Japanese Permanent Residence – The Complete How to Guide

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In this guide – we will show you how to apply for a Japanese Permanent Residence permit – or “永住者”

We will give you a list of all the necessary documents – their Japanese names, as well as download links to all of the necessary application forms and point calculation totals you will need when applying for Japanese permanent residence.

(This guide is provided as part of Lifeguide.tokyo (a free service of Coto Japanese Academy) and is copyright in its entirety all rights reserved.

If you would like to use part of this guide – please attribute us with a do-follow link. And let us know by emailing us at info (at) cotoacademy.com)

Table of Contents

  • Eligibility Requirements (Who can apply for a Japanese Permanent Residence Permit? When can they apply?)
  • List of documents needed for Japanese Permanent Residence applications
  • What is a Guarantor (What is a guarantor, who can act as a guarantor on a permanent residence application? What documents they need to provide?)
  • Exemption for HSPs – Required Documents List (What are the necessary documents required to prove the points for the HSP points?)
  • Processing Time (How long will it take?)
  • Flow of the application process
  • Tips for a successful application
  • FAQ about Japan Permanent Residence and the Highly Skilled Exemption

As always, this guide is for informational purposes only and we are not Japanese immigration lawyers. As Immigration regulations in Japan change quite frequently and without advanced notice – please consult the official immigration website for the latest updated information.

There are many websites out there but they do not give lists of the documents needed – and there is often conflicting / unclear information.

Status of Permanent Residence Applications in 2020: Due to the Covid-19 Pandemic situation there is a heavy backlog of Permanent Residence applications and typical processing time is now at around 10 months or more.

This means that if you are planning on applying for a Japanese Permanent Residence permit – you should make alternative plans to keep a valid visa status while your permit is processing.

Eligibility Requirements (Who can apply for Japan PR?)

In the past – to apply for a permanent residence permit in Japan you would have needed to live in Japan for 10 consecutive years.

These days there are several “relaxed” residency requirements – and you no longer need to live in Japan for ten years – but there are conditions that you must satisfy in order to apply.

The previous requirements demanded that you can clear all of the following:

  • Good standing in society (no criminal records – Including traffic offenses or outstanding civil legal matters / unpaid taxes)
  • Financially Stable (stable job, bank statement showing that you can support yourself)
  • Satisfying all requirements to maintain your current visa status (You will need to maintain your current visa status during the entire application process so you will need to be able to support that with a job in the case of a work visa – or a marriage in the case of a spousal visa)
  • 10 years of consecutive residence in Japan, which should include 5 years of residence under a work visa or those granted according to the family status (Spouse of Japanese national, Long Term Resident…) This is relaxed in some cases and we will explain it below.
  • Holding the longest period of stay for your visa (3 years in principle for most visa types.) This is not relaxed and applies to all visa categories – including those hoping to apply under the highly skilled foreign professional scheme. If you hold a 1 year work visa or spousal visa for example you are unable to apply.) This does not mean that you need 3 years left of validity on your visa – but that the period of stay is marked as 3 years on your visa.
  • Paid all compulsory social insurances (health and pension) during the required period without any missed payments or overdue payments (If you miss a payment and pay it back later – it is subject to the discretion of the agent)
  • Having submitted all required immigration notifications (change of employers, change of company address etc.) to the Immigration office (Same here – the agent can ask you to submit these notifications after the fact)
  • You must have a guarantor (Japanese national or permanent resident visa holder) to “sponsor” your application – they will also need to submit financial information and a letter on your behalf.
  • Been physically present in Japan for more than 6 months in total in a 12 months period prior to and during the application process (This is pretty self explanatory – but this means that you will need to live in Japan for six months before you can apply regardless of if you have a long term visa. This is most common for spouse of permanent residents that are living outside of Japan.)

So all of the above still apply – but now there is a way to get around the 10 year requirement of consecutive residence.

You can apply for a Japanese Permanent Residence before 10 years if you are a:

  • Spouse of Japanese national or Permanent Resident. (If they have been married to them for more than 3 years and lived more than one year consecutively in Japan)
  • Child of a Japanese national or Japanese Permanent Resident (If they have lived more than one consecutive year in Japan)
  • Holder of a Long Term Resident visa or Refugee via status having lived more than 5 years consecutively in Japan (We are not very clear on the requirements for this.)
  • Someone who is able to score 70 or more points on the Highly Skilled Professional Point Calculation Table for 3 consecutive years from before the date of the application to the date of the application. We will explain this more later.)
  • Applicants who score 80 points or more in the same HSP Point Table (For 1 consecutive year from before the date of the application to the date of the application.)
  • More than 5 years of consecutive residency in Japan for those who have “made a considerable contribution to Japan in diplomatic, social, economical and cultural fields.” (This is very rare and you will have a hard time applying for this unless you have a very high profile and newsworthy contribution. I.e. winning a Nobel prize for research at a Japanese University in the field of medicine.

