Posts Tagged ‘change of status’

Japan visa change of status and extension

Wednesday, July 6th, 2011

If you are moving to a job which requires a different residency status from your current one, you will need to file a change of status application with immigration. This post talks about my experience of changing my ‘designated activities’ status (working holiday visa) to a ‘specialist in humanities / international services’ status. There is also information about extending your period of stay.

The most common changes for typical readers of my site would be ‘instructor’ to ‘specialist in humanities’ (or vise versa), ‘designated activities’ to either ‘instructor’ or ‘specialist in humanities (for WHV people who are staying longer), and ‘temporary visitor’ status to either ‘instructor’ or ‘specialist in humanities’.

By far the most common one will be changing between ‘instructor’ and ‘specialist in humanities’ as the English teaching statuses are split into two. If you work at public school you will have an ‘instructor’ status, and if you work at a private conversation company (e.g. an eikaiwa) you will have a ‘specialist in humanities’.

Although the post is mainly about changing status, I’ll include information about making period of stay extension applications as that follows a similar process.

Making the application

To change your residence status you will first need a company willing to sponsor the change. In other words you will need to have a job offer from a company.

You will then need the correct paper work. You official process for a change of status of residence is detailed on the immigration website here, and you can also find the extension process details here.

If you look at the link in this section for both the change of status and extension, you’ll see that the main difference between the two is that for an extension you have to provide ‘Documents certifying an annual income and tax payment’ whereas for the change of status you don’t. This makes the change of status simpler for you as you don’t have to go to city hall to get those tax certificates.

The paper work listed for a change of status to ‘specialist in humanities’ listed on this page is:

  1. Copies of the company registration and a statement of profit and loss of the recipient organization.
  2. Materials showing the business substance of the recipient organization.
  3. A diploma or certificate of graduation with a major in the subject regarding the activity of the person concerned, and documents certifying his or her professional career.
  4. Documents certifying the activity, the duration, position and the remuneration of the person concerned.

Here is the paper work I actually needed.

  • The application form for a change of status (for applicant)
  • Application form for change of status (for organisation)
  • Copies of the company registration and a statement of profit and loss of the recipient organization.

The first two are from this ‘Application for Change of Status of Residence’ PDF linked from the change of status page. That is 4 sides of A4, and pretty easy to fill in. You’d probably fill in the ‘applicant’ part and your company would fill in the ‘organisation’ part.

Maybe these 4 sheets of paper satisfied parts 2 and 4 of the list of required documents above for my application? Or it could be that Tokyo immigration is quite relaxed?

The ‘copies of company registration/profit and loss…’ consisted of a single sheet of photocopied A4 paper which listed the company name, gave a few details of the company profit, and had the company seal on it (photocopied – not an original seal).

And that was all I needed – 5 sheets of single sided A4 paper. The list of documents does mention needing a degree certificate, but I was never asked for mine.

Of course you need your passport and alien registration card as well.

Making the application

To apply I went to the Tokyo immigration centre which is located on an island near Tennozu Isle Station. There is a detailed description of how to get to the centre on the ‘Way Way in JAPAN! ’ blog. Or if you want the short version find the blue bridge near the station, and if you look North East you will see the Tokyo immigration building (highlighted in red).

tokyo immigration bureau

I went just before the Golden Week holiday, they were obviously expecting a lot of people as they had signs up asking people to avoid making any applications at this time if they could wait. I went in anyway, and headed upstairs to the application counter.

There was first a 10 minute queue to be seen by someone who had a quick scan of my documents. She seemed happy that I had the correct ones so she gave me a numbered ticket. It was about 2:45pm and I was given number 580. There were hundreds of other people in this area of the building. The current number on the screen was 325, so there were 250 tickets to go before mine!

It is good that they do a quick screening of your forms and documents before issuing you a ticket, as it would be terrible to wait for ages for your number to be called, only to find out that you are missing something obvious.

I had plenty of time so I had a walk around, and bought and ate some food. I was able to calculate the rate at which they were getting though the tickets. They had all 6 counters fully staffed and were getting through about 1 ticket per minute.

At 4pm they stop issuing new tickets for applications, but they will keep calling up the numbers until they have serviced all the tickets.

After about 3 hours 25 minutes my number was called! I handed in my forms, passport and alien registration card.

The lady on the counter gave me a postcard, and told me to write my address on it.

