Renewing a Japanese Visa, More Fun Every Year

Ah, May.  What a wonderful month.  The seasonal rains wash away winter, it’s finally warm enough to sleep without a hat, and I get to enjoy renewing my Japanese visa.  That’s how I know spring has come.

Unfortunately, unlike going to the Japanese doctor, or being arrested by the Japanese police, there’s no apparent redeeming quality to visiting the Immigration Bureau.  It’s crowded, you have to line up for hours, and unlike the rest of Japan which is full of nice, clean Japanese people, it’s packed full of foreigners.  Eeewww.

My Employer, My Sponsor, My Friend

Exactly a year ago, in May, I went through the same process.  And the moment I got the visa renewal paperwork from my supervisor, I noticed something concerning.

“I’m looking at this ‘Period of Work’ field,” I said gently.  My supervisor is a Japanese woman, so I try to be a little more charming, by using my bedroom voice.

“Yes?” she said.

“You see, it seems you wrote a ‘1’ here,” I said huskily, “which means a one-year visa, and I’d have to go back again next year.”  I tried to smile.

“Yes, that’s . . . correct,” she said.

“The thing is,” I said, “you could write anything, you know.  Like, say a ‘3’ or a ‘5.’  Five’s a nice number, don’t you think?”

“Sorry, but your contract says one year,” she said.  And now she tried to smile.

“I, uh, don’t actually have a contract,” I said, grinning a bit wider.  “Just a job description, in English.  There’s nothing signed.  And really, every other company writes a ‘3.’”

“I’ll have to check with HR,” she said.

Yoroshiku onegaishimasu,” we both said.  That’s Japanese for, “Please don’t screw this up.”  But it sounds polite, so that makes it okay.

But right then, I knew it was over.  Check with HR?  You might as well check with Jesus.  And sure enough, I only got a 1-year extension, which is nothing, since a year in Japan passes with the speed of a month in the U.S.   To prove this, I hung out my bath towel this morning, and it was dry in 30 minutes.  Explain that.

And so now, a year later, here we are, and again the same conversation.  And again, she writes a “1.”  And we smile at each other.

Staying Cool

Now, the thing about Ken Seeroi is, nothing fazes him.  Like I could be on a golf course in the middle of a thunderstorm with lightning all around, and I’d be holding a nine iron like, Where’s everybody running off to?  Like freaking Ahab on deck in a typhoon in Moby Dick, with like a harpoon or something.  Just brandishing the thing.  I mean, assuming I golfed.  You’d look at me and be like, Ken Seeroi, you my friend, have nerves of steel.  You should’ve been a brain surgeon, or an army sniper, or a whaler, or at least a golfer, instead of an English teacher.  And while I’d appreciate your saying so, I’d know that really, inside, I’m actually not so cool with lots of stuff.  My nerves are more like gummi bears, or I dunno, some other soft object.  Like when people call me a gaijin or gaikokujin.  See now, that bothers me.  I don’t know why, exactly.  Hand me the English menu.  Oooh, that really bothers me.  Renew my visa for 1 year?  Are you effing kidding me?  Just write down a damned “3” for Godsakes.  If I had a pen, I would have stabbed her in the heart.  But because I’m so cool, I just grinned and said, “Thank you.”  Grrrr.  I really gotta get a pen.

Freaking Out

This threw me into a tailspin.  The whole visa process seems designed to reinforce the message—You don’t actually live here, remember?  Like the difference between a jazz bar, and your house.  You get all comfy on the sofa with some mellow music, a gin and tonic, maybe some pretzels, until suddenly the lights come on and some big guy makes you leave.  That’s not okay.  I started to consider my options.  If I have to do this every year, I thought, Screw that, maybe I’ll just go back to America.

Back in the U.S. of A.  No more being stared at, no more salarymen clamoring to speak to the white guy.  Nobody telling me how well I use a fork.  America.  That’d solve everything.  Except for the fact I’d have to live with a bunch of gaijin.  Okay, so that seemed like kind of a drawback.  And the food, ah, jeez.  How would I subsist, without my fried octopus balls and okra with fish flakes?  On a diet of hot dogs and corn flakes?  No, screw that, I thought, I’ll get married.  Visa?  Fixed.  Instant family and social circles?  Done.  Get an apartment, a car, and somebody to read all that stuff in my mailbox.  A wife.  That’d solve everything.  Well, except for the part where I’d then have a wife.  Jeez, there’s always some little detail that complicates my genius plans.

So this year, again, when I filled in my portion of the visa renewal form, I wrote a “5” in the field for “Desired length of extension.”  And again, I refrained from writing “inches” after the “5,” which I felt showed great restraint and maturity.  Not that the Immigration Bureau noticed last year, seeing as they gave me a disappointing 1-year extension.  Sure, one extra is better than nothing, but five’s what I really wanted.  Heh, a total of 17 inches.  Now that would be awesome.

The Japanese Immigration Bureau

Sorry.  I’m so juvenile.  Back on track.  So this year, again with the whole visa thing.  I went to the Immigration Bureau, which took hours, because I had to ride the train, then ride the bus, and then walk.  Very tiring, all that using of the legs and all.   And on top of everything, the renewal cost 40 bucks, only in yen.  That’s like 4000 yens, which sounds even more expensive.  Then when I handed in the form, the Immigration lady said in Japanese, “Oh, you need some other documents.”

“Other documents?” I said.  Whenever I don’t know what to say in Japanese, I just repeat the other person’s last words.

“Yes, you need to go to City Hall and get this tax information.”  She handed me the world’s longest and most complicated Japanese tax form ever.  It was like a haiku crossword puzzle.

“This tax information?” I said.  “You do realize I can read exactly none of what you just handed me.

“Then mail it back to us in this envelope.

“So I need to go to City Hall, get some documents I don’t understand, and mail them to you in this envelope?

“That’s it,” she said.

“I don’t suppose you could just call City Hall and have ’em faxed?  My visa expires this Friday, you know.”  I was pretty stressed on this point, because I’d, uh, kind of put off the whole visa thing for about a month too long.  I guess that was kind of my fault.

“Just mail everything when you can,” she said.  “No rush.”

I stared at her.  No rush?  This is the country where the entire subway platform starts committing ritual seppuku if the train’s 30 seconds late.  Since when did Japan turn into Jamaica?  No rush?  Nobody in the history of the nation’s ever uttered that phrase.  People here get jailed and deported for overstaying their visas.  “Oh, I can do that,” I said.  “No rush happens to be my best thing,” and walked away trying to focus my eyes on the tax form.

Overstaying a Japanese Visa

I went home and spent a few days deciphering what documents I needed, all the while hearing her words, which seemed to acquire more of a Jamaican accent as time went by.  “No rush, mon.”  Then it took me a almost a week to make it to City Hall, and by that time, I was officially overstaying my Japanese visa big time.  I tried to picture what I’d say to the police when they showed up at my door.  “Ya but da Immigration Lady say’d be no rush, one love.”  They’d never buy that.  Then right on cue, a couple days after I’d mailed the documents, my doorbell rang.  Holy God, nobody ever rings my doorbell.  I stayed absolutely still.  Actually it was pretty easy since I was laying on the floor drinking beer and watching YouTube clips about army snipers.  Man, do those guys have nerves of steel.  I paused the video and waited a few minutes before I felt the coast was clear.  Then I belly-crawled to the fridge and got another beer.