    So for most people, what they would commonly be able to apply for without being married to a Japanese spouse is the “Highly Skilled Professional Exemption”

List of Documents Needed for Japanese PR Application

In the below table we have listed all of the necessary documents that you will need when applying for a Japanese permanent residence application.

Document name in EnglishDocument name in JapaneseLink to fileWhere can it be obtained?
Application form永住許可申請書
(Eijū kyoka shinsei-sho)
AppDownload Online and Fill Out
Residence Card在留カード
(Zairyō Kadō)
Residence Certificate住民票 (Jūmin-hyō)City Office where you are a registered resident
Employment Certificate在職証明書
(Zaishoku shōmei-sho)
From your Employer
Letter of Guarantee (From your Guarantor)身元保証書
(Mimoto hoshōsho)
From your Guarantor
Residence Taxation Certificate (3 Most recent years)住民税の課税証明書 (Jūminzei no kazei shōmei-sho)From your city office where you area registered resident
Residence Taxation Payment Certificate (3 most recent years)住民税の納税証明書 (Jūminzei no nōzei shōmei-sho)From your city office where you are a registered resident
Withholding tax and special reconstruction income tax源泉所得税及び復興特別所得税 (Gensen shotoku zei oyobi fukkō tokubetsu shotoku zei)From your local national tax office
Declared income tax and special reconstruction income tax申告所得税及び復興特別所得税 (Shinkoku shotoku zei oyobi fukkō tokubetsu shotoku zei)From your local national tax office
Employment Certificate from Current Employer (And Past Employers for HSP)在職証明書 (Zaishoku shōmei-sho) From your current and former companies

What is a guarantor? Who can act as a Guarantor?

When applying for a Japanese permanent residence application – you will need a guarantor to vouch for you.

This person must be either:
1. A Japanese Citizen
2. A foreign resident of Japan with Permanent Residence status

This person does not have to be a Japanese citizen. They can also be a permanent resident.

You should choose a financially stable person who does not have trouble communicating in Japanese.

Documents that your Guarantor must provide on your behalf.

Document name (English)Document name (Japanese)
Guarantee Certificate身元保証書 (Mimoto hoshōsho)
Residence Certificate住民票 (Jūmin-hyō)
Residence Tax Payment Certificate (Most Recent Year)住民税の納税証明書(直近1年分)Jūminzei no nōzei shōmei-sho (chokkin 1-nen-bun)
Withholding Slip from their company (Most Recent Year)源泉徴収票(直近1年分)Genzenchōshū-hyō (chokkin 1-nen-bun)
Working and Salary Certificate from their Company在勤及び給与証明書 (Zaikin oyobi kyūyo shōmei-sho)
Document explaining your relationship with the applicant申請人との関係を説明する文書 (Shinsei hito to no kankei o setsumei suru bunsho)

Permanent Residence Exemption for HSPs

What is a HSP? (Highly Skilled Professional )

In recent years – the Japanese Government has introduced a “fast-track” immigration scheme for individuals that they deem “highly skilled”.

As part of this new Visa Type – a special rule was introduced to make it easier for holders of this visa to apply for the Permanent Residence permit in a reduced amount of time.

(Read the basic details of the scheme in English here.
Additionally there is a helpful FAQ in English that answers some common questions about the residency status . )

Below are the three categories of Highly Skilled Professional that you can apply under.

The three Types of Highly Skilled Foreign Professionals

How does the relaxed rule exemption work?

To apply for the Japanese Permanent Residency under this exemption you will need either:

  • A consecutive 3 year period of living in Japan – and scoring 70 points on the HSP scale; from the date of the application to 3 years prior.
  • A consecutive 1 year period of living in Japan – and scoring 80 points on the HSP scale; from the date of the application to 1 year prior.

This is VERY IMPORTANT – this means that you do not need to hold a HSP visa to apply – you simply need to be able to prove that you could score enough points to obtain the HSP visa during the time in which you lived in Japan – starting from the date of the application and counting backwards.

The author of this article obtained permanent residency in Japan using this way and if you read the actual law – it explains this.

So at the time of application you need to be able to submit the point calculation totals and the supporting documents to prove that you scored the points retroactively.

Now that we understand that – the next question is, what are the points and how are they awarded?

These three types of HSP have different rules for how you calculate points.

Please also keep in mind that you have to score all points within the same calculation schedule.

So for example – you cannot score 40 points under the academic research track and then score 40 points under the Advanced business management activities scale to qualify.

You also cannot qualify under the academic research track 3 years ago and then qualify under the advanced technical track today.