After I had done that she told me to sit down. After nearly 10 minutes (I saw her discussing something with another employee) she called me back up. She had stamped one of the pages in my passport with an ‘Application’ stamp, and had stapled in a leaflet explaining what happens next.

period of stay change of status leaflet

Here is the text of it:

A judgment on your application for change of status of residence will be made approximately within a month. Please be advised that it may take more time depending on a case.
When no notice is given after 30 days of the expiration of your period of stay, please visit the Tokyo Regional Immigration Bureau, and confirm the status of your application before 40 days have passed since the expiration date.
(Note) Those who applied for change of status of residence may extend their period of stay until the earlier of either the date when a judgment on the application is made, or the date when two months have passed since the expiration of their period of stay. Please be advised that you are recognised as an illegal resident and subject to deportation procedures two months after the expiration of your period of stay, even if a judgement on your application has not yet been made.
Tokyo Regional Immigration Bureau

I only had about five weeks left of my current residency status, so I was keen to know how long it would take to get my results. The lady though it might be about three weeks, but she said it could take longer.

I then aksed about what would happen if my current residence status expired before I got my result. I don’t think she understood my questions, even after I tried to rephrase it three times. And I didn’t understand any of her answers. Don’t expect the immigration staff to speak good English. If you need English help before or after applying there is a help centre on the ground floor with staff that have a higher level of English.

Later when I got home I tried to decode the leaflet. I worked out that it meant that you could stay for up to two months beyond the expiry of your current period of stay *if* you were still waiting for a result. But that if you don’t get any result within 30 days of your period of stay expiring, you should visit them before 40 days have expired since the end of expiry of your residence status.

And very importantly – it stated that overstaying by one day from this two month grace period would cause you to become an illegal resident. Comment 1 on my Japan visa FAQ page will give you an idea of the kind of trouble you can get yourself in if you try overstaying by even one day.

Here is some official information about the special exception to the period of stay from immigration.

Application for extension of period of stay leaflet

If you are applying for an extension at Tokyo immigration here is the text of the leaflet that they are currently stapling into passports.

A judgment on your application for extension of period of stay will be made within the following period unless any special notice is given by the Tokyo Regional Immigration Bureau. Make sure to visit the office of the Bureau within the specified period. Please contact the Inspection Coordination Department of the Bureau if you cannot do so.
Please bring your (1) passport and (2) foreign resident registration card with you when you visit the office. A fee of 4,000 yen is required when your application is permitted.
Period of visit:
From **/** (month/day)
To **/** (month/day)
PERMISSION STAMP COUNTER No.A
(Note) Those who applied for extension of period of stay may extend their period of stay until the earlier of either the date when a judgment on the application is made, or the date when two months have passed since the expiration of their period of stay. Please be advised that you are recognised as an illegal resident and subject to deportation procedures two months after the expiration of you period of stay, even if a judgment on your application has not yet been made.
Tokyo Regional Immigration Bureau

The dates given are about a month from the day you apply. The ‘special notice’ refers to them sending you the postcard that you filled in. So if you get the postcard you have to visit them before the date on the postcard. If you don’t get the postcard then you have to visit them between the dates on the leaflet.

They’ve made the English in these leaflets way more complicated than it needs to be. Perhaps they should ask some of those native English speakers in the waiting room to help them rewrite it in simple English.

Waiting…

After making the application you then have to wait. I’ve found that the expected processing times they tell you at immigration are usually the worst case times. There is a good chance that it will be done in about two weeks or less. A friend of mine went to Tokyo immigration late in the morning on Monday, and got the notification card on Saturday – less than a week!

You (probably) don’t need to worry about whether they will grant your change of status/application. If they accepted your documents, and you have a sponsoring company who wants you to work then your request should be granted.

Receiving the postcard

About three weeks later the postcard arrived! It would probably have only taken two weeks if it were not for the Golden Week holiday. Here is my postcard. As they had ticked the box to get ¥4000 of revenue stamps I was pretty sure that I had been granted the change of status.

japan visa notification postcard

If there is a problem with your application they’ll send you a letter asking for more information, or scribble something on the postcard, rather than ticking one of the revenue stamp boxes.

Visiting immigration again

I went back to Tennozu Isle Station, and walked to immigration again. I started queuing from 8:15am, and they opened the doors at 8:30am. First I went to the Family Mart on the ground floor to buy my revenue stamp.

4000 yen revenue stamp

I then went upstairs to the permission stamp counter. I waited in the short queue, handed over my passport and postcard, and was given a numbered ticket. The queue to get your numbered ticket opens at 8:30am, but they don’t start calling up numbers until 9:00am.

At about 9:15am my number was called. The lady handed my passport to me and showed me the page showing that my change of status had been granted and that I had been given a three year period of stay. They must have been feeling generous!