Due to Golden Week, it took almost two more weeks before a postcard came in the mail from the Immigration Bureau.

The Fateful Day

I knew this meant one of two possible things.  One would be that I’d get a 1-year visa extension.  The other would be that it was a sting operation to catch foreigners who’d overstayed their Japanese visas.  I stuffed a change of socks and underwear into my bag, just in case.  Ken Seeroi knows what’s up.  Gotta be prepared.

So before I left, I stopped at Starbucks to say goodbye to everyone, then went to my neighborhood shrine, to ask Japanese God to watch over my aunt who’s recovering from heart surgery, plus my Japanese friend with cancer.  And my American friend with cancer.  And my American cat with cancer.  Jeez, Japanese God’s gonna be mighty busy.  Hope he’s got a sled like Santa or something to help him get around.  And although it seemed petty and self-serving by comparison, I asked Him for a visa extension.  I mean, since I was there and all, I figured why not sneak it in.

Then I rode the train.  And I rode the bus.  And I waited in line until they called my number and then handed the Immigration lady the postcard, and waited some more.  I took a little nap.  Then they called my number again and I went back to the window.  The Immigration lady gave me back my passport and my old gaijin card, with a hole punched through it.  Then she gave me a new card, with baby blue stripes.  Centered on top, in small letters, it said “Residence Card,” and down below, next to “Period of Stay,” the number three.  She smiled.  I couldn’t believe it.  Barack Obama only got 4 more years, and he’s the leader of the free world.  I smiled back.  The card had a shining Ministry of Justice hologram, practically radiating hope.  The Ministry of Freaking Justice loved me.  It was the most beautiful card I’d ever seen.  I walked outside feeling like sunbeams were lighting my way.  Which was a good thing, because actually the sky was a sheet of gray and everybody was walking around staring at their phones.  But ah, springtime in Japan, and I wasn’t in prison.  It was lovely.  I went straight to Starbucks, where it’s always sunny and the staff and customers crowded around and agreed how beautiful my new Japanese residence card was.  Then back to the shrine, where I realized everything was again right in the world.  Well, at least for three more years.  Thanks a bunch, Japanese God.

102 Replies to “Renewing a Japanese Visa, More Fun Every Year”

  1. It’s interesting how different experiences can be.

    It’s my 6th year in Japan and I renewed my visa three times thus far.
    The first time they refused to approve because OMG a German person wants to teach English???? What the hell is this? Not possible! Go home!! Drama, baby, drama!
    Don’t even ask! (T_T) …

    The second time I got a 3-year visa and this time again.

    I only lived in 2 prefectures, both very inaka-like and thus the immigration office was never full and I usually never have to wait. Often I was the only person there after all.

    Can I make a suggestion for the future? I noticed that it totally depends on who is in charge of your application!
    After all that drama with my first visa application I went to another immigration office. Usually there’s more than one per prefecture. Even if it’s more inconvenient to go there for you, it might be worth it!

    But yes with the new residence cards it seems everyone gets 3 years, so maybe you don’t have to worry about it anymore in the future!
    Also no stupid re-entry stamps anymore unless you plan to leave for more than a year.

    1. Yeah, I got a 3-year visa the first time, then changed jobs a few times, which resulted in a string of 1-year visas. Those suck. I hope you’re right about this new residence card meaning more of the 3-year variety. I’ll probably apply for permanent residence before this one’s out, but whether I get it or not is another matter. Always drama, as you say. Never a dull moment on planet Japan.

      Good tip about going to another immigration office. And yeah, thank God no more of those expensive re-entry stamps. Plus, when you get off the plane, you can now bypass the long line full of foreigners at Customs and go straight to the window for residents. I did that last year, after they changed the rules about residency, and it was awe~~~some.

      1. Ken, this was an interesting and fun read, as always. And I read it perfectly timed, since I have just started my visa extension process for the first time.

        Although my contract is extended only for a year, I would like to get a 3 years visa if possible. Do you have any recommendation about how to make this happen? One of the things is obviously writing 5 years as the desired length. The second thing is to go to a “friendly” immigration office as zoomingjapan wrote.

        I am also a little bit confused with the whole process. What is the City Hall thing?


        P.S.: To not to be impolite and ask the wrong question to my employer – do companies in Japan pay for Visa extensions?

        1. Okay, I’ll try to answer the easy—or let’s say easier—questions first.

          So the City Hall thing. I’ve renewed my visa 5 times now, I think, and this is the first time this happened to me. What they wanted was proof that I’d paid my residence tax. As you probably know, everyone in Japan must pay a yearly residence tax to the area they live in (I think it’s by 区, ku). And one of the ways to avoid paying it is by skipping out and moving from one 区 to another. Because the tax is the equivalent of hundreds or even thousands of dollars, there’s more than a little incentive to do this. And if you’re only going to be in Japan for 2 or 3 years, you can probably get away with it, just like one could probably avoid paying U.S. income tax for a couple of years before being caught. Actually, a former employer recommended I do this. It’s not good, but people do it.

          So my guess is that they’re cracking down on this. They wanted me to go to the 区役所, kuyakusho, and get something stating that I’d paid my residence tax. Maybe. I never know completely what’s happening in this country, but I think that’s what I did. And if that’s true, the trick of skipping out on the tax by moving won’t work any more, and you’d have to scramble around to pay all that back tax before you could renew your visa. Which would suck hugely.

          In terms of who pays, I think it’s a good question, because with train fare, cost of photos, 600 yen to get docs from City Hall, and the renewal fee, I ended up spending more than 7500 yen. Unfortunately, I’ve always paid for mine, usually because I was switching employers (and my current employer is as useful as a box of rocks), so I couldn’t count on the company to take care of me. But if I were renewing, yeah, I might ask. Politeness matters in Japan, but rules and obligations matter more, so if the company feels its their obligation, they may pay it. Depending on your relationship with your employer, I’d consider asking.

          As for getting a multi-year visa, it’s possible that it would happen by magic or God’s grace or some immigration new policy, as was the case for me. But the easiest slam-dunk is just to get some fool at your workplace to write a squiggly line instead of a straight one. Every contract I’ve ever seen here is a one-year contract, which is then renewed yearly. So the “length of the contract” really shouldn’t matter. It’s whether or not the company intends for you to work for only one year, or several years. If the latter is the case, then they really should write more than 1 to save you the time, expense, and stress of doing this every year. Writing 1 is just dickish. Anyway, that was my argument, which obviously went nowhere.

          Lastly, I’ll add that a friend of mine pays a professional something like 7000 yen to file the forms for him at the Immigration Bureau. All the guy does is walk down to the office and hand in the forms, but since he knows everyone at the Bureau, my friend feels this gives him an inside track. I don’t know if I believe that or not, but last time he got a 5-year extension.

