How to Get Permanent Residency in Japan: The Total Guide

How to Get Permanent Residency in Japan: The Total Guide

Are you dreaming of the day when you won't have to worry about visa renewals?

Japan's permanent resident (PR) visa is valid for life, and—if you can get it—you'll no longer be restricted in the type of work you can engage in. 

On the other hand, the screening process is rigorous, and government guidelines are scattered across numerous official sites and primarily only in Japanese. 

To aid you in your quest, here's everything we could pack into one article on how to get a permanent resident visa for Japan.

Bookmark this page for easy reference to eligibility requirements, what special provisions might apply to you, all the documents you will need to prepare, a step-by-step guide to keep you on track, and a list of common missteps to avoid!

👉 Note: This article cannot serve as a substitute for tailored legal guidance. We suggest you ask an immigration lawyer to help you with research for specific questions on how to get pr in Japan.

What are the basic eligibility requirements for permanent residency in Japan?

The following are the basic eligibility guidelines for a permanent visa requirements in Japan (永住権 = eijuken), summarized from the Ministry of Justice's (MOJ) official statement, all of which must apply to you:

  1. You have shown good behavior. You lead a law-abiding life in Japan. 

  2. You have a stable income. You earn enough (or your spouse earns enough) to live independently in Japan. I.e., the average annual income of Japanese citizens for the year in which you apply. 

  3. You have a guarantor. Your guarantor must be a Japanese national or holder of a permanent residency visa. 

  4. Your presence is good for the interests of Japan. 

Additionally, the following clauses are stipulated in MOJ's guidelines:

  • You have stayed in Japan for at least 10 consecutive years, 5 of which were under a work visa or other family status visa;

  • You have not been fined or imprisoned. You have also fulfilled all public obligations, such as payments of tax, pension, and health insurance premiums;

  • Your stay will not cause harm to public health in Japan.

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Special provisions to the 10-year residency clause

The simpliest method to get PR in Japan is to complete a 10-year residency, where you do not leave Japan for more than a year at any one time.

However, there are cases where the 10-year residency clause can be shortened. If any one of the following applies to you, you may be eligible to apply for a PR visa: 

  • You are a spouse of a Japanese citizen or a spouse of a permanent resident, married for more than 3 years, and lived in Japan for more than 1 year consecutively. 

  • You are the child of a Japanese national or permanent resident and have stayed in Japan for more than 1 year consecutively.

  • You have stayed in Japan for more than 5 years consecutively with the status of a long-term resident.

  • You have been recognized as a refugee, and you have stayed in Japan for more than 5 years consecutively after recognition.

  • You have been recognized to have contributed to Japan in diplomatic, social, economic, cultural or other fields, and you have stayed in Japan for more than 5 years. 

Points-based preferential eligibility clause

Aside from the clauses mentioned up to this point, there are other clauses that will allow you to apply for a PR visa in Japan. Here are the Japan PR requirements based on the point system: 

  • You have stayed in Japan for 3 straight years and have scored 70 points for a full 3 years + the year leading to your PR application. 

  • You have stayed in Japan for more than 1 continuous year and have a total of 80 points for an entire year + the year leading to your PR application. 

The points mentioned here correlate to the points system developed for evaluating the immigration status of Highly Skilled Foreign Professionals. 

For easy calculation, use this Japan PR Calcuatlor.

Points Calculation Table for Permanent Resident Visa for Japan

Image: The Points Calculation Table from MOJ

Additionally, for those interested, here is the English-language Point Calculation excel form, hosted on the MOJ site. 

What documents are needed for permanent residency in Japan?

The following list is translated and summarized from the MOJ site and outlines what to prepare and the documents needed for permanent residency in Japan. Also note, that some of the required documents will depend on your current visa/employment status.