The application stamp in the passport had been marked as ‘USED’.

change of status application stamp japan

And here is a photo of a change of status sticker, as well as an extension sticker.

japan change of status extension permit

If you change your status the one year/three year new residence status starts from the day you collect your sticker. If you have applied for an extension to your current status the one/three year extension starts from the end of your current period of stay.

With my change of status granted I went back down to the Family Mart, bought another revenue stamp and went back upstairs to get my Japan re-entry permit (¥3000 for a single and ¥6000 for a multiple).

One year or three years?

A lot of people want to know how to get a three year residency status rather than a one year one. There are all kinds of theories floating around on the internet such as:

  • You need to have been granted several one year periods of stay before getting a three year one.
  • They want to wait for evidence of a history of having paid all your taxes before granting it.
  • The company you work for may play a factor.
  • The country you come from may influence the decision.
  • It depends on whether the immigration official is having a good day or a bad day.
  • They roll a dice and randomly select what to give you!
  • It depends on which immigration bureau handles your request.
  • The type of job you are doing makes a difference.
  • It depends on whether you tick the one or three year box on your application.

The truth may be in there somewhere, but no one really knows. For obvious reasons their criteria for deciding what length of stay to grant are secret.

I can however say that it is not always necessary to have been granted several one year periods of stay, or to have paid taxes before getting a three year period of stay.

I spent only one year in the country on a WHV (and I did no work – therefore paid no taxes – it was a pure holiday), and I was granted a three year period of stay with my very first application.

Lose ends

Don’t forget to get your alien registration card updated at your local city office within two weeks of being granted your change of status / extension. They will write the new details on the back of the card, and then put a clear holographic security sticker over the writing.

alien registration card updated

Japan visa FAQ

Monday, May 30th, 2011

There is lots of official and unofficial information about visas for Japan. The aim of this page is to share a bit of my *unofficial* knowledge on the subject, and help you to understand the official guidelines (i.e. the information issued by the Japan immigration, and Japanese embassies).

Always trust the official information rather than unofficial information (don’t trust me for example), but be aware that sometimes there is a difference between the ‘official’ information, and what is actually possible :)

What is a visa?

A visa for Japan allows you to be given a specific status of residence in Japan at the airport – as long as immigration allows you to enter the country. Which they probably will as you have a visa and so have already been checked out by the Japanese government. There’s no guarantee though, even with a visa you can be sent back home after reaching the airport in Japan.

http://www.mofa.go.jp/j_info/visit/visa/system/

This is what a visa looks like when stuck inside a passport.

japan visa working holiday

Do I need a visa to come to Japan?

This depends on what you want to do in Japan and what country you are from. If you are just coming for a holiday and are from a Western country then you probably don’t need a visa. If you are coming to start a pre-arranged job then you will.

http://www.mofa.go.jp/j_info/visit/visa/

If you come to Japan as a tourist under the visa waiver scheme you will get a ‘temporary visitor’ status of residence. If you are in Japan on the visa waiver scheme your ‘temporary visitor’ status isn’t a visa – you never had a visa! That’s the whole point of the ‘visa waiver’. Here is the landing permission stamp for a temporary visitor.

temporary visitor landing permit japan

So when most people say they have a touist visa, they usually don’t… unless they are from a country that requires them to get an actual tourist visa before visiting. In which case they get a temporary visitor visa before going to Japan which then gives them a temporary visitor status of residence.

How can I get a visa?

Again the official information at http://www.mofa.go.jp/j_info/visit/visa/ is a good place to start, but I’ll give you a summary. Here are some of the main types of visa.

  • Work visa – you will need an employer in Japan to sponsor your work visa. They will file much of the paper work for you, but you will have some paper work to do as well. Your visa will give you permission to work in a specific industry (e.g. in the public school system, as an engineer etc). Even though you need sponsorship from one company the visa does not tie you to that company, only to the particular industry for which it is granted.
  • Working holiday visa – if you are young enough and from one of the countries that has a reciprocal working holiday visa scheme with Japan then you may be able to get this type of visa which allows you to stay in Japan for an extended time and work with no employer sponsorship necessary. If you qualify for this visa it is a great scheme as it gives you a large amount of flexibility in who you work for, what type of work you do, and how long you can work. This is one of the most relaxed visas you can get for Japan. I wrote about my experiences of getting on on my working holiday visa for Japan page.
  • Student visa – if you are going to study in Japan your college / University can arrange your student visa, which gives you the potential to do a small amount of work if you get permission.
  • Medical stay visa – you can get permission to stay in Japan for extended medical procedures – you’ll of course have to have the money to afford the treatment.