          Good luck!

          1. Ken, thank you for this informative reply.

            “As you probably know, everyone in Japan must pay a yearly residence tax to the area they live in (I think it’s by 区, ku).”

            I have no idea about this and I so much appreciate that you brought it up. I did some quick internet search and “just wow” – that came as a surprise. I wish my employer would mention this when I moved here (or when I decided to extend my contract)… Will def look into it during this weekend.

            1. Yeah, this comes as a shock every year when you get an enormous bill in your mailbox. I think it comes in June but I’ve blocked it out since the memory is so traumatizing.

              Some companies deduct this automatically for you, and my first company did. If yours does, then you’ll be fine. Otherwise, now might be a good time to start doing some serious budgeting. Same goes for changing jobs. When I left my first company and started at a new place, it wasn’t deducted and—like you—I didn’t know it existed. It pretty much wiped out my savings the moment I opened my mailbox.

              Let me know what you turn up . . .

          2. As it turns out, my company deducts this automatically, phew!

            I am planning to do the paper work tomorrow, but I am not sure if I should still to City Hall to get the proof that the tax has been payed. Do you know if they started with this only this year? Does everyone need it? I’ve searched online, but not a lot of information about it from past years…


            1. Yeah, it seems like they’re requiring proof that you’ve paid your taxes. It was the first time it’s ever been asked of me, so I can only assume it’s some new policy, unless they just didn’t like the shirt I was wearing or something.

              The good thing is that you can mail it in, so either way, you don’t need to make special trip to the Immigration Bureau just for that.

              And thank God your company deducts the residence tax for you. Just remember that if you ever change jobs, you may to need to set aside some yen every month.

          3. Hi Ken,

            This may also be helpful for others:

            I applied for the extension today. There was no “tax proof ” paper needed in my case. I am not sure if this has anything to do with the fact that my company pays the taxes every month though.


            1. That’s great to know—glad that worked out for you. Sounds like it’s only for companies that don’t deduct the tax. Or maybe they just don’t like me. There’s always that possibility, however remote.

        1. Yeah, it’s actually awesome. All the foreigners line up in that horrible long line that you hate to wait in after an international flight. But you, as a resident, just breeze on over the the Residents’ counter, and Welcome Home.

          1. But wasn’t it always like that? I usually skipped the foreigner line and went directly to the “Reentry-Permit-Holder”-line.

            Which was always the least frequented among the three ones (foreigner/reentry-permit/japanese), and almost always near to empty.

            Once the “Reentry-Permit-Holder” was merged with the foreigner line, but that was when the foreigner line was almost empty.

            (I only ever entered and left via Narita)

            1. Huh, now that you say that, I think you’re right. It’d been a year since I last went out and came back, and I’d forgotten all about the Reentry-Permit-Holder line. So I guess it doesn’t help at all.

              Though I will say that I like the sound of “Resident” a bit better, even if it means “Foreign Resident.” I’m still trying to wrap my head around that term, though. Foreign. Resident. Hmmm. Maybe it’s just me.

      2. Hi, dear friend,
        I hope that you will be fine.
        I got two times , one and one year visas and after that two times 3 and 3 years visas.
        Today, I got one year visa. This is very strange to me. Could you please tell me the reason?
        I will be highly obliged.

        1. This is one of the great mysteries of the Orient. Nobody knows why you receive a 1-year visa, but everybody agrees it’s a tremendous pain in the ass.

          What I’ve seen is that if you make any changes—job, city, socks—the immigration bureau is more likely to knock you down to a 1-year visa. Then if nothing changes, you’re likely to get a 3-year visa again. Did you change jobs or your line of work recently? Also, I’m assuming you’re wearing the same socks for a year. That’s very important.

          1. Thanks a lot Ken for your kind reply.
            Yes, I had changed my job, but, I informed everything to the Immigration.
            This was my honesty, that I was updating the immigration with my everything.
            I could keep myself quiet , but I was honest.
            I think, it was my bad luck and nothing else.
            Only, worried for next year visa renewal.
            Thanks again for your precious time.

  2. I stumbled upon your homepage a couple of months ago.
    This will be my first post, i only want to say that i love your posts, keep up the good work!

    btw, i would have given you 10 years 😉
    But then i don´t live in Japan and I am a Swede 😀

    1. Hey, thanks so much for writing. I really appreciate comments—they keep me going. I’ve actually known a couple of Swedish people who studied Japanese, which makes me wonder if it’s a popular language in Sweden. And if so, why? Like, I’ve never heard of anybody from Norway or Finland studying Japanese, but maybe that’s just my limited experience. Hmmm.

      1. Hey, swede here! I think that might since Japan is a really big thing here. Some schools have japanese as a second language choice thingy, where we usually learn german, french or spanish. Also japanese fashion is popular. We have easy access to physical stores that sell anime and we have sooososo many conventions. Maybe that’s a few reasons.

        1. That’s interesting, to see Sweden form a connection with a country on the other side of the earth. I would have never guessed that. I guess humans just have a natural curiosity about new and different things. And Japanese conventions? I didn’t even know that was a thing. That’s cool.

  3. Ken,
    Is it common for Japanese authorities and police to verify proof of legal stay? Is it necessary to have it on your person?
    Last couple of years news are reporting that police is trying to be more vigilant, due to perception (real or not, I’m reserving my judgement) of some foreigners taking advantage of the system, and getting involved with crime, drugs, etc…

    1. I’ve read of people being stopped by the police and asked for ID, but I must say this hasn’t happened (much) in my experience. I don’t feel any more scrutinized than I do, say, in the U.S. Less, actually, now that I think about it.

      Now, that being said, I’m a pretty clean-cut looking white dude, and I try not to stumble drunkenly into people, too much, so I’m sure that helps. If you had dreads or looked all goth or something, then maybe you’d be stopped more, I don’t know. And it wouldn’t surprise me if the cops stopped people of other races more than me.

      You do have to carry your ID on you at all times. But when I go out for a run, I don’t carry it, and I have a feeling the police would be pretty reasonable if I did get stopped. (I’m not necessarily recommending this; it’s just what I do.) They are cops, after all, so they’ve got a job to do, but in every interaction I’ve had with them they’ve been sensible, even friendly.

      I have been stopped twice in the airport, while wandering around looking like I had nothing to do. Which actually I didn’t, because I was in an airport. But I’ve probably been to the airports here a few hundred times, so I don’t feel that’s unreasonable. It certainly doesn’t feel like a “police state” to me. I’d have to say the U.S. feels much more that way than Japan.

  4. Another entertaining and hilarious story that emparts some really great information. Welcome back Will Rogers! Ken you really should put all of these stories into a book; I believe they would really sell to all those curious about Japan. You should try making some money off of all that wit and wisdom so you can afford that Filipino Bride, cough cough! Best wishes again my Nakama!

