What is Status of Residence?
To live and work in Japan, non-Japanese residents are required to get a status of residence which is appropriate for your activity in Japan, then, treasure it by following laws and regulations.
Before jumping into the process for the application, let me explain the terms we use. “Status of Residence” is a status under which foreign nationals can stay in Japan to engage in certain activities.
We sometimes call the status of residence “Work Visa”. But strictly speaking, status of residence and visa are different. Visa is a seal put on your passport when Japanese embassies or consulates confirm the validity of your passport and considers that you wouldn’t have a problem for entry to Japan.
Total 38 kinds of Statuses
There are in total 38 kinds of Residential Statuses in Japan. These statuses can be classified into two groups. One is a group of Statuses of Residence which are granted based on the activities you’ll engage in Japan. For example, if you want to work as a software engineer, most common option is 技術人文国際ビザ(Engineer, Specialist in Humanities/International Service Visa) or 高度専門職ビザ(Highly Skilled Foreign Professionals).
If you are a holder of a status of residence which are categorized in this group, in principle, you cannot engage in the activities other than that your status of residence permits. For example, if you have a Skilled Labor Visa (技能）, You cannot engage in Legal or Accounting Service (法律・会計業務). To engage in the different activities, you need to change your residential status.
However, if you get Permission to Engage in Activity Other than that Permitted Under the Status of Residence (資格外活動許可), you may engage in other activities under certain conditions. For example, International Students can work part time job within 28 hours per week (within 40 hours during long holidays), if you get this permission.
Another group is residential statuses which are granted based on your status such as permanent resident, spouse or child of Japanese, spouse or child of permanent resident. If you are holder of one of these Status of Residence, your activities are not restricted. In other words, with these statuses of residence, you can work, study, or manage company, and you don’t even need to work.
The effective period of the status of residence.
Except permanent residence, Immigration decides the effective period of the status of residence. In the case of 技術人文国際ビザ(Engineer, Specialist in Humanities/International Service Visa), Immigration choose the period from 5 years, 3 years, 1 year or 3 months.
No need to say, when the effective period passed, the status of residence will expire. You need to renew your status of residence before expiration. The effective period are usually short at first but become longer as you repeat renewals.
Five Steps to enter Japan and start new life
Step 1: Check the effective period of your passport
If the expiration date of your passport is coming soon, it’s better to renew before moving forward to the next step.
Step 2: Obtain Certificate of Eligibility
CoE is a certificate issued by Japan’s Minister of Justice when the activities of foreign nationals meet the purpose for certain Status of Residence and other conditions for landing Japan are satisfied. CoE can be obtained by application to regional immigration bureau.
You can apply yourself but it’s not easy if you are not staying in Japan.
In such case, the staff of the company hiring or school accepting you in Japan or your relatives can apply on behalf of you. Qualified lawyers or administrative scriveners can also assist the application.
The examination by immigration may take several months or longer.
Step 3: Obtain Visa (Seal on your Passport)
After you have received CoE, you need to go to Japanese embassy or consulate in your country to get Visa (Seal on your passport). It is advisable to check with Japanese embassy or consulate in your country about the procedure and what is necessary to get Visa in addition to passport and CoE.
Step 4: Entry to Japan
Since the effective period of CoE is only 3 months from the issuance, you have to land Japan before it expires.
When you land Japan, you need to show your Visa and CoE to inspector at airport. If there is no problem in the landing examination, you will be permitted to land Japan and receive landing verification seal on your passport and Residence Card.
Usually Residence card are issued at the airport. But some airports do not handle the administration. In such case, your Residence Card will be mailed to your place of residence after you have completed Notification of the Place of Residence (see step 5).
Under immigration law, you are required to carry a Residence card at all time and show it to immigration officer or police officer if requested. There is penalty for breach of these obligations.
Step 5: Notification of the place of residence
After entry to Japan, you are required to visit the municipal office of the city where you are going to live to notify the place of residence. You have to complete this notification within 14 days from the date when you find the place to live in Japan.
When you need to change your status of residence?
In principle, you cannot engage in the activities other than that your status of residence permits. So if you want to engage in a different activity, you need to change your status.
For example, International Students who got a job offer from Japanese company need to change their status (International Student Visa) to the status such as 技術人文国際ビザ (Engineer, Specialist in Humanities/International Service Visa).
International Students who have graduated from their school but couldn’t find job before expiration of their current visa need to change its status to Designated Activity (特定活動ビザ) which permit them to continue job hunting in Japan.
Also, when employees having Engineer Visa resign from their company to establish their own companies, they need to change their status to Business Manager Visa or other status which permit you to run your own business such as Highly Skilled Foreign Professionals, Permanent Residence, or Spouse of Japanese Visa.
How to apply for change of Status of Residence
To change your status, you need to collect all documents required for the change and submit them to the local immigration office which has jurisdiction over your domicile. The necessary documents are different depending on which status you want. The companies hiring you or qualified lawyers can assist the process.
To change the status, you need to pay 4,000 yen as stamp duty.
Examination period takes about 1 or 2 months.