There is a list of all 27 types of visa, along with basic explanations on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs webpage.

http://www.mofa.go.jp/j_info/visit/visa/long/

The Embassy of Japan in the UK has more detailed explanations of some of the 27 visa types.

http://www.uk.emb-japan.go.jp/en/visa/visa-work.html

How long will my visa be valid for?

The visa is valid between the dates printed on the visa (which should be glued in your passport). It will be invalidated the momement you enter Japan*. The immigration inspector will stamp a big ‘USED’ on it (see the visa photo above) to highlight that you visa is no longer valid!

* Unless you have a multiple entry visa which some business travellers are able to obtain, or a transit visa. Note a multiple entry visa is not the same as having a normal single entry visa which a multiple re-entry stamp. So if you are coming to Japan to do a normal job (such as teaching English) put the multiple entry visa out of your mind – you won’t need or get one. You’ll have to buy your re-entry permit once you get in the country.

http://www.mofa.go.jp/j_info/visit/visa/procedure/validity.html

My visa says ‘For stay of 1 year’ but it is only valid for three months. Why?

The dates refer to different things. The visa validity is the time period of when you must enter Japan. The ‘For stay of x years’ is how many years you can stay in Japan from the day you enter the country.

But if my visa is now invalid how can I stay in Japan?

Because as well as invalidating your visa the immigration inspector will put a ‘Landing permission’ sticker in your passport stating your residence status, and the validity of your residence status. The example landing permission sticker below says that the status is ‘designated activities’ (which you get if you enter on a working holiday visa) and the validity is one year from sometime in 2010, to sometime in 2011.

designated activities landing permit japan

It is this residence status that allows you to live, work and stay in Japan. The visa just allows you to get the residence status.

This is where people get confused, and why they find it hard to understand the official infoarmtion. If you understand the difference a visa and a residence status you should be able to understand the official information from immigration.

If the residence status if the important thing, why does everyone keep referring to visas?

Because visa is a nice short word whereas talking about landing permissions and residence statuses is more convoluted.

Most employers, people on the street, and the contributers to Japan discussion forums will talk about visas when they may be referring to either visas or residence statuses.

There’s nothing wrong with referring to your residence status as a visa to employers, friends and family as it makes it easier for them to understand. If you talk about your residence status they’ll probably just get confused.

But when you want to understand the official immigration guidance it is very useful to understand the difference.

Can I come to Japan without a visa and find a job?

Officially no. But people do this all the time.

The main advice I’d give you if you want to follow this route is: don’t whatever you do tell immigration at the airport that you are coming to Japan to look for a job! They might send you straight back. Tell them that you are here on holiday, make sure you have a return / onward plane ticket to keep them happy, and then try to find a job once you are in.

If I come to Japan without a visa and am offered a job do I have to leave the country to get my visa?

No you don’t. You don’t even need a visa – you need to change your residency status.

There is some old information that keeps being repeated on internet forums that you have to do something called a ‘visa run’ to South Korea to get permission to work. You don’t. The change of status can be done from within Japan.

All you need is for immigration to change your status of residence from temporary visitor, to one of the statuses that allows work.

As you aren’t officially supposed to be looking for work on a temporary visitor permit they have a special disclaimer in the ‘change of status’ rules. It says that a change of status from a temporary visitor status will only be allowed if due to ‘unavoidable circumstances’.

http://www.immi-moj.go.jp/english/tetuduki/kanri/shyorui/02.html

Fortunately for the large number of people who do this every year, getting an English teaching job whilst in Japan appears to satisfy their ‘unavoidable circumstances’ criteria.

How can I extend my visa?

You can’t. It is invalidated by immigration when you enter the country.

But you can extend or change your residence status which will allow you to be in the country for longer.

If you are staying in the same job or same industry your employer will have to give you the paper work to allow you to file an ‘application for extension of period of stay’.

http://www.immi-moj.go.jp/english/tetuduki/kanri/shyorui/03.html

If you are starting a job in a different industry from that which your residence status allows you to work your new employer will have to give you the paper work to allow you to file an ‘application for change of status of residence’.

http://www.immi-moj.go.jp/english/tetuduki/kanri/shyorui/02.html

Here are the passport stamps for successful change of status, and extension applications.

japan change of status extension permit

Can I stay in Japan while my application is being processed?

You may end up in a situation where you current permission to stay in the country is about to expire, and you are just about to submit your application for a change of status, or extension.