    1. Yeah thanks. I know, I think about the book all the time. I’ll write a few pages and then be like, man, this would be perfect for the website! And then off it goes to the internet. Kind of like how every time I try to save up for a bottle of champagne, I walk by a convenience store and wind up blowing all my change on malt liquor. I need a Filipino bride to keep me in line. Should be a way to get one of those on credit . . .

      1. Are you keeping your receipts? You know everything you’re doing in Japan could be deducted as business expenditures/tax deductions as research for your book, right?

        How about “Japan for Dummies” or “Gaijing decoded” for a possible title for the book? If you used the first title you’d proly have to write about Akiba, so that might be a game changer!

        I know that many of the publishers state that internet content can’t be re-bundled in a book, but I think you could use your Blog if it was included as a stand alone appendix added to the end of the book as reference. Often the questions and answers to an article are some of the most entertaining and informative parts.

        I think a Filipino Bride could be a tax deduction too…hmmmmm!

        1. So wait, my entire experience in Japan can be written off if I write a book? You mean all the yaki-soba and beer I had at yesterday’s festival is tax-deductible? Hell, I’ll write a book this morning. Actually, what I really need to do is find a way to use that as a deduction for my Japanese taxes. As for deducting the expense for a mail-order bride . . . I think you mean mail-order secretary.

  5. “Yoroshiku onegaishimasu,” we both said. That’s Japanese for, “Please don’t screw this up.”

    Classic dude, I laughed pretty good at this one. I still don’t 100% get the intricacies of the phrase, but that translation is right on in plenty of circumstances, hah.

    1. Yeah, I think that’s become my number one most-feared phrase. It often carries with it an obligation, that somebody is leaving something in your capable (or not so) hands. Sometimes I hurry to say it to the other person before they can say it to me.

  6. You could tell me that in Japan they have a lottery and randomly pick a thousand people to draw and quarter once a year in the Tokyo Dome and I’d still love the place. But then again I never win anything so I’d probably be safe.

    1. Wow, you really love Japan. I’d probably be willing to risk the whole draw-and-quarter thing if it meant I didn’t have to work here. There’s nothing better than being in Japan on a Sunday.

  7. Going through (almost) the exact same situation at the moment, except that I don’t think I’ve ever flawlessly filled out a single piece of paperwork in my entire life. Evidently ink blotches from trying to turn that “6” into a “1”, coffee rings, and whiteout are simply unacceptable in Japan.

    Anyway, I know this about myself, and the mere knowledge of the fact that I am not allowed to fuck up all but necessitates that I will, invariably, fuck up. So I paid my company to do it for me. I suppose a better company wouldn’t charge me 5,000 yen, but meh, whatever, anything except paperwork.

    Only they fucked it up instead. And they didn’t tell me for a few weeks. And now I don’t even know what my visa status is, and I know my old visa expired like… weeks ago. I called my company and they’re like “Oh it’s totally fine. It happens all the time! We’ll handle it!” Uh-huh. Now I drive like a 5km semi-circle around the little police shack I used to directly drive past every day.

    Oh and what the hell is it with taking my gaijin card *and* my passport? “You must have proper ID on you at all times or you will immediately be deported”–>”Please send all forms of ID to our Tokyo office and patiently wait several weeks while we ignore your visa renewal.” What the hell, immigration, why you so contradictory.

    1. Yeah, hope you don’t have to take a trip any time soon. Best try to keep a low profile too.

      I feel you on filling out forms. Pretty much exactly what I talked about when I wrote a Japanese resume. I can’t print in a straight line to save my life, and my kanji looks worse than the retarded kid in my third grade class. But seriously, what’s up with having to hand-write stuff anyway? Like welcome back to 1985. Isn’t this supposed to be the land of technology? I should just be able to think in my application.

      Anyway, yeah, try not to get arrested or anything. Me, on the other hand, I saw the cops driving slowly by me yesterday when I was walking home, and I was like, Yeah, just try to stop me. I’ll bust out my Resident card on yo ass. I straight wish a cop would.

      1. Yeah I’m pretty sure I already mentioned the old people near me who mow their lawn with scissors.

        Anyway, I’m already looking forward to getting my damned card back. I have this running (imaginary) battle with the police where I refuse to wear my seat belt if I’m driving in town at low speeds. And I’m pretty sure they can hear my stereo inside their little koban-fort when I pass, too. Sticking it to the man any way I can, y’know.

        But now I have to sulk around on back roads and try to fight the urge to flee whenever I catch sight of anybody in a city uniform. Even postmen freak me out (they all ride the same scooters–pretty sure they’re the same one you have actually).

        1. Yeah, that’s the same scooter I’ve got, but I’ll thank you to refer to it as a motorcycle. A really freaking small motorcycle, but still. The mailmen, the neighborhood cops, me, and pretty much anybody who’s cool rides them. If you hear me rolling up behind you, remain calm, and resist the impulse to dive into an alley.

      2. “Me, on the other hand, I saw the cops driving slowly by me yesterday when I was walking home, and I was like, Yeah, just try to stop me. I’ll bust out my Resident card on yo ass. I straight wish a cop would.”

        All you have to do is act guilty of something. Take your hand and hide your face as they drive by. Or do a sudden 180 and walk very fast the other way. If they chase after you suddenly decide you need to take a jog.

        Here’s a good GoogTube video of the Japan’s immigration police chasing a Chinese illegal.

        When the cops asking you what you why you ran just tell them you jog regularly at unexpected times for health reasons!

        1. I gotta say, I love watching cop stuff, at least on TV. In real life, well, maybe not as much. It’s a little shocking how the Japanese police deal with immigrants, although I doubt it much better anywhere else. The last time I went to the U.S., even dealing with Immigration at the airport freaked me out.

  8. This fun post highlights my upcoming shift from JET ALT to… something else. Luckily, I’ve still got another year on my visa after one extension, but yea it’s definitely looming… I’m going to have to research what to do with job changes, etc.

    One thing that helped me when I did my last extension, I called ahead(ie I had one of my teachers call ahead) so I knew exactly what I’d need and what to hand in. They also knew I was coming so I had my extension in about 10 minutes. This probably wouldn’t work everywhere… but?

    1. Calling ahead seems like such a sensible idea, that’s probably why it never occurred to me.

      So yeah, I guess life after JET ALT . . . well, there’s always regular ALT, if you want to try prolonging that feeling of being 23 forever. Hmmm . . . that’s a pretty good idea, now that I think about it.

  9. This isn’t a comment on this post per se. I found your blog today and have been through several of the posts this morning.

    I’ve lived here in Tokyo now for 26 years. You are one of the first writers I’ve read to truly capture Japan. The humor, yes, but also the thrills and frustrations along the way. Your ramblings (if that’s okay to say) remind me so much of the reactions I had during my first decade here.

    I am thoroughly enjoying rulesof7 and plan to work my way through each of the posts. I’m glad to see someone is enjoying Japan as much as I still do every day.

    Thanks for this.