Here are the documents to prepare for your PR application:

  • Permanent resident permit application 永住許可申請書 = eijuken shinseisho

  • Photograph 4x3 (taken within the last 3 months)

  • A reason letter for permanent residency Japan (free form, but must be submitted in Japanese) 理由書 = riyuusho

  • Certificate of residence 住民票 = juminhyo

  • Certificate of employment (if you are working for a company) 在職証明書 = zaishoku shomeisho

  • Tax return (if self-employed) 確定申告書の控え= kakutei shinkokusho no hikae

  • Business permit (if self-employed and applicable) 営業許可書 = eigyo kyokasho

  • Tax payment proof (for years lived in Japan or for years under the point-based system) 納税証明書 = nozei shomeisho / 課税証明書  = kazei shomeisho 

  • Proof of income/assets (photocopy of bank book, etc.) 預貯金通帳の写し= yochokintsuchou no utsushi

  • National pension payment proof 各月の年金記録 / 国民年金保険料領収証書 = nenkinteikibin /kokuminnenkin hokenryou ryoushuushousho

  • Health insurance premium payment proof 健康保険・厚生年金保険料領収証書 = kenkouhoken/kouseinenkinhokenryou ryoushuushousho

  • Passport ID page photocopy  

  • Residence card photocopy, front and back 在留カード= card

  • Guarantor's letter (English formJapanese form) 身元保証書 = mimoto hoshousho

  • Documents certifying guarantor's nationality, residence, income, and occupation

Additionally, if you are applying with the point-based system, you will need to prepare the following: 

  • Your points calculated based on the previously mentioned Point Calculation Table

  • Evidence to support your point calculation score (photocopy of degrees, JLPT certificate, etc.)

Some other Japan permanent residency application documents includes a photocopy of your national health insurance card, letters of recommendation from upstanding citizens, and other additional material documenting your contributions to Japan and proof of good character as recommended by other immigration experts.

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Step-by-step guide on how to apply for permanent residency in Japan

Break down an arduous task—one step at a time. Use this step-by-step roadmap to help you plan and prepare for how to apply permanent visa in Japan.

Step 1. Assess if you are eligible. 

Examine the eligibility guidelines and determine if you meet the criteria for permanent residency. There is enough documentation on the topic in English to complete this first step on your own. 

Step 2. Find a guarantor. 

Your guarantor must be willing to sign and submit a Letter of Guarantee. There are no legal responsibilities that the guarantor must carry in relation to your application. Their purpose is to attest for your good character.

All that is required of guarantors is that they are willing to sign the Letter of Guarantee and provide the following documents: a certificate of residence, tax certificate, and employment certificate. 

The guarantor must be a Japanese national or another individual who has PR in Japan. For those married to a Japanese national, their spouse can be their guarantor. If that is not the case for you, asking a colleagues, bosses, or even Japanese friends would suffice.

Step 3. Consult a lawyer or book a consultation with an immigration bureau. 

For cases where you have a spouse, dependents, or other questions that may or may not affect your eligibility, consult a lawyer or a legal office specializing in visas. They can explain on how to get permanent residency in Japan for your specific case.

Alternatively, the Tokyo Regional Immigration Services Bureau offers free consultations at the Foreign Residents Support Center (FRESC) in Shinjuku, Tokyo.

Step 4. Enroll and pay National Pension premiums. 

If you aren't already enrolled in Japan's National Pension System, you must apply and then show proof of having paid premiums for the last 24 months.

To acquire proof of payment, register to the site and (after having paid your premiums) print out the “Monthly Pension Record” (各月の年金記録 = kakutuki no nenkin kiroku).

Step 5. Write a “reason” letter. 

There is no set form for this letter, but it must include why you desire a permanent resident visa.

You may also want to include a brief background, history of stay, career highlights in Japan, and your family structure. You can write it in English, but submit a Japanese translation, too. 

Step 6. Prepare documentation. 

Gather all needed documentation, print out the Japan PR application form, and get any English-language documentation translated to Japanese.

Step 7. Do a final check. 

Give the MOJ guidelines a final check, ensuring that all your documents are in order. Remember, one mistake on a form or forgetting a requested document can equal numerous delays. 

Step 8. File your application. 

