Changing visas in Japan.

A short account of my recent experience changing my visa in Japan.

This article is not helpful to those wanting to apply for a work visa or learn more about the new visa system coming into effect this year. This account is for those wanting to know a little bit more about changing their visa status while in Japan.

My wife and I recently married and are beginning our new life together. So far, great! However, I being the one who makes the most income in our family, it makes sense that I would be the one who would need to apply for things like a home loan, insurance or some other legal officialism.
In the past, we’ve applied for a home loan and found that having only a work visa limited us in our choice of banks to use. Having discovered a bank that would accept us we then soon found that the time remaining on that visa was insufficient. So, we lost our dream apartment! I’m sure something better will come along. Now, we don’t live in Honshu, or in a vast city which may have services to help expatriates get a home loan. Our options were limited.

I could apply for residency or a spousal visa. I was very interested in applying for residency, but they set the standards very high with a points system. Although I am well educated, attended a great school, speak the language, have worked the same job for years and work for the benefit of Japanese society, it wasn’t enough. So, we decided to change my visa to a spousal visa.

The process seemed relatively straightforward. I researched online, contacted friends who have been through the same situation, but all the information conflicted. You must have this, or you don’t need this, or you should go through a lawyer. But lawyers can cost a lot of money.

I was also very edgy. I’ve had issues in the past with immigration. When changing visas many years ago, the staff said flat out “You can’t do it. Go back to your country and apply.”. My boss told me beforehand that this may happen, and to push them to check and if all else fails, ask them to call my boss or the embassy. They didn’t listen to me. Said I was wrong and asked me to leave because I was holding up the queue.
Long story short. Got some people to talk to them. They were wrong. The manager asked me to come back in, and he sorted it out.

So I’m sure you can imagine how tense I was about the whole situation.
Before I give you a rundown of what you need if you’re applying outside of Japan, it’s an entirely different process. There is plenty of info online.

What you need:
1. One application form
2. One recent photo (take within three months)
3. Proof of marriage. (In my case, a certified copy from the ward office, and a copy of the updated family register.).
4. Evidence that the marriage is registered in the foreign spouses country. However, my country does not do this. So, I provided a document from the embassy which states that we don’t need to register it.
5. Your Japanese spouse will need to provide a recent municipal tax statement 住民税の課税証明書, and a tax payment certificate 納税証明書.
Now, the Japanese site and a few sites didn’t ask me to provide them, but immigration asked. So, do go and get yours! You need not provide them if you have no job in Japan. I also provided the above from the previous year too.
Another thing they may ask you for is your health insurance card. I have always been asked to even though it isn’t a requirement.
If you’re working in Japan already, they may ask you for a piece of paper from your company to prove you work there.
6. A letter of guarantee 身元保証書 (my wife filled this in.).
7. A copy of your Japanese spouses certificate of residence 住民票 (again, they may ask you for yours! If you can get a copy, get it!).
8. A questionnaire 質問書 (your Japanese spouse would fill this out. It requires you to give details about how you met, how you communicate, and details about your family in Japan and your home country.).
9. Two to three pictures together. On the back, you’ll need to write the date and a short description.
10. Passport & alien registration card.
11. The guarantor’s seal.
12. Japanese spouses proof of identification 身分証明書.

The key is to over prepare. Don’t bring the bare minimum. We brought heaps of photos, provided my resume, and gave detail about why it is in our best interests to change my visa.

Be sure to look for more information online or get in touch with immigration in your area.
Best of luck.

Information on what you’ll need in Japanese.

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