    1. Wow, thanks! That means a lot. 26 years, holy smokes. What was that, Meiji Era?

      I’m guessing you’re married with a child or two? That alone would change Japan considerably (as it would anywhere else, of course). Japan seems to work for some people long-term, and others, not. I’d be interested in learning more about why it’s worked out so well for you.

  10. Hey I’m coming for a visit next month. Do you know if my American passport is enough? Are their other things required. Love your blog

  11. I had completely different experience. I just came to Japan for the first time as an intern (actually a translator – yeah… with my bad English). I`m still a student so I`m going back to my country just to finish my Master`s Thesis. Anyway, at the beginning of my internship I was asked to stay and somehow all my colleges were sure that I will stay here forever… Well, they even asked me for example if I can become naturalized Japanese citizen just to avoid hassle of renewing my Visa every few years… Well, they were surprised I can`t… and that I don’t want to… (I`m their first foreign worker, so excuse their lack of knowledge). Still, they want to put as bigger number in the section for `how many years are you planning to stay in Japan` as possible…

      1. Poland. But yeah, it will be hassle to renew Visa every year or every three years. But I have to… I chose Japanese language as my specialty so now I have to deal with it. I have real great company here, they are even going to get me a new apartment when I will return from Poland to Japan as a regular worker so I can avoid all problems. I hate all those papers to fill … That is why I never went to USA though, and I`m not planing… to visit USA just as a tourist we (Polish people) need to go through all that hassle of getting Visa (just to travel!) and of course we have to pay for it… Well I was really fortunate with my company.. When I came here, all I have to do, was make a few signs as all documents were already filled for me. I know I will have to use to being an adult, and to responsibilities but sometimes (in Japan) it is nice to be take care of.. Even thought I still feel as though I am child (because of that….)

    1. Wow!!!, where were you working at? I would like to have that kind of secure job, instead of surviving by doing different parti time jobs.

      1. I can only say, Word to that. Monika—Holy Balls—I hope you play the Japanese lottery, because you’re about the luckiest person in this country. Seriously, congratulations to you for doing so well, and I’m sure your Japanese ability has a lot to do with it.

        1. Thanks a lot! Yeah, last and this year (so far) are very lucky for me indeed! And I have been working hard for it 🙂 I have just talk with my boss, as I pass him documents to fill for my new Certificate of Eligibility, and he was trying to make a mach for me… with the college from company… He is a lovely man…

          パブロ I talk with a lot of my friends from University and who work in Japan, they all say to look for a job in a small companies that want to sell to the West. I work in Nagoya at small company which deals with traditional Japanese items, like incense and Japanese solid cream perfumes.

  12. Hi Ken!!!

    This is my situation I got married with a Japanese girl and before coming I got a year visa now I just renewed it and I was expecting 3 years but I only got a year I felt so bad because if I were received 3 years more after that I could apply for the permanent residence but now it seems is gonna take at list one year more…

    1. Man, that sucks. Nothing like a trip to the Immigration Office to really make your day. Take a book or a video game or something, right? Anyway, hopefully next year . . .

  13. So I was required to show proof of payment of taxes (I moved from Awajishima to Nagoya). My previous employer hadn’t deducted municipal taxes, so I have to backpay them, apparently. I got a form from my last city showing how much I owe, but they haven’t sent me a payment slip yet. I submitted that amount owed form to immigration, and now I’ve been waiting over two weeks for a reply about my visa renewal. Should I talk to my old city again, and find out if they can send me a payment slip? I don’t know what to do.

    1. Ouch, that hurts. Yeah, I think I’d call them up and be like, Yo, where’s my payment slip? You want to be sure you didn’t miss a step, and that they’re not waiting on you for something.

  14. Hey there. Just wanted to say how much I enjoy reading your blog! I’ve been to Japan 3 times on vacation and have made an effort to study Japanese culture from California (as best I can) and your blog consistently rings true. My husband and I are now considering the big move to Japan!! But, we’re very confused … How does one go about getting a visa initially – from this side of the Pacific? We’re thinking of joining the American stereotype and beginning our Japanese lives at Eikaiwas. I heard this was a different kind of visa than for other kinds of teachers ?

    1. Thanks for reading!

      For the initial visa, you’ll want to find somebody willing to sponsor you before moving here. Sailing to Japan and hoping to knock on doors—which I’ve heard you could do like 30 years ago—is probably going to end with you sleeping under a bridge. The bridges here are quite nice though.

      Anyway, Eikaiwas, the JET program, and (perhaps) companies like Interac, which hire ALTs, are good places to look.

      The visa for eikaiwa instructors is a little different. I think it’s called a “Specialist in Humanities/International Services.” They’ll probably arrange it for you. The type of visa is no big deal, so long as you’re only working one job. And if you change jobs in Japan, your new employer will happily switch your visa to whatever new type you need.

      Myself, I signed on with an eikaiwa just for the simplicity of it. They really made everything easy—took care of the visa, apartment, futon, hanko, cell phone, even some food in the fridge. Then all I had to do was work like a slave for a year. I kind of overlooked the whole “working” part. So that wasn’t so great.

      If I had to do it again, I’d try to find a smaller school, or at least a really slow one. Good luck!

  15. Thanks so much for the reply! Very helpful! Hopefully I’ll get a good eikawa. Since it’s both me & my husband we’re looking for an eikawa without housing – we’d rather find our own apartment. But, I’ve heard that it’s really hard to find an apartment as a foreign couple. Do you have any experience with this? I keep running into a real estate company called “kinoshita”? But they seem a little too good to be true. I’m thinking of living in the Chiba area and looking for an eikawa in Tokyo or Chiba. Thanks again!!!

    1. I don’t have a ton of experience with renting apartments, but my impression is that it’s quite easy, so long as you have somebody Japanese willing to go with you. They may need to co-sign or something, I’m not sure. But your company will hopefully provide that. Hopefully.

      The real drawback to going through real estate agents seems to be the up-front costs (some of which you’ll get back when you move). It helps to have a small pile of money when you first arrive.

      By the way, when an eikaiwa “provides housing,” it’s not like the put you up in a dorm with a bunch of other teachers. In my experience, it simply means that they rent the apartment for you, and then either arrange to subtract the rent out of your paycheck, or have you pay it directly. But either way, you’d have your own place, just as though you’d gone to the trouble of getting it yourself, but without the up-front outlay of cash.

      Not sure if I’d recommend Chiba, unless you love living in the suburbs. And commuting into Tokyo could be pretty gnarly. But I guess you’d be close to Disney Land. That’d never get old.

  16. Hey all,

    Ive been in Japan for 4 years now, and about to get my visa renewed. The company wrote 5 years for the desired length of extension, but i recently changed from a full time to a part time. The paperwork also has me as a part time worker. Will that hinder me from getting a 5 year visa?

    Thanks all

    1. It’s like a roulette wheel. If there’s a formula for determining the length of visa you get, I’ve never heard it.

      I wish I could tell you something conclusive, but I guess we’ll have to wait and see. Drop back after you get it and let us know what happened!