As processing can take 2-3 weeks, or sometimes more, you may be worried about being left in a state of limbo whilst you wait for the results.

Fortunately the amendments to the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act that were passed in 2009 clarrify the situation. You’ll see that a special excemption has been put in place that allows you a two month grace period beyond your current period of stay expiration if you have to wait for a result.

http://www.immi-moj.go.jp/english/newimmiact/koumoku7_english.html

The information on that page is a bit basic, but when you make the application (change of status / extension), you will get an ‘Application’ stamp in your passport with a reference number.

change of status application stamp japan

They should also staple in (or give you) a sheet of paper with some information. This piece of paper states that you can stay beyond your period of stay if you are waiting for a result, but that you must contact immigration if you haven’t had your notification within a certain time. It also makes it clear that this two month period is a hard deadline. If you were to stay for two months and one day without getting a result you are now an illegal resident and subject to deportation!

My period of stay expires on 4th May, can I leave on the 5th May?

Yes – But only if you want to be regarded as an illegal resident, banned for re-entering the country for five years, and possibly be interrogated, jailed or fined.

Don’t overstay by even a day – it is not worth it!

My landing permission says I can stay until the 5th July 2011, but my alien registration card expires in 2015. Can I stay until 2015?

No! The date that counts is the one on your latest landing permission / status change / extension sticker that is in your passport. The expiry date on your alien registration card is the date when you need to renew the card, and does not have anything to do with your permission to stay in Japan.

I have accidently overstayed in Japan, what do I do?

If you want to avoid being deported you should hand your self into immigration and tell them you want to leave voluntarily. They have the option to allow you to leave with a ‘departure order’ rather than being deported. Read their information on departure orders carefully to understand the consequences.

http://www.immi-moj.go.jp/english/tetuduki/taikyo/syutukoku.html

And read up about the deportation process so you know what the other option is.

http://www.immi-moj.go.jp/english/tetuduki/t_main.html#taikyo

Can my employer cancel my visa / residence status?

If you are still in your own country, have accepted a job, and have submitted the visa application then your employer can cancel the visa application.

If you have entered the country and got your landing permission then there is nothing your employer can do to cancel your residence status.

As you have your landing permission you can work for whoever you want (subject to the conditions of your status of residence).

Your employer can not cancel your issued landing permit / status of residence. Only immigration can cancel your residence status.

I have six months left before my residence status expires. Do I have to work?

If you have a normal work visa then you aren’t officially supposed to be unemployed for more than three months. Immigration can technically invite you in for an interview and cancel your residence status. However I don’t know how often they actually do this.

See the question “I heard that my status of residence would not be revoked even if I fail to engage in my intended activity relating to my status of residence for three months because of “justifiable reason.” It is true?” on this page.

http://www.immi-moj.go.jp/english/tetuduki/zairyuu/qa.html

If you have a working holiday visa then don’t worry. You don’t have to work at all. You can just have a holiday for the entire duration of your stay. The permission to work with the WHV is there to support your holiday. If you don’t need the money then you can just relax.

What is a re-entry permit?

If you want to leave Japan without cancelling your status of residence (and losing your right to work) you’ll need a re-entry permit.

japan single reentry permit

Information about the application procedure is here:

http://www.immi-moj.go.jp/english/tetuduki/kanri/shyorui/06.html

It can be issued on the day, and it will take about 30 minutes as long as there isn’t a huge queue! You can either buy a single re-entry permit, or a multiple re-entry permit. I wrote about getting a re-entry permit here.

Where can I find information about coming to Japan to study?

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has a good website about studying in Japan. Here is a direct link to the immigration part.

http://www.studyjapan.go.jp/en/toj/toj04e.html

Where can I find more about the working holiday visa?

You can read my own working holiday visa account, but a good general resource is the official Japan Association of Working Holiday Makers page. It has links to all the individual Japan embassies where you can get country specific information about the programme.

http://www.jawhm.or.jp/eng/

Is the information on this page accurate?

I’m not guaranteeing anything. You should use your own judgement.

However as I have provided (where possible) links to official Japan government sources you can read the accurate official information yourself and make up your own mind.

Useful official links

Official visa information – http://www.mofa.go.jp/j_info/visit/visa/
Study in Japan – http://www.studyjapan.go.jp/en/
Working holiday – http://www.jawhm.or.jp/eng/
Good general info from the Japan embassy to the US – http://www.us.emb-japan.go.jp/english/html/travel_and_visa/visa/faq_new.htm

Comments / corrections?

If you have further questions or comments do leave feedback below. I’ll update the article with any corrections or new questions I get.