. The line for visa extension is on the second floor of the building, right at the end of the main escalator. The line is marked by a gold star, which didn’t make sense to me. Most signs are bilingual (Japanese/English) but there is no real sign that says “START HERE”, instead it is a gold star. I arrived and the line was over capacity, spilling into the adjacent hallway.
11:00AM After waiting in the gold star line I had my paperwork checked over and received a numbered slip and a postcard. The man at the counter suggested that I should try for a 5 year extension instead of the 3 year extension so I reworked my application. There were 100 people ahead of me. I took the time to fill out a postcard with my name and address. After that I just sat back and read the book that I brought with me just for these down times.
12:26PM Had my number called and walked up to a different counter than before. I was given a receipt to fill out. I then handed over the receipt along with my paperwork, passport, and residents card. All of which was promptly thrown into one of several stacks behind the counter. Each stack was numbered and was assigned to a different processing counter.
12:43PM Not long after handing over my paperwork I got my name called (don’t wear headphones, you have to listen to your name being called in a room with hundreds of people talking). The man at the counter said everything was good to go. He gave me the receipt that I wrote up earlier with additional information filled in, my passport, and residents card.
That was it, I was good to go home, or in my case, to work, a little later than expected.
The Follow Up
5 weeks after my visit to the Immigration Bureau I got my postcard in the mail. I felt lucky: the postmen could read my sloppy kanji. The postcard said to bring my passport, residence card, the application receipt I filed about before, the postcard itself, and a 4000 yen revenue stamp. I told my boss I would be taking a half day vacation and was off to Shinagawa. Again.
9:00AM Went to the Shinagawa Post Office to get my revenue stamp. The revenue stamp is how you pay for the application process.
9:36AM Lined up at Permissions counter. It is in a different part of the second floor. Follow the lines painted on the floor to find the Permissions counter. The line was at max capacity, which was far less than the applications line the previous day, roughly 100 people.
10:30AM Got through the line. The man at the counter took all my paperwork and handed me a form to fill out and put my revenue stamp on. In return, I got a numbered slip. I looked up at a screen displaying the numbers of the current group (they call up 5 people at a time) and in the corner it said “Estimated time: 3hrs”… wow. So to use my time wisely, I figured I’d hop into a bus back to Shinagawa station. There, I had lunch and a hot chocolate.
12:35PM I probably should not have had the extra hot chocolate. By the time I came back, they were just finishing up my group. I gave them my number slip and got my passport, my new residence card, and my old residence card with a hole punched through it. Seems I didn’t qualify for the 5 year extension (Highly-Skilled Professional visa); just got my visa renewed for 3 years.
Like I said before, it is a tedious process that involves you, the company you work for, your local government, and immigration. Each step takes some time and planning; the most important thing is being patient. Be patient through the paperwork, and through the processing. Don’t go to Immigration in a hurry, because the people behind the desk clearly are not. Next time, I might try filing my extension in the afternoon after going to work in the morning. This way, I will not constantly feel edgy about being late to work. If you are looking to get your visa extended I hope the heads-up helps. Good luck and Godspeed!
Immigration Services Agency of Japan – Organization/Structure
Software Engineer and Blogger at TalentHub
Usually coding, writing, or exploring Japan.
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