  17. Seems like many foreigners have to deal with similar stuff.
    I came to Japan, after leaving everything behind in my country, struggled for a 3 months while just looking for a job. Got a “fantastic” one at eikaiwa, but they sponsored my visa…..and now here I am, after 2 months working, getting really bad salary, being a slave and so on….and I just got an email from my dream-job company, that they wanna hire me….. but I did have signed a 1 year contract for slavery at eikaiwa….. do you think you could break a contract like that and change jobs?? also, do you really need a visa change? I ask you, cuz you seem like an experienced person who was in that kind of deep hole before. What did ya do? Have you remain a slave for a whole year??

    1. I’ve done both.

      Breaking a contract is a big deal, or at least Japanese people like to make it a big deal. But the truth is, it’s no different than any other country. You just give notice, then you leave. You’ll want to come up with a good reason though, to save everyone the grief of thinking that you just found a better job. Lots of grandmothers dying off during job-hunting season.

      In retrospect, the first job I had, where I stayed and completed my contract—that was a mistake. It’s not a moral issue; it’s just dollars and cents. If you weren’t working out for the company, they’d shuffle you out the door in a heartbeat. I’ve seen that happen too.

      As for the visa status change, you’ll need it if you change types of jobs. I’ve actually had 3 different types of visas—all for teaching some type of English. Probably the most common change for English teacher is if you go from being an eikaiwa teacher to something like an ALT. Then you’ll need to change statuses.

      The status change is easy. Your new employer should help you prepare the form and then you just take it down to the immigration bureau along with your passport, residence card, and a certificate of tax payment (納税証明書). You get the latter from your local city or ward hall. The visa change will take a couple of weeks, and you might not have any income during the transition, but it’s not actually difficult.

  18. Hi Ken,

    You’re funny. This entertained me much. My name is Martina. Filipina. Currently holding a student visa. Studied Japanese for 6months. Got an employer to sponsor my visa. My student visa expires next month. I just submitted docs last week. What do you think are the chances? How long shld I wait? Job is teaching English too. Thanks a bunch

    1. If you’ve got an employer sponsoring you, I’d say your odds are pretty good. In my experience (I think I’ve done it 4 or 5 times now) it usually takes about a month to get the visa. Good luck, and let me know how it turns out.

      1. Thanks. Will let you know. Wished there wasnt a required CAPTCHA Code before postint a comment here. Haha. Never commented on any blogs before. Anyway, My classmates actually thought I was lucky to get a company to sponsorme. They just offered the job end week of January. Didnt expect it. I was ready to extend my student visa when they called. So, it’s like, I’m going to gamble on it. If my visa gets denied, then I wont know where to go next.

        1. Yeah, I know, Captcha sucks. Sorry about that. Spam and all.

          Getting a company to sponsor your visa is a major deal for everyone in this country, so yeah, you should feel lucky. Don’t worry. I think it’s a very good gamble.

  19. Hi there..Just called he immig. and she asked for my application number . After checking, she said “sukoshi matte”…. Hopefully thats true. Hoping I could get the answer this week. I dont want the agony in waiting

    1. I know that feeling; it’s such a relief once you’ve got the little card that allows you to stay in the country. Congratulations!

  20. In your experience, for an American, how long does it usually take to get your visa renewed? (After submitting all the required documents, when will you hear from them).

    1. I’d say 3 weeks, all things being equal. Of course, things are never equal, but still, that’s about what I’d say.

      1. Thanks for the reply Ken,

        I have to renew my work visa soon, but here is my predicament: I am a US citizen with a work visa and residency card currently in the states, soon heading back to Japan. My company (company A) is ready to hand me all the documents to get my visa renewed, but I always wanted to find a better job. Suddenly, my friend in Japan is introducing me to another job (company B) and all seems okay, but they just want to see me in person first in Japan.

        Currently I am thinking of renewing my visa by getting all the documents from company A and submitting it to immigration. Then go to company B and if all is well, work with them. From there, quit with company A, but my visa will still be processing. Would company A have the power to stop the process of my visa?

        Alternatively, on the day I arrive in Japan, I can see if company B really wants me. And if they do, have them give me the required documents to renew my visa. My limited resources told me that if I decide to renew through company B, I would need documents from company A that says I am no longer working with them. And with a soon expiring visa, would company A give me those documents in a timely manner, despite that they are required by law to give it?

        1. You know, a lot of people confuse me with an immigration lawyer, on account of I being so smart. But the truth is, well, I’m just that dude who lives in Japan. Which means I’m pretty fearful of giving any advice that’s gonna result in you being deported. So I hope the next time I hear from you isn’t via a postcard from Guam, but here goes…

          Maybe Company A could stop your visa processing. That seems likely. I mean, you’re bailing on them, so yeah, maybe they’d call Immigration and be like, Homey’s out. Not that I know; just saying.

          Would Company A provide the documents in a timely fashion? I’m gonna say Yes on this one, because the one thing all Japanese people fear is any kind of retribution. So if there’s one universal Japanese ideal to rule them all it’s Cover your ass. I think that’s on the Imperial crest. And I think Company A isn’t gonna take any chances.

          Then how long would the magic visa process take? Well, again, being the certified legal professional I’m not, I think it’d happen pretty quickly, and even if there was some delay, you’d be covered, somehow. I know this based upon half a dozen drunken conversations I’ve had with other people in the same boat over the years and a warm feeling I get when I hear the Japanese national anthem.

          My general observation is that, when a company wants you, they’ll take the steps necessary to get you. And that Immigration isn’t trying to make your life hard or keep you out of Japan; they just need to get the forms properly completed so they can cover their own ass. Hope that helps. Lemme know how Guam is.

          1. Thanks Ken,

            It’s not so much that you are an immigration lawyer in my eyes, but I am going to guess that like many other folks that read your blog, those seeking your knowledge feel you are the best resources we have, regardless.

            For now, I will take your words of wisdom as the gospel truth.

  21. Hey, great blog.
    I would like to share what happened to me after accidentally overstaying my visa in Japan.

    A few months after spacing my drivers license renewal, by two months, and having to go full forehead to floor apology in the drivers license center to get a new drivers license, I was teaching a lesson about how to go through customs to a student traveling to the U.S. for the first time. As most times I teach my students I try to use real enough props to help aid in the understanding of what is expected and how to do it effectively. This day I went and got my passport and as I was showing what each part was my student remarked that my visa had expired last month….No that can’t be……oh shit……oh no……(shitting bricks). Now I have lived in Japan for over five years and being married I never have to worry to much about visas, as long as I do it on time that is.

    I finished the class and jumped on my PC and started goggling and reading as much as I could in English before calling some of my friends and seeing what they though of the situation. The prognosis was not good, in fact it was bad. Most everything I found said that I would be arrested and held till they decide what to do with me…I.E. deport me.

    Now I had three chooses
    1: Get a lawyer.
    2: Go in and plead my case the next day.
    3: Make a wish on a rainbow and hope that a unicorn will grant me an instant visa.

