There are seismic changes in the visa and residence procedures for non-Japanese residents in Japan.
Japan’s Ministry of Justice is not exactly throwing away immi-
gration controls but it is certainly giving them a good nuts-and-bolts overhaul, which take effect on July 9, 2012.
The highlights: out with the old alien registration card, in with, er, a different card: the resident card.
Out with the three-year visa limit, in with a five-year limit.
Out with the re-entry permit — yes, I really did write that,
the re-entry permit is gone — in with a time limit on your absence from Japan.
Out with the alien registration system, in with the new
residency management system.
Is this going to make a real difference to anyone? Well, looks like a ‘yes’ to that question. Or ‘yes, kind of’.
Instead of your local authority issuing your alien registration ID card, your ‘gaijin card’ on behalf of the MOJ, the residence card will be issued by the immigration authorities themselves. You’ll still need an embarrassing photo, though.
The MOJ claim that the new system will be so much easier to manage than the old, they can afford to up the period of stay (subject to conditions, naturally) to five years, reducing tiresome treks to the immigration office.
Ditto the visits to the immigration office for the re-entry permit if you are returning, according to their online blurb, “within 1 year … to continue [your] activities in Japan”. This policy is prefixed with the ominous term “in principle”, which means that the authorities may wish to make exceptions. It is not likely the non-exempted majority are going to be kicking up a fuss about not having to go to immigration to pay to be let back in the country after their holiday.
Do you need to rush pell-mell for the immigration office to register for the new system before The Man at MOJ changes his mind? That depends whether you think three years is a cause for pell-mell. You can apparently go to the immigration office to get the change made right away or you can wait for your next scheduled visit, say, to renew a visa and do it then. If you have permanent residency you have until July 8, 2015.
As ever, in legal matters, do not take KS’s word for anything.
If you have visa issues, you may wish to engage an immigration lawyer. You can — and should — check out the changes yourself at the URL below.