The point calculation must collect all points from the same sheets for both point calculation.

Download the HSP (Highly Skilled Professional) Point Calculation Sheet

The best way to learn what points are available and if you can qualify is to download the point calculation forms and try a test calculation for yourself.

You can download the full point schedule below:

Or click here: http://www.immi-moj.go.jp/newimmiact_3/en/pdf/171110_point_calculation_forms.pdf

http://www.immi-moj.go.jp/newimmiact_3/en/evaluate/index.html <— This one has the excel sheet version not just the explanation

Point Types

  • Age at time of application / Age at the start of the exemption period (So for example – Your age at the date of the application will afford you points during that schedule – and if you are apply for the 1 year exemption – you would calculate your point total at that age. For the 3 year you would calculate 3 years prior for the first calculation sheet and at the date of the application. So depending on your age – you could gain extra points if you were in a lower age bracket on the points schedule.)
  • Salary (Most recent)
  • Career Experience in the field that you are applying under (You need to prove this experience and also prove that you were working in this field – 2 years in translation and 3 years in marketing would not allow you to apply for 5 years – it must be in the same industry.)
  • Education Higher Education, Bachelors, Masters and PHD will entitle you to points. You can also score bonus points for being from a specific university – as well as graduating from a Japanese university.
  • Technical Certifications (Related to your specialized field such as a CPA, For IT – Microsoft Certificates, Cisco Certifications – etc.)
  • Language Certifications Related to Japanese (JLPT N2, or N1, Business Japanese Test)
  • Completion of special training given by JICA
  • Holding a position relevant to business management (Business management track)
  • Working for certain types of SME Businesses that receive assistance from the government and meet certain conditions. (This is the most commonly misleading bonus point – as it is conditional on satisfying both the 1. and 2. conditions in the point calculation sheet. The way the English is written it is easy to assume that you only need to satisfy 1 of the 2 requirements but actually it means that you have to satisfy both. You also need to provide a significant amount of paperwork in order to prove that your SME qualifies under this scheme. So if at all possible its best to try to qualify without trying to rely on this bonus scheme.)

Proving points for HSP

Just because you qualify in principle on the scale does not mean that you can claim the points. In order to prove the points you will need to submit an approved type of document as evidence.

Work Experience: 在職証明書 Zaishoku shōmei-sho (Employment Certificate). You need to receive notarized certificates of all of your previous work experience.

For things like your education you will need a certificate of enrollment issued from the institution on their letterhead if a non-japanese university. And if a Japanese university – you will need an enrollment certificate and graduation certificate.

Gaps in your work history will not be counted towards the total – for example: If you work from January 2019 – June 2019, are out of work for 6 months, and then resume work.

For things like proving that your company is a small to medium enterprise and spending a certain amount of its budget on r and d – you will need supporting financial statements that proves that – as well as an additional document certifying them.

For salary – you will need a gensen cho shu hyo – which is the standard withholding slip that a Japanese company issues each year.

For the hsp exemption – you will need one for both the most recent and the previous year if you are applying for the 1 year exemption and the 3 most recent years for the 3 year exemption.

They also may ask for salary certificates from your employer – as well as a prospective salary certificate for some time in the future.

An important note about the Exemption

When this rule change was announced there were numerous news reports that said things like “Now foreign residents can achieve permanent residence within 1 year of living in Japan!”

This is true in principle – ONLY if you held a Highly Skilled Foreign Professional visa for 1 year and scored 80 or more points on the entry scale for the duration of that year. (in principle – if you can prove that you score 80 points or more on the Highly Skilled Foreign Professional calculation scale and lived in japan 1 year consecutively. You could also apply with a different visa status…..)

But there is a catch.

For those without a Highly Skilled Foreign Professional visa (but with the ability to score 80 points on the HSP scale) – you will need to be holding a visa with a term validity of at least 3 years.

So even if you can prove that you have lived in Japan for 1 year with 80 points on the HSP scale – you will still be unable to apply for a permanent residence permission if your visa says “period of stay: 1 year”

This becomes a challenge because typically Japanese immigration does not grant 3 year visas to foreign workers until their 3rd renewal with the same company.

So please keep this in mind when you are thinking of applying.

Processing Time

How long will it take to process my permanent residence? As of this writing – Japanese immigration is experiencing unprecedented levels of applications from all departments due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

For the author of this article it took 14 months between when he first applied and when the permanent residence card was issued.

Things to keep in mind:

  • The volume of applications are separated based on the category with which the person applies for the permanent resident. (Highly Skilled Foreign Professionals vs Spouse of Japanese / Permanent Resident)
  • As of this writing (September 2020) – the official guidance is 8 months to 1 year for processing time.
  • Depending on the complexity of your application and your work situation – it may take longer to process your application.
  • Bonus points for the HSP exemption can take time to calculate and some are discretionary. This will add processing time to your application.

