UK State Pension
You’ll usually need at least 10 qualifying years on your National Insurance record to get any UK State Pension. They do not have to be 10 qualifying years in a row. Usually, 35 qualifying years are required to receive the full state pension, and those with fewer qualifying years will receive a pro rated amount. The state pension needs to be claimed, and can be paid either to a UK bank or building society in GBP or to a bank in the country in which you reside in the local currency. Claimants can decide whether to receive payments every 4 weeks or every 13 weeks. State pension recipients resident in the UK and in some other countries will have their pension uprated annually ('unfrozen'), whereas those in other countries ('frozen') will not have their pension uprated annually. Japan falls into the 'frozen' category.
Japan and the UK have a Social Security Agreement but this is not a totalisation agreement, meaning qualifying years for the UK state pension cannot be transferred to the Japan state pension, or vice versa. People may be able to contribute to both systems simultaneously.
Making voluntary National Insurance Contributions from abroad
British citizens and former residents who have qualifying years on their National Insurance record can apply to make voluntary National Insurance Contributions (NICs), in order to continue to accumulate qualifying years towards the UK state pension. Residents of Japan normally qualify for Class 2 or Class 3 voluntary contributions, and are often eligible to back-pay missing years. The weekly rates for 2021-2022 are £3.05 for Class 2 and £15.40 for Class 3. The rules regarding eligibility are complex, so it's best to look up your own individual situation on gov.uk. However, a summary of the eligibility criteria for Class 2 is:
- You’re employed or self-employed outside the UK, and
- You’ve lived in the UK for a continuous 3-year period at any time before the period for which NICs are to be paid, or before going abroad, you paid a set amount in NICs for 3 years or more (this will be checked when you ask to pay Class 2 NICs), and
- Immediately before going abroad, you were ordinarily an employed or self-employed earner in the UK.
The application requires a complete employment and address history since leaving the UK, and some detail of time in the UK as well.
Those accepted to make voluntary NICs can choose whether to do so via direct debit (monthly, or twice annually), or manually (annually). Those opting to pay manually will ordinarily receive a bill around the end of each tax year.
- The new State Pension
- State pension if you retire abroad
- The official guide and application form for voluntary national insurance contributions from abroad
- If you lived and worked in an EU, EEA country, Switzerland or Turkey, time spent there may help you to meet this condition.
You cannot open or make new contributions to an ISA as a non-UK resident.
Existing accounts can be maintained (and a limited number of providers may allow you to transfer an existing ISA to them), but Japan does not recognise the tax-protected status of these accounts. After becoming a permanent resident for tax purposes (after 5 years of residence in Japan), income from these accounts are subject to Japanese taxes and should be declared on a tax return.
British Citizens are eligible to vote in UK Parliament Elections and some referendums up to 15 years after leaving the UK.
Applying for a British Passport from Japan
British citizens resident in Japan who require the issuance, replacement or renewal of a British passport should ordinarily do so here. Passports will be issued from Her Majesty’s Passport Office in the UK via courier. An Emergency Travel Document might be issued rapidly in limited circumstances, eg if a passport is lost, stolen or damaged ahead of imminent travel.
The gov.uk tool takes the user through multiple questions, then requires a photo and payment before revealing all the required supporting documents. Therefore, applicants may wish to consult the application form, guidance, and supporting documents before using the tool. If searching for information, note that Japan is in Group 1 of countries (note there are different supporting document requirements for countries in different groups).
There is a different process if you wish to apply for a British passport as an overseas resident while visiting the UK.
It's possible to get a Japanese driving licence without taking a driving test, by submitting a valid GB licence.
The police department in each prefecture manages the process, so it's best to check the website (invariably in Japanese only) of your local police department for the requirements.
JAF has a non-UK-specific English article summarising the process. The part about the aptitude test does not apply to GB licence holders.
In my experience (sample of 1), although the process is called "exchange", I kept my GB licence, and acquired a Japanese one.
For information about driving in GB as a Japan resident, see #Driving in GB as a resident of Japan.
The Japan-UK Double Tax Convention exists to minimise the effects of being doubly taxed by Japan and the UK.
Living or working abroad or offshore: detailed information - UK Government taxation guide for non-UK-residents.
Depending on circumstances, the following forms may be applicable for applying to HMRC for relief/exemption/refund on UK taxes. Please refer to the guidance notes for each form.
- Form Japan-1-DT is for use by an individual resident in Japan receiving pensions, interest or royalties arising in the UK to apply for relief from UK income tax.
- Form Japan-2-DT is for use by a company or concern resident in Japan receiving interest or royalties arising in the UK to apply for relief from UK income tax. (Do not use this form to claim exemption from UK tax on interest under Article 11(3) of the Double Taxation Convention. Use form Japan-3-DT.)
- Form Japan-3-DT is for use by an entity identified in Article 11(3) of the Double Taxation Convention to apply for exemption from UK income tax on interest.
- Form Japan-4-DT is for use by a company or concern resident in Japan to claim repayment of UK income tax deducted from property income dividends paid by UK Real Estate Investment Trusts (‘UK-REITs’).
- Form UK REIT-DT-Individual is for use by an individual resident in a country with which the UK has a double tax treaty or convention that provides for relief from UK income tax on dividends paid by UK Real Estate Investment Trusts (‘UK-REITs’).
Your local Japanese tax office can supply a bilingual certificate of residency (PDF) for the purposes of claiming double tax convention benefits. It may prove to be much easier to get the Japanese tax office to issue this rather than signing and stamping a section on one of the above HMRC forms.
Personal experience is that it was relatively quick and straightforward to gain a refund from HMRC on doubly taxed royalties (Form Japan-1-DT), but it is proving a long-running saga for HMRC to issue tax exemption certificates which would prevent my UK payers of royalties from withholding UK income tax in the first place. The tax residency certificate worked in place of the Japanese tax office stamping and signing the HMRC form.
Getting Married in Japan
British nationals wishing to marry in Japan should follow the steps here.
No long-term status of residence is required to get married in Japan; it is possible as a 'temporary visitor', eg tourist. The act of getting married in Japan is the submission/acceptance of a marriage registration document (called konin todoke / 婚姻届) at the municipal office. Many couples have a wedding ceremony too, but the konin todoke is not normally a part of the ceremony; most couples are in fact legally married at the time of their wedding ceremony.
The konin todoke is a simple document with basic details about the couple. Stylised versions of the form can be found online and in magazines; these are valid for submission. The form requires two witnesses, who can be family members. Note that the witnesses witness the couple inputting details on the form; they do not witness the couple’s submission of the form.
Where one or both of the couple reside in Japan, the konin todoke must be submitted to the municipal office of the place of residence. Submission of documents to register marriages (and births, and deaths) can be done 24/7/365; there will be a system in place to deposit the document out of standard opening hours. Whether submitting in-hours or out-of-hours, British nationals are strongly advised to visit their municipal office in advance to discuss the paperwork requirements, including any translation requirements.
For British nationals, an affirmation (non