This article is about the "Permanent Resident" status of residence. All foreign nationals in Japan are required to have a status of residence under the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act. Japanese nationals do not hold a status of residence, so this article only applies to individuals who do not have Japanese nationality.
The Immigration Services Agency has official guidelines in English about applying for permanent residency.
For the application requirements, pay particular attention to the "Demonstrative Materials" links in the "Required documents, etc." section that list all the documents depending on your residency status.
Although the information above is available in English, it's probably not possible to submit a complete application without referring to the Japanese version to get the original Japanese names of the documents required.
Permanent Residency is beneficial for three main reasons:
- There is no restriction on how long you can live in Japan.
- There are no restrictions on your lifestyle.
- Permission is granted to you personally, compared to other statuses of residence which are tied to an occupation, spouse, etc.
Even though the status of residency has no expiration date, you can lose it if you stay out of Japan for too long. Specifically, this is easy to do if you stay out of Japan for more than one year while using a Special Re-entry Permission, which cannot be renewed. Consider purchasing regular Re-entry Permission if you are planning to be abroad for a prolonged period.
If your status of residence is currently employment-based, obtaining a personal status like Permanent Residency (or Spouse) makes you eligible for the exit tax.
Like all statuses of residence, permanent residency is permission, not a right, to reside in Japan as a foreigner. Permission can lapse or be revoked, unlike naturalisation, which gives the holder a constitutional right to reside in Japan as a citizen.
Exceptions to the 10-year rule
Normally you need to live in Japan as a resident for 10 consecutive years to be eligible to apply for permanent residency permission.
There are a number of exceptions to this rule, listed in the official guidelines linked above. Specifically, exceptions exist for:
- 1 year: Spouses or children of Japanese nationals, permanent residents, and special permanent residents (spouses must have been married for 3 years)
- 1 year (or 3 years): Highly-skilled professional according to the points-based system
- 5 years: Recognised refugees
- 5 years: Applicants with the "Long-Term Resident" status of residence
- 5 years: Recognized as contributing to Japan in the fields of diplomacy, society, economy, culture, etc.
Applying as a highly-skilled professional via the points-based system
It is possible to apply via the points-based system to reduce the number of consecutive years of residency required to apply from 10 years to 3 years (for 70 points) or 1 year (for 80 points).
It is not necessary to have a Highly Skilled Professional status of residence to apply via the point system. If you have a different status of residence, you can still apply if you have had the required number of points for 1 or 3 years. You must supply two point calculation forms: one for the present, one for 1 or 3 years earlier, along with all documentary evidence for both forms certifying the number of points you have now, and the number of points you had 1 or 3 years ago.
If you do have the Highly Skilled Professional status of residence, you still need to submit a current point calculation form with documentary evidence. However, for the past point calculation form, for documentary evidence it is sufficient to submit the certificate that was issued by the immigration office that certifies the number of points you had when you were granted the Highly Skilled Professional status of residence. Because of this, it is simpler to apply via the points system if you already have a Highly Skilled Professional status of residence, but it is not a requirement.
There are two kinds Highly-Skilled Professional status of residence, types (i) and (ii). Type (i) only allows you to work for the employer that was designated at the time of application. You can only convert to type (ii) after first attaining type (i). Other statuses of residence, such as Engineer / Specialist in Humanities / International Services, do not have this employer restriction. It is worth considering this if you are thinking of getting the Highly Skilled Professional status of residence as a stepping-stone to permanent residency, because changing employer while holding a type (i) status will require that you re-apply for the Highly-Skilled Professional status of residence in respect of your new employer.
It's also worth noting that type (ii) is similar to permanent residency, in that there is no expiration of duration of stay. This may be beneficial for those who are enjoying some of the privileges of the Highly-Skilled Professional status of residence, and also may prevent exposure to the exit tax. However, it is not equivalent to permanent residency because you must continue to fulfil the requirements of being a highly-skilled professional to remain in Japan. Ceasing to do so for 6 months may result in the status of residence being revoked.
- Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act, Revocation of Status of Residence, Article 22-4
- "Every person shall have freedom to choose and change his residence [...] to the extent that it does not interfere with the public welfare.", Article 22
- Consecutive years means years without your status of residency lapsing, and if leaving Japan, always re-entering with a re-entry or special re-entry permit - i.e. without a new visa and without getting new landing permission.
- Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act, Change of Status of Residence, Article 20-2