So you’ve enjoyed the past year living in Japan – reaping all the benefits of your spouse visa (配偶者/ はいぐうしゃ/ Haiguusha visa). Now, its time to face the reality. Haul your ass to the nearest Immigration Office and hope to God that you would be allowed to stay for another year (or longer, fingers crossed).
First of all, calm down. You’ve got this. It doesn’t have to be a daunting process. Thousands and thousands of other gaijins have done this before and did just fine. You will, too. Once you’ve got your head in order, let’s go ahead and tackle this thing one sure step at a time.
Ready? Let’s get started. More than half the work required to renew your visa is done even before you steep foot in the Immigration Bureau. This is good. This means you can take your time in taking the steps. Okay, let’s go.
Step 1: Fill out these forms
- Application For Extension Of Period Of Stay
This form is available right at the Immigration Office so technically, you can fill it out on the day of your application. But since you can download it HERE, why be that person hurriedly trying to scribble through very important papers at the beginning of what is going to be quite a long day? No. Print it out and have it completed beforehand.
This document asks for necessary information about you and your spouse. Though it is in Japanese, there is an English translation for each line so it should be easy for you to navigate. However, be sure to answer this in Japanese and as legibly as possible. In fact, you can have your spouse write the answers for you to make sure that everything looks clean and the kanjis are all clear. Also, do NOT write using a friction or erasable pen. The office will not accept this and you would be asked to either do it again or give them a photocopy which can not be tampered with through erasures.
- Guarantor Form
Your spouse would also need to fill out THIS form (身元保証書/ Mimoto Hoshosho) which states that he/she guarantees that you would abide by Japanese law (among other things). It is a one-page document which only requires some of your and your spouse’s basic information, contact details and stamp.
Step 2: Make a trip to your local ward office to obtain necessary supporting documents
Listed below, there are at least 4 legal documents you are going to need for your visa processing. This step would be easier accomplished if you can go to the ward office (Kuyakusho 区役所/Shiyakusho 市役所) with your Japanese husband or wife in tow because you will also be requesting some papers in his or her name. If they can’t make the time to go with you, be sure to have them write a Japanese authorization letter in advance – complete with their inkan stamp.
So here are the things you should be asking for:
- Your Juminhyo (住民票)
- Your own Nouzei Shoumeisho (納税証明書)
- Your own Kazeishoumeisho (課税証明書)
- Your spouse’s Nouzeishoumemeisho (納税証明書)
- Your spouse’s Kazeishoumeisho (課税証明書)
- Your husband’s Koseki Tohon (戸籍謄本)
I wrote ‘at least 4’ earlier because the exact number depends on your circumstance. Knowing a little bit more about these legal papers should help you out.
This is your Certificate of Residence. Anyone living in Japan should be able to obtain one from the government.
- Nouzei Shoumeisho/Kazei Shoumeisho
These are both tax-related papers. Now, I can’t speak clearly about the legalities but from my experience, this is what I have come to understand: all residents (foreigners and nationals) are paying taxes for living in his/her city and can thus secure a Nouzei Shoumeisho. This is a proof that you do pay taxes.
The Kazei Shoumeisho, on the other hand, has to do with whether or not someone is employed. If you have not been working, therefore, you have not been paying this certain kind of tax and would not have to obtain the Kazei Shoumeisho.
Another thing that should be understood is that if you have been living in the country for less than a year (first time renewing the visa perhaps), the government most likely does not have your tax payment records on file yet. In this case, you will be advised to use your spouse’s.
I hope by now it’s clearer how the needed tax papers differs with the situation. If you plus your spouse are both employed and you have been living in the country for more than one year, for example, then you would need documents number 2 through 5. If you have been a resident for less than a year, only numbers 4 and 5. If only your spouse is working but you have been in the country for more than a year, then numbers 2, 4 and 5. Adjust according to the situation.
Also, a safe bet would be to just ask for all four tax certificates when you go to the ward office. If they are unable to produce any of them, they’ll just tell you anyhow.
- Koseki Tohon
Your spouse’s Koseki Tohon or family register officially shows that you are married. This certain document was a bit tricky in my case. My husband registered our marriage at Osaka because that is where he lived at the time. This means that we can get our Koseki Tohon from and only from Osaka. Every time we need it, a family member of his gets the document from the Shiyakusho and mails it to us. It should be easy to acquire in other circumstances.
Step 3: Have your picture taken
Doing this in an instant photo booth would be the quickest way. It would cost you about 800 yen for 6 copies. The required size is 40 x 30 mm and be sure to cut out the photos in advance since you only need one – to be attached to the application form.
Step 4: Gather all documents
In addition to everything listed above, you are going to need your passport and Zairyu or Alien Card.