Application process flow

  1. Submit your application with the supporting documents. (For HSP exemption you will need the two point calculation totals and the additional supporting documents).
  2. You will receive the application receipt – (THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT – make sure to take a picture and have a digital copy of this reference number as you will use it to inquire later.)
  3. Immigration will follow up with you around 6-8 months later depending on your visa category.
  4. Immigration may request via mail additional supporting documents to prove your application. This could be documents that you will need to issue from your current employer . Generally they will give you a 2 week deadline to resubmit this.
  5. You will receive your application result in the mail in the form of a postcard.
  6. As of this writing due to the coronavirus situation – residence permission issuance is handled on Saturdays – you will be given an assigned saturday where you will present yourself at immigration and be given an ordered ticket where you can exchange the postcard.
  7. You will need to provide the following items:
  • Application receipt from when you first submitted your application
  • Guidance paper from when you received the notification result
  • notification result postcard
  • 8,000 yen national tax revenue stamp (This can be purchased at any post office ahead of time. PLEASE do not forget this and purchase it before you visit immigration – the vast majority of people try to buy this directly from the 1st floor family mart combini in Shinagawa and the queue time and disruption of your application is just not worth it.
  • 404 yen in postal stamps
  • A return envelope with your address and name on it
  • Your residence card

Once you provide all of those items at immigration – they will give you a photocopy of your previous residence card and mail you 2-5 days later the previous residence card with a hole through it and the new permanent residence card.

This mail will come to you as registered mail.

Tips for a faster application

  • Submit as much as supporting evidence as you can with the initial application.
  • Make sure your supporting evidence has a clearly written inventory.
  • Get ready for additional documents and submit them in advance if you can. (As an example – If you are proving your graduation from a Japanese university – you will need more than just your degree. You will need a certificate of graduation from your academic records office. These can take time to issue – its best to prepare it and submit it with the initial application even though it is not required as they will likely ask for it later.)
  • Keep triplicate copies of everything as well as a digital archive of your application.
  • Even though it costs more – having an outside legal scrivener prepare and submit your application is much easier. Depending on the agent – they may have a better relationship with immigration which will give your application internal priority in the processing queue.
  • Do your best to make things easy for the agent. If you are submitting multiple documents with the application – provide a letter in Japanese that lists the documents that you are submitting and their order.
  • If you have anything unclear about your explanation – have a native speaker help you to prepare a clear explanation letter. (For example – in the author’s case, he attended an MBA program while he was working – which caused confusion about whether or not his work experience could be counted. (For the period that he was studying.) Having an explanation letter that you were a full time employee while working and that you did not alter your work hours will allow you to save weeks of consideration – before immigration finally contacts you to ask for supporting documents.
  • It is your job to make your case – they will not make inferences or assume things. Make things as clear as you can and as easily traceable as you can.
  • Anything that has a sequence to it – or has multiple aspects, prepare an inventory document in Japanese for it. If you are proving work experience – give a list of the names of your companies as well as your start and finish dates, as well as your calculation for how many years that is in total. Making the agent calculate everything on your behalf from zero will make the application take longer versus if the agent just has to confirm your calculation.

FAQ about Japanese Permanent Residence and the HSP Exemption

Q: Do I need to actually have an HSP Visa for the time calculation to start (1 years or 3 years)

A: No you do not. What you do need is as follows:

  • A residence permission with a period of stay of 3 years or more. (It must match your application track. For example – if you are applying for the exemption under advanced business management – you cannot be holding an instructor visa.)
  • Point calculation sheets – these must prove that you held the reported points for the time period that you are declaring. For example If you are applying under the 1 year track with 80 points, you need to submit a calculation sheet for the date of the application and one more application sheet for one year prior.

Q: What happens if I had 80 points 3 years ago, but then lost the points during year 2 – and regained them during year 3. Can I apply?

A: This depends on where you lost the points. According to the regulations – you will need to have held a job in the same field for 3 consecutive years or 1 consecutive year at which you are applying under the scheme that satisfies the point total. This means you cannot be holding a Japanese residence permit with working permission but not working.

If you lost the points due to age descending on year 2 – but made up the loss of points on year 3 for example with a new salary. This is no problem. The working status requirement is different from the points.

We understand that this is complicated – if you have questions, please feel free to email us at info (at) lifeguide.tokyo

Everyone is different – this article mostly explains what it is like to apply for the Permanent Residence by using the highly skilled exemption.

Mileage varies and your application time may also based on many factors.

Above all – be prepared and flexible. Get ready to answer questions about your profile via phone – and make sure that you have a friend with you that can help you with your application should the need arise.

Good luck!

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