    Opinion three was kind of tempting. Well I decided to go with option two, so I wrote a letter in Japanese saying sorry and explaining that I had looked at the wrong part of my (old style) alien registration card. I said it would never happen again and the used every form of I’m sorry in the Japanese vernacular to pad out the rest of the page. I packed a go bag and gave instructions to my wife on what to do if I was taken into custody. I am married with kids and own a house, car and an English school so there was a lot I would be leaving to my wife to take care of. I went first thing in the morning to get all the documents I needed and went to the immigration office to face the music.

    When I got there I gave my documents, my letter and explained the situation to the clerk I was told to take a seat and they will call me. The immigration office for my prefecture is quite small so that day there was only me and one other person that morning, A Chinese student getting a visa renewed. The immigration officer called the Chinese student first and proceeded to rip him a new one. He told the student that he didn’t have all the documents he needed and kept correcting his Japanese telling him to try harder, and a bunch of stuff I couldn’t catch. The bricks were turning to boulders.

    Now my Japanese is rudimentary at best in fact most of my Japanese is oiaji gags and a mix between stuff I learned watching shimajiro with my kids and stuff I learned drinking with random Japanese people I meet at a bar, good thing I brought my whole family and the in-laws with me, The won’t arrest me in-front of them, right?

    Well they called me and the same immigration officer looked at me, looked at my passport (American) and with a smile, and in English asked if I spoke Japanese.
    In Spanish I said a little. Those boulders I was shitting must have pinched my vagus nerve because what little Japanese I knew was now replaced with Spanish. He looked at me strangely and continued in English saying that they had to call the main office in Hiroshima because they didn’t know what to do and that nothing like this has happened in that office before. In the end I had to apply for a tourist visa pay the 4000 yen and then that would get voided, at the same time I would be applying for a spouse visa paying an additional 4000 yen for that. After filling out the paperwork and getting the stamps totaling 8000 yen and giving it all to the immigration officer they handed me my new “residence” card and I saw it was only for three years when I asked about that he told me because essentially I was “new” to Japan again I could only get a three year visa, if I had renewed on time I would have gotten a five year visa. All in all it was twice the money but only took about 45 mins from start to finish to get my new visa. Again being in a small city helps a lot when dealing with immigration. It probably would have been a very different story if I was in a larger city like Tokyo.

    The best part was the fact that a week earlier I was in a bar and some Japanese guy started hitting his wife so I stopped it and we got into it, a little, he called the police and tried to have me arrested (they told him that if they arrest me they will arrest him too he declined to press charges) the police never noticed that my visa was expired they even photo copied my card, instant karma. w

  22. awesome blog!

    i have a question!
    i will be renewing my visa soon and I still have four/three months worth of unpaid taxes. do i have to pay all that first before they can process my application? or is it OK to leave that unpaid (for now)?

  23. It seems they’ve fixed the problem of leaving you with no ID. I went in to submit my renewal today, and after checking the documents they gave me back my residence card with a 在留期間変更申請中 (renewal application in progress) stamp, and my passport with a slip of paper (申請受付票) stapled inside it that said (in Japanese only) that since I’ve applied for a renewal, I can overstay two months past the expiry date (or other date stipulated, of which there isn’t one) if the application runs over. But I still have almost three months to expiry, so I think it doesn’t really apply to me anyway, but sounds like it would have been useful info to have in your case!

    The slip of paper was pre-printed with Fukuoka Immigration Beuro’s address, so it may differ at other branches.

  24. Hi, Ken.

    Thank you for sharing your experiences here in Japan and for imparting knowledge to us foreigners especially on immigration stuff. Here’s my case: I have a Long Term Visa valid for 1 year which is set to expire on June 2016. I got my visa thru my wife who is a Biological Child of a Japanese National (3 year visa). Me and my wife are both employed. Anyway, we are planning to go to our country (Philippines) on Feb 2016 and stay for a couple of days (to attend on a family affair). Are there restriction/s like you can’t go home in less than a year if you are planning to renew your visa? Will that hinder me from getting a 3 year visa in the future? I’ll be looking forward for your advice. Thank you.

  25. Very entertaining article I must say. I have recently mived to Japan and at the begining I didn’t realize that I was actually lucky. I had a converstation with my friend here and when he told me about phone contract is impossible for new comers with one year visa, I innocently said that I have a three years visa… I felt a sort of dark aura around me suddenly with my eyes perfectly round and my head tilted a bit, he was saying that I was very lucky tonhave it. Then I realized how important it is around here. Coming a third world country I couldn’t guess really. But I guess with my ba in Teaching English I think it helped massively in that ddcision. I dread the day I have ti renew it. If you think this office ward procedure is tedious, please try in Algeria. You will mass murder everyone without a blink of an eye.
    let me read more from you and I hope I can talk to you on Line or other means of commhnication. i moved to Japan because my country didn’t offer me the security that every woman needs in her life. Now Life is good(not promoting LG here)

  26. HI. If you could list the items/documents that need to be submitted with a renewal, that would be awesome! I will do the work for my sponsor so…
    Many thanks! Paul

  27. I smiled through the whole thing. Loved every bit of it so much I read it twice.
    I don’t know how old this post is or if you’re still active on it but damn you should write a book about life in Japan.

    1. I’m still here, still queer, and one of these days gonna write that book, so thanks. Well, not actually that queer, but it rhymed, so whatever. Seriously though, thanks.

  28. hello ken, i just want to ask if how many months is the maximum duration for visa extension, my atty have submitted my documents in immigration last March 18 and it doesn’t arrive yet. i have to go back in my country last year because I give birth after my 1st renewal of visa. this was my second renew.
    thanks.hope for enlightenment.

    1. Sorry for the late reply. The max visa extension I’m aware of is 5 years. Most folks who’ve been here a while get three; but they seem to knock you back to one if there’ve been any recent changes in your life (such as leaving the country and coming back). Hope everything worked out well for you.

  29. Hello Nen,

    I had applied for Visa Renewal for 3 years, this is my First Renewal. I had applied 1 month and 10 days ago. Actually how long will be the processing time it takes. If rejected whether i won’t receive a post card?

    I just want to know about is there any problem in my visa processing.

    1. I seem to recall it taking a bit over a month, so it’s probably coming soon.

      I’d wait another week, and then if you’re really worried, get your sponsor to call the Immigration Office and check on the status.

      1. Thanks for your reply ken.
        I will wait for one more week if then i won’t receive post card i will ask my sponsor to make a call to Immigration Office.

  30. I’ve gotten six consecutive one-year renewals.

    Here’s my history of applications and extensions:

    2011/3 (Yokkaichi, Mie):
    – I was new to Japan and extended from a tourist visa to work visa.
    – My credentials were: BS Liberal Studies, AA Liberal Arts, CELTA, JLPT 4-kyuu (=N5), a year and a half of teaching experience (in Taiwan)
    – I got a one-year extension.

    – I had been working at the same employer and living at the same address for a year.
    – My new credentials were: JLPT N4, Kanji Kentei 5-kyuu, and a new teaching certificate for Young Learners (YL), 2.5 years’ experience
    – I got a one-year extension.