This would be everything that you have by now:
- Completed application form with photo attached
- Guarantor form
- Tax Certificates
- Koseki Tohon
- Alien Card
Step 5: Head to the Immigration Bureau to submit your application
The closest office to me is the one in Shinagawa. The process is probably pretty much the same in other offices (disclaimer: I have only tried renewing at Shinagawa) but for the purpose of this guide, I will be sprinkling some instructions specific to that location.
- Getting there
Leave Shinagawa Station using the Konan (East) Exit. From there, walk to the left side of the walk way and go down the stairs which is in front of a Family Mart. This would lead you to the bus station and the one going to the Immigration Office should be obvious by then since they have placed signboards that are easy to spot. I forgot exactly how many stops we took before arriving but it was a quick trip. Besides, you would know right away if you’re there because all the other gaijins (and believe me, there will be a lot) in the bus would go down and you would see the sign in front of the building that says Tokyo Regional Immigration Bureau (東京入国管理局).
Going there early would be better. I always try to shoot for no later than 9 am. Their counters open from 9:00 am – 4:00 pm but since they close on weekends, holidays and during lunch time, you can expect the building to be busy all day.
- Have your documents checked and get a priority number
This is where we enjoy the fruits of our OC preparedness. On the first floor, there is actually a corner where people who haven’t filled out their application yet can ask for assistance from Japanese staff. But since you’ve got that covered, no need to hang around the first floor. Head to the 2nd floor, Area B. If you use the escalator facing entrance, you should land right in front of a window where there is already a long line. That’s where you need to be. There is no number for this line so just look out for the last person. Don’t be discouraged by how long this could be especially in the early hours as it tends to move along fast.
The purpose of this stage in the application is to have a staff check the documents that you have brought and see if they are ready for submission. If anything is amiss, they would give you advice and instructions on what to do – in Japanese, mind you, so keep your ears open. Using the steps I’ve shared above, I haven’t really experienced any issues at this stage except for that one time I answered the forms using a friction pen.
Once the staff is satisfied that all of your papers are ready, he/she would put all of your documents inside a clear folder along with a priority number and hand everything back to you. They would also give you a postcard and instruct you to write your name and address on it. Write the necessary information on the postcard and wait for your number to be called.
- Submit your papers
This step also happens in Area B of the 2nd floor but this time more to the left side of the escalator. They ‘zoned’ the floor and the last time I was there, at least, Area B is the orange-colored zone. Try to grab a seat as this could take long. Once your number is called, head to the window and submit all of the documents including the postcard that was just given to you. They will keep everything except for the passport and alien card which will be returned to you. In addition, they will give you a small slip of paper which serves as your receipt. Be sure not to lose this as you would need it to get your new visa.
You are done for the day. Head back home and pat yourself on the back for a job well done.
Step 6: Wait for your postcard
Remember that postcard where you wrote your name and address? The Immigration Bureau will mail that to you to let you know that your visa is ready to be claimed. This generally takes at least 3 weeks so be patient. However, if you feel like it’s taking too long, say, maybe it’s way past the expiry of your previous visa, do not hesitate to call them and inquire about your visa status. The receipt that was given to you contains their contact details as well as your application number which you would have to supply in order for them to know exactly which application you are asking about. This is what happened to me the first time I renewed my visa. When my husband called them up, they just said that it was ready and that I could go ahead and get it the next day.
Step 7: Go back to the Immigration Bureau to get your brand new visa!
The postcard sent to you will contain some instructions as to what to do on this 2nd trip.
- Bring your postcard, residence card, passport and receipt.
- Get a 4000 yen Revenue Stamp.
The fastest way to do this is at the Family Mart on the first floor. There is a dedicated counter for Revenue Stamps.
- Go to Window A
Have the documents above as well as the stamp ready and join the line for Window A. They will ask you to glue the stamp on the post card and hand over the other papers stated. Then, they will give you a priority number. Wait until your number is called.
- Claim your new visa!!!
Mind you, this 2nd visit to the Immigration Office tends to run longer than the first. From what I understand, they are verifying your identity and making sure that all of the information on the visa are correct. The wait could take hours depending on the time of day. Once your number is called, however, congratulations! They will ask you to verify your personal information on the Zairyu Card, explain details such as the period of validity and hand it to you together with your punched out old Alien Card.
All of the information contained here are not official and are based on my personal experience. I have tried renewing my visa twice and am currently enjoying the first year of my new three-year visa. If there would be any changes on the process within the coming years before my next visa extension, I will try to keep this blog updated as much as possible but could not promise the perpetual accuracy of the information I’ve provided. I hope you kindly understand this and that my blog has helped you out in your visa extension. Thank you, Japan resident!