Japan loves its bureaucracy and red tape. This is evident by the sheer number of forms you have to fill out and hoops you have to jump through to get anything done. Sometimes you get lucky and the forms will have an English version, but sometimes you will find yourself fumbling through a form in all Japanese. It gets even worse when you have to go fill out a form to request a document you need to fill out and submit with another form so that you can request someone else to fill out and have approved another form that lets you renew your visa. Or something like that. The point is that it can be a scary thing and a lot of headache to get anything done. While there are processes for moving residence and such, this time we will look at the Visa renewal process specifically. It is worth noting that this process is being described based on my own specific Visa type and requirements and that I receive some assistance from the company I work for to make it as easy as possible.
So, you have been living and working in Japan for a little while now. You have settled in and are starting to do well for yourself, enjoying you freedom to explore Japan and get lost at your own pace. Maybe you have been here only a year or if you are lucky, maybe three years. Then it happens, you get launched into a frantic mess of trying to get your Visa renewed. Hopefully your employer will help you out like mine has done for me, but that may not always be the case. Make sure you stay on top of it and begin the process as early as possible. Typically starting about three months prior to the expiration of your residency card (zairiyo card, Visa) is the best idea in case you have to take unexpected trips.
What you will need
Lets take a look at what you will need first.
Copy of your contract or employment agreement
Required company documentation
Tax statement ・ gensenchoshuhyo・ 源泉徴収票 - (if you have only been in Japan a few months prior to December of the previous year, You may need to goto your city hall and obtain a document stating that you paid no taxes that year and possibly a proof of residency.)
An appropriately sized photo
Current Residency Card
Statement with official seal of work being done outside that previously allowed.
Working schedule, in my case this is likely to highlight the Eikaiwa work I do outside of regular work since I also have to apply for permission to engage in work outside that allowed by my Visa type.
If your company has not prepared a complete pack for you to just fill out and go, then you will need to do a little leg work. Head over to the Immigration Bureau of Japan's website to acquire the appropriate application forms.
Here is a link:
Once you have obtained the appropriate application and secured the necessary documentation from your employer, you will need to fill out those forms and obtain a picture before going to your local Immigration bureau. Thankfully these forms are primarily in English and pretty straight forward. I do recommend making a few copies though in case you make a mistake or so that you will have them if there is a problem. It never hurts to be prepared. It is also good to keep them as a reference for when you have to do this again next time (next year for many).
The photo you will need is a lot like a passport photo and used for many forms and things in Japan. The photo needs to be 40 mm tall by 30 mm wide. You should be centered in the photo with the top of your head being between 2 mm and 8 mm from the top. Ideal placement would be about 5 mm from the top. From the top of your head to your chin should measure about 25 mm, give or take 3 mm. There should be no shadows and you should face directly forward. There should be no hats. There should also be no backgrounds, only a solid white background. It must be in focus and has to be taken within the past three months.
I know that sounds like a lot of nit picking, but it has to be done. Now that you are panicking about taking the perfect picture, let me make it super easy for you. Japan has automatic photo booths everywhere to do just this. While primarily used for photos to attach to resumes, one option is this style of official photo. It is cheap and quick and usually has an english option. The machine will show you outlines to make sure your head is in the correct position, and you can retake as necessary before committing to a print. Just pay, hop in, follow the instructions, and done.
First trip to the Immigration Bureau
Now that you have all your forms, your applications are completed with a few spares and you have that perfect picture, its time to head to your local Immigration Bureau. For many, there will only be a single location in their own prefecture. You must goto the one for the prefecture in which you live, even if there is one ridiculously closer in the next prefecture. Make sure to have all documents ready, as well as have your passport and residency card ready to enter the building.
Assuming no other documentation is needed, you will fill out your contact information on a notification postcard and they will give you back your residency card and passport. You should also receive an application number on a notice of receipt of your application. Then go home and wait.
Second Trip to the Immigration Bureau
After some time has passed and assuming your application to renew has been approved, you will receive that postcard in the mail notifying you to return to the immigration office within a certain time frame to pick up your visa. But before you go, there are things you will need.
Revenue stamps for the total noted on your postcard
*Revenue stamps ・ 収入印紙 ・ shunyuinshi: These act kind of like a Money Order or Cashier's Check in Japan. They are stamps that guarantee the value at which they are purchased for. You can buy them at any post office and some convenience stores.
Take these items and return to the Immigration Bureau. You should receive a new residence card and that's it! You are all done, until next time.
** Currently, this process is only for a standard Visa and based off of my own process required for my Instructors Visa renewal. Process and required documents may change based on Visa type. We will bring you updates for future types on Visa processes when possible.
Thank you for reading
Thanks for reading and we hope this helps make your visa renewal process a bit easier. Be sure to like this post by clicking on the heart, and share with anyone who needs it. Also, follow us on Facebook or subscribe to our mailing list to get the latest updates. Thank you again, now lets go get lost in Japan!