    – I had been working at the same employer and living at the same address for two years.
    – My new credentials were: JLPT N3, 3.5 years’ experience
    – I got a one-year extension. At this point, I started to feel a little bit dejected–I had been loyal to the same employer for over two years, had worked hard on studying Japanese, mastering over 1,000 kanji and passing N3, and yet, immigration didn’t seem to care.

    2014/3 (Utsunomiya, Tochigi):
    – I had switched employers recently and was now living in Utsunomiya.
    – My new credentials: a Career Studies Certificate in Business Information Technology, 4.5 years’ experience
    – I got a one-year extension. Although disappointed, I figured “I changed jobs and addresses recently, and I guess they don’t like that, so okay”

    2015/4 (Aizu-Wakamatsu, Fukushima):
    – I had switched employers recently and was now living in Aizu-Wakamatsu.
    – My new credentials: Kanji Kentei 4-kyuu, 5.5 years’ experience
    – I got a one-year extension. Although disappointed, I figured “I changed jobs and addresses recently, and I guess they don’t like that, so okay.”

    2016/4 (Aizu-Wakamatsu, Fukushima):
    – I had been working at the same employer for more than one year.
    – My new credentials: JLPT N2, a new associate’s degree in IT, a new Career Studies Certificate in Application Programming
    – I got a one-year extension, yet again. I was very disappointed. I thought “This is ridiculous. I’m in my sixth year here. I have a bachelor’s degree, two associate’s degrees, two teaching certificates, two IT certificates, JLPT N2, and Kanji Kentei 4-kyuu (>1,300 kanji), have been living and working in the same place for my entire previous extension, and yet, in spite of that, am STILL getting one year? What the hell? Does immigration hate me?”

    So yeah, definitely feeling dejected. Whenever I ask immigration why I was given one year, they usually give the reason “Because you have a one-year contract.” I know this is BS because almost every teacher here is on a one-year contract, and yet, most eventually seem to get three years.

    I’m moving again this year, to the Kantō Region (probably Tokyo or Kanagawa), so I expect that in 2017, once again, I will get a one-year extension, since changing your address/job (even if your job is totally dead-end) is a big no-no to immigration. I guess my next clear shot at a three-year extension will be 2018.

    1. Hey Charles.

      Bit late of a reply but I just stumbled upon this blog.

      I don’t know if it’s moving house or what… my friend moved house 3 times in 1 year (Their driving licence was covered in pen on the back) and they got a 3 year renewal… I’ve lived in the same place 6 years and always get 1 year renewals, no fines, late taxes or anything, pretty much idential qualifications to yourself.

      Will be renewing my visa again soon and wonder what I will get.

      1. It’s pretty much a crap shoot. But what’s the length of your employment contract? That always seems to impact the visa.

        You should probably start working on a Permanent Resident visa. Me too.

  31. Love your writing style! So witty.

    Recently renewed as well, was given 5 years because the guy i spoke to was feeling kind that day. Honestly, I was shocked as I was expecting 1 year. It was taking almost 2 months to receive approval and I needed to book a flight for urgent reasons so couldn’t wait much longer and went to the office. I’d been working for the same employers for the last 2 years, albeit part-time, on 1 year contracts. Received 1 year visas twice previous.

    1. Five years? Holy smokes, congratulations. And on part-time contracts? This country is so weirdly random. But good for you, seriously.

  32. Anyone have any suggestions for my situation – nice blog by the way ?
    Submitted my application a little before 2 months before the visa expired, now it’s going on for 2 and a half months since the submission, I’ve spoken to an officer and had no news that could allow me to get on with planning my life, school also did that but got no info because they made me submit the application, had to cancel an expensive airline ticket and lost the money, can’t renew my apato til I have a new visa and will have to leave soon, have clocked up more than 200,000 yen in losses because of this situation.
    Can’t afford a lawyer to go in and resolve it.
    Have paid my taxes and health insurance, no criminal record. Have worked in Japan and renewed visas before. Have lived at same apato for some time.
    What can I do now?
    Thanks for any info/suggestions.

    1. They should give you a “temporary visa” like a tourist visa to use until your application is through if I’ m not mistaken. That may not solve your problems vis a vis appartment etc. though.

      Also, just go there (Shinagawa?) and get someone to talk to you. Tell them your story and that you had huge costs and have a lot of problems with your living arrangements due to them being late with replies.

    2. Man, that sucks. I’ve heard similar stories before, so I don’t think your case is unusual, although I don’t know what’s behind it.

      The only thing that ever seems to work for me is having a Japanese person with enough authority call up the immigration bureau. It sounds like you tried that with your school, but frankly I’d ask them to call again.

      I can say that I once got a job with a pretty major company here, and they wanted me right away but of course it required a visa change. I put in the paperwork, then packed all my shit and gave notice on my apartment. But just like you, I had no word from the immigration office. It’d been like 3 weeks and I’d called twice and been told to screw off. Finally I was scheduled to move and start at the new company in two days, so I called the company HR rep in tears and was like “I got no visa and I’m gonna have to live in the park!” I’m real dramatic like that. She called Immigration and I literally had a visa the next day. That’s clout.

      So I’d definitely have a Japanese person sort this out for you. Think about it—you’re just one in a sea of foreign faces all clamoring for a visa. They can safely ignore you because, hey, what’re you gonna do? You’re not one of “them.” But a Japanese person, well that’s a little different. And a Japanese person who regularly deals with the immigration bureau, that’s a lot different.

      Somehow this stuff always seems to resolve itself at the last minute, but yeah, it definitely sucks.

  33. What can I say, two complete strangers took the time to give me advice in this stressful situation. Thank you so much Hanayagi and Ken.
    To Ken – damn, that situation you mentioned that happened to you sounds a complete nightmare. Glad it worked out for you and your life here. Love your blog – just found it recently.
    I get the feeling the bureau doesn’t respect my school. After all, they never bother to turn up with the teachers but leave us to go thru a crapshoot. Too bad I’m the one getting the problem.
    Just have to drag myself off to Konan next week – again.

  34. I just got my visa today. Both I and my company requested a 3 year visa and the sods gave me one year. They gave me the bs excuse that my contract was for one year. But I’m a seishain, the contract is just protocol you can’t even get longer contracts.

    Everyone keeps saying that the guy gives you what they want on the day. What day? The day you apply or the day you collect? Or in the back office? How do you even know at which point in the process they even write it down? I always get given a ticket and asked to sit down.

  35. Back in the day, decades ago, a guy in my office, who had been in Japan for 10 years at that time, was only ever given 6 month visas even though like me he was on a one year contract. I was surprised when after 4 six month visas I was given a one year visa. Why the different treatment? Possibly, because at the visa renewal ceremony I always wore a tie, and if cool enough a jacket.

    1. The real mystery is whether there’s formula for Japanese visa renewals, or if it’s just some dude sitting in the break room flipping a coin. I mean, you’d think they’d have a pretty standardized process. But given the results, the coin flip seems more likely.

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