Want to Live in Japan Permanently? Here’s How to Become a Citizen

  • HOW TO
  • Do you want to live in Japan permanently, and enjoy the safety, security, and stability that comes with being a citizen here? You wouldn’t be the first to want to or try to achieve this.

    After all, Japan is seen as a great place to set up home for many people over the world. Particularly in an era of less stability in many parts of the world, both economically and culturally, perhaps Japan is a pretty sensible choice.

    The economy may not be booming but at least it’s relatively stable and reliable. Crime is famously low here, and you are likely to feel safe in any part of Japan. There are plenty of jobs knocking around, particularly for teaching and in technology industries. The law is (generally) progressive, and you have the basic freedoms and rights you would enjoy in the west.

    However, the process of trying to stay here permanently can be a confusing one. Getting a three-year work visa is easy enough if you have a decent job here that will sponsor you, but most people don’t want to live their lives on three-year visas! The rules for becoming a citizen here vary depending on your family situation, skills, career, and where you’ve come from.

    This article will try to give you an easily understood and clear overview of the steps you should take to become a Japanese national.

    Naturalization

    The process of naturalization, which is just another term to describe becoming a Japanese national, can be a time consuming one! It’s unfortunately not as simple as just saying you like Japan and have a job here.

    There are two important things to consider and be aware of before even beginning to start a naturalization application process. The first is to find out if you are eligible. See the conditions below, and if you don’t meet all of them, don’t begin an application! It will waste your time and money.

    The second factor to consider and one which is quite important is to decide whether you want to become a citizen or just hold permanent residency in Japan. For a start, if you want to become a full citizen, you will have to give up your citizenship for your previous country of origin, which you needn’t do with permanent residency.

    On the other hand, becoming a citizen means you can vote, hold public office, have public jobs such as as a judge or prosecutor, travel abroad for a long time without needing a re-entry permit, and not risk deportation if you commit a crime. It really depends on what matters to you most as an individual.

    If you really are committed to staying in Japan for the rest of your life, going for naturalization may be the option for you. Otherwise, have a real think about it! It is a truly life-changing decision.

    Conditions

    Below is a list of the initial conditions which must be met before you can make an application to become a Japanese citizen.

    1. You will need to have worked legally in Japan for at least 5 years when you start making the application. During this time, you will need to prove that you have been here for at least 80% of that time. Please also note that if some of this time includes being on a student visa and studying here, that will not be accepted as part of the five years.
    2. You must be over 20 years of age at the time of application and also be deemed an adult in your home country according to their legal definition of being an adult. For example, some countries don’t deem you an adult until you are 21. Definitely, check this one!
    3. You should not have broken any laws or avoided paying any dues such a taxes or insurance fees during your time so far in Japan. Be warned that even minor offenses such as traffic violations could seriously hinder the naturalization process.
    4. You should be deemed as mentally stable and as not posing any sort of threat to national security or lifestyle. Basically, your behavior and general record will be judged, to ascertain whether you can be a law-abiding citizen in Japan.
    5. You must be willing to renounce your former nationality and citizenship.
    6. You should be able to prove you can look after yourself. This means you need a stable and reasonable source of income and are able to support yourself and any family you have here. This includes showing you could contribute to Japanese life in some way, such as through your work or through voluntary or charity work. This kind of stuff isn’t necessarily essential but it can really help.
    7. Finally, you should possess decent Japanese language skills, particularly in oral communication. You should really have a decent grasp of basic written Japanese kanji and kana, but speaking is the most important aspect.
    Important Things to Note

    1. The steps after application of naturalization are as follows:
      • The naturalization application should be made to the Bureau of Legal Affairs first for assessment. The assessment takes 10 months to one year or more, depending on each case.
      • After the successful assessment, a Personal Identification Card is issued and your new nationality needs to be reported at your local municipality office.
      • Once your Japanese nationality is approved, a Family Register is given to you and the residence card should be returned to the Immigration Bureau. Then, you will become a Japanese national.
    2. If you marry a Japanese national, the amount of time eligible for the application is reduced to 3 years. You have to prove that your marriage is not a ‘sham’ and you are morally obliged to financially support your family even after your divorce. That is why you won’t lose your citizenship or Permanent Residency after divorce in Japan.
    3. There is preferential treatment for High-Income Professionals or Highly Skilled Professionals (HSP). This means that if you are deemed to be an HSP, you can apply for citizenship after a shorter time of living here. Might not sound very fair, but that’s the way it is right now!
    4. Japan follows ‘Jus Sanguinis’ which means nationality is passed down through blood and not by birth. You cannot become a citizen of Japan by just merely being born there. If you are born to a Japanese father and a foreign woman, you will get nationality automatically if your father accepts you as a child, even if the marriage ends in divorce.

    These are just some of the things you need to know about becoming a Japanese citizen. I hope you keep them in mind when applying for naturalization. For the most up-to-date information, you can visit your nearest immigration office in Japan or the websites below. The best of luck with your decision and application!

    Visa to Japan Website
    Tokyo Immigration Service Website
    Ministry of Justice Website *Japanese only