Bring all documentation to the Immigration Bureau for your city (there are 12 branches in Tokyo). Wait times are notoriously long, and these offices are only open on weekdays from 9 AM to 4 PM, so plan ahead.

After submitting your documents, you will be asked to write your address and name on a postcard, which they will send to you when your application results are ready.

Step 9. Wait and wait some more. 

The waiting period listed on the MOJ site is 4 months is know your Japan PR results. However, recent reports of wait times suggest up to 1 year for your Japan PR application to be processed.

Step 10. Pick up your permanent residence card. 

Japan PR card exmaple

A permanent resident card example from MOJ

When the application has gone through all the checks, a postcard will be sent to your address, notifying you that your permanent residence card is ready to be picked up. Go to the specified bureau counter, purchase a revenue stamp (8,000 yen), submit it—and then you're done!

Receive your Japan permanent residence card, and … might we suggest celebrations are in order?  

Set a reminder to yourself to renew your permanent resident card every 7 years, and keep in mind you must set foot in Japan at least once every year to keep your PR visa valid. 

👉 Note: If your application has been denied, you will receive a refusal notification in your mail. You can bring this refusal notification to the Immigration Bureau and ask for the refusal to be explained. However, this explanation will only happen once, so bring someone with you if you require Japanese assistance. 

7 common missteps to avoid when applying for permanent residency status in Japan

The following missteps to avoid are summarized from accounts relayed on a broad range of immigration-related law sites and forums and reflect real-world experiences of the process. 

Misstep 1: You didn't submit all your documents in Japanese. 

All documentation must be submitted in Japanese. E.g., if you include a photocopy of an English-language degree, add an attached paper that provides the Japanese equivalent.

Misstep 2: You are late on a pension payment, or you aren't enrolled. 

Many immigration services state that one of the primary causes for refusal is not enrolling in Japan's pension system or delayed pension payments. (Source: Tokyo Immigration)

Misstep 3: You didn't promptly submit further requested documentation. 

During the application process, an immigration official may reach out to you to request further proof or additional documentation. A prompt response is necessary. (Source: Tokyo Immigration)

Misstep 4: Your annual income did not match the requirements. 

If you have many dependents, your taxable income will be lowered due to the deductions, which could become a reason for rejection. (Source: Continental Immigration)

Misstep 5: You left Japan for longer than 6 months during the PR application process. 

If you left Japan after applying for a PR visa and stayed out of Japan for longer than 6 months, your application will be rejected due to the absence. (Source: June Advisors Group)

Misstep 6: You have repeated traffic violations. 

Repeated traffic violations could be cause for refusal. The number should be less than 5 traffic fines in the last 5 years and less than 4 in the last 2 years. (Source: Continental Immigration)

Misstep 7: You did not have the correct number of points for the required number of years. 

If you are applying based on the Point system, you must have the full amount of points at the time of application + 3 full years for the 70 points clause or 1 full year for the 80 points clause. (Source: Continental Immigration)

Frequently asked questions

What is the standard rule to qualify for permanent residency in Japan?

The standard rule to qualify for permanent residency in Japan says that you must live in Japan for 10 years. Additionally, you must lead a law-abiding life, earn a stable income, have a guarantor, and your presence must be in the best interests of Japan. There are, however, certain conditions under which you can obtain permanent residency in less time.

Are there any changes in the residency requirements for permanent residency in Japan?

In April 2017, the residency requirements for permanent residency were shortened to three years for highly skilled professional foreign nationals who are able to score 70-79 on Japan's immigration assessment system.

Is it possible to get permanent residency in Japan after only one year?

To qualify to apply for permanent residency after only one year, you need to score 80 points or above on Japan's immigration assessment system.

In closing

We hope this guide helped you understand how to get permanent residency in Japan.

If you are thinking of living in Japan for an extended period of time, then having a permanent residency status can help to simplify many processes for you.

The paperwork required for permanent residency requires meticulous attention, so if you're looking for help with research or filling out applications, consider using MailMate's bilingual assistant service—which is exclusively available to MailMate users.

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