Maybe you, a foreign national, like living in Japan so much that you want be able to stay permanently. To do this, you will need a Permanent Resident visa. This visa allows unlimited duration for your stay, meaning you don’t have to keep on renewing your visa (however, you have to renew your resident card every 7 years). Also, you may work in any job.
If you have lived in Japan for 10 years or more, you may apply for a Permanent Resident visa.
If you were approved as a Highly Skilled Professional (HSP), you may apply for Permanent Residency after 4 years and 6 months from the date you were approved as a HSP. The duration you lived in Japan before getting the status of HSP is not counted in this case. For example, if you were approved as a HSP after living in Japan for 3 years, the 3 years would not be included in the 4 years and 6 months. The duration of stay needed to apply for the Permanent Residency after having been assessed as a HSP may soon be shortened to 3 years.
If you are the spouse of a Japanese national, an approval can be made after 3 years of stay.
However, if you have not been paying taxes (not only the national tax but also residential tax), or are unable to obtain your tax certificates, or have not been paying social insurance premiums, or have other problems including a minor traffic offence, the approval can become difficult. Please note that the payment record of the taxes and social insurance premium is particularly important.
Sometimes your financial situation can become an issue. For example, recent cases have required a minimum annual income threshold of 3,300,000 yen for a single person, 4,000,000 yen for a couple and 4,500,000 yen for a couple with a child.
Things to note after you are approved as a Permanent Resident
Once you are approved as a Permanent Resident, you will be issued a Resident Card that shows your Permanent Residency. If you already have a Resident Card with a different status, you will exchange the old Resident Card for the new Resident Card.
When you obtain a Resident Card for the first time, you need to register your address at your local municipality office in Japan as defined by the Residential Basic Book Act. If you move, you have to re-register at your new address. Your personal information will be transferred online from the Immigration Bureau of Japan to your local municipality office.
If you have been away from Japan for 6 years or more since you received your Permanent Residency, your Permanent Resident status may be revoked. You must make sure that you have at least 6 years of valid residential registration in Japan during the 7 years’ renewal periods.
If you commit any crime, including tax offences, you will be a subject to Forcible Deportation. Then you can no longer stay in Japan. Please note that a Permanent Resident status may become void in these circumstances.
One thing to note is that if you are considering bringing your parents from overseas, HSPF No.2 visa may make things easier for you than the Permanent Resident visa.
Please make sure to obtain a Re-entry Permit if you may be staying outside Japan for over 1 year. If you stay outside Japan for more than 1 year without a Re-entry Permit, your Permanent Resident status becomes void.
What happens if your Japanese spouse passes away? What happens if you get a divorce? In these cases there is no change to your status of Permanent Residency.
How to Aplly
If you want permanent residency, what documents does the Immigration Bureau require?
First, you will need an Application form for Permanent Residency. You will also need a document, written in the Japanese language, which describes the reason for your application for the Permanent Residency in Japan. You may submit supplements such as photos of yourself at work and with your family. It is better to have as much information as possible to support your application.
For your personal identification, you will need various certificates such as your family register, your birth certificate, and your marriage certificate. In addition, you provide your Certificate of Residence (as of 9th July 2012, a Certificate of Residence will be issued to foreign nationals as well). To further your application, recommendation letters from companies and universities can be beneficial.
You will also need the documents to certify your social status and means of financial support, as follows: if you are an employee of a company, you will need your employment certificate; if you are a company executive, you will need a certified copy of the corporate register; if you are self-employed, you will need a copy of your final tax return and statements of payments of national pension and national health insurance. As a proof of income, you will need a withholding tax allowance certificate. A self-employed person needs a certificate of tax payment. You will need to provide a certificate of your bank account balance or your actual bank account book and a copy. If you own any real estate, you will need certified copies of the real estate register as well. You will also need a certificate of residential tax payment, because a tax payment record as a resident in Japan is one of the assessment criteria for this visa.
To provide a personal reference from a guarantor may be one of the hardest tasks for you to arrange. Your guarantor must be a Japanese national or a permanent resident in Japan; your guarantor’s occupation certificate, income certificate, and a certificate of residence will be required as well as the guarantee document.
If you have received a decoration for bravery or distinguished services, or a certificate of commendation from a local government or the national government of Japan, then you should submit certified copies of them. You may also submit any proof of your activity as a volunteer.
The possibility of obtaining a Permanent Resident visa improves with thorough preparation and submission of the above documents with the application form.
I will repeat here of some recent cases showing financial requirements: minimum annual income of 3,300,000 yen for a single person, 4,000,000 yen for a couple and 4,500,000 yen for a couple with a child. Paying tax and having an occupation with stable income is one of the key aspects.
Please make sure to apply for your visa extension if your current visa is likely to lapse before the permit is issued.
My Number System and the Permanent Resident visa
The My Number System is scheduled to start in 2016 and will affect foreign nationals as well as Japanese nationals. Once this system started, tax payment records of Permanent Resident visa holders become easily accessed by the immigration authority. You may encounter a problem with your visa renewal if there is no record of tax payment, and the renewal can be refused. Also the My Number System will allow the authority to check the payment records for national pension and premiums for national health insurance. Please note that lack of pension and health insurance payments can lead to the refusal of renewal of your visa.