Immigration and residence procedures

The current registration procedures for visitors to Japan were instituted in July 2012 as a system of residence management, under which all foreign nationals intending to stay in Japan for three or more months must apply for a Residence Card at the port of entry, and then register at their places of residence with local municipalities.

Applications for extension of period of stay, change of status of residence, or re-entry permit must be made at an immigration office.

What is a Residence Card?

A Residence Card (zairyu card) is an identify document listing the holder's name, date of birth, nationality/region, address in Japan, and status and period of residence. It will be issued to newly arrived foreign nationals intending to stay in Japan for three or more months.

For those arriving at Narita, Haneda, Chubu, Kansai, New Chitose, Hiroshima, and Fukuoka Airports, this card will be issued immediately after immigration clearance. For those entering Japan via any other airport, the card will be delivered to their residence after they submit a Notification of Place of Residence to their local municipal office.

International residents are required by law to carry their Residence Cards with them at all times.

Please note:

  • The card will not be issued to those with a Temporary Visitor’s visa or those intending to leave Japan within three months.
  • The card expires on the same day as the holder's status of residence, but can be renewed by applying to the Immigration Bureau.
  • The following uses of a Residence Card (or Alien Registration Card) are prohibited by law, and subject to criminal charges (with possible imprisonment), cancellation of resident status, and/or deportation:
    - Failing to apply for, carry, or present the card upon request by relevant authorities
    - Making, possessing, and/or using a counterfeit card
    - Lending, borrowing, buying, or selling the card

For students with a valid Alien Registration Card

Students with a valid Alien Registration Card and a "College Student" status of residence may continue to use that card until their resident status expires. Such students are actually required to keep their Alien Registration Card even under the current residency management system.

Students will be issued a Residence Card when their application for an extension of period of stay or change of status of residence is granted by the Immigration Bureau.

Those wishing to obtain a Residence Card earlier can request one at the Immigration Bureau.

Extension of stay and change of status of residence

Researchers and students expecting to stay in Japan beyond the initially granted period must apply for an extension at the Immigration Bureau.

Such extensions, as well as with any other changes in status of residence, must be immediately reported to the Faculty/Graduate School office concerned.

Temporary departure from Japan and the Special Re -entry Permit

International students temporarily leaving Japan, even for a short period (such as to visit their home countries), must complete the following procedures.

On campus

  1. Obtain permission from the academic advisor.
  2. Report to the Faculty/Graduate School office concerned.

At the port of exit

Those with a valid passport and residence card, and who intend to return to Japan after spending less than a year outside the country (and before their authorized period of stay in Japan expires), may do so on a Special Re-entry Permit (minashi sai-nyukoku kyoka), which, unlike a regular Re-entry Permit, does not require application to an immigration office.

A Special Re-entry Permit can be obtained at the port of exit. Applicants must present to an immigration officer an Embarkation and Disembarkation Card for Re-entrants (ED card), with the appropriate boxes checked, along with a residence card.

Please note, however, that Special Re-entry Permits can NOT be extended; failure to re-enter Japan before the Permit expires will result in a revocation of residential status.

Those expecting to be outside Japan when their authorized period of stay expires are advised to apply for an extension before leaving the country.

Resident registration

All foreign nationals intending to stay in Japan for three or more months must register their places of residence with their local City/Ward Office within 14 days of moving in.

Those who have moved within Japan must submit a Notification of Change of Address to the office of the City or Ward they have moved to. Students who have made such a move must notify their Faculty/Graduate School of their new address within 14 days.

Required items:

  1. Passport
  2. Residence Card (if already issued)

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National Health Insurance

All foreign nationals staying in Japan for 3 months or longer are required to enroll in a Japanese public medical insurance program.

For students, the most common and highly recommended option is National Health Insurance (NHI). Subscribers need only pay 30% of medical costs upon presentation of their NHI Card at the hospital reception prior to receiving treatment. The insurance premium varies depending on individual circumstances, such as family size. In the case of unmarried international students living in the city of Kyoto, the annual payment will be approximately 18,000 yen. Applications for NHI are to be submitted after resident registration to the municipal health insurance department.

However, those with a Temporary Visitor Visa or three-month College Student Visa are not eligible for NHI, and are therefore advised to purchase a travel insurance policy (or similar) instead. Some Japanese insurance companies offer products available for enrollment before arriving in the country.

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Work permit

International students are allowed to have a part-time job, provided that they obtain a "work permit" in advance from an immigration office. Applications are available at ports of entry as well as at immigration offices.

Applicants must also agree to the following terms:

  1. The job must not interfere with academic work.
  2. For College Student Visa holders, the maximum hours of work are 28 hours per week (during summer and other long breaks, this is extended to up to 8 hours per day, within the confines of the legal 40-hour work week).
  3. The job must not affect public order and morals (as an example, sex-industry employment is forbidden).

Working without permission will incur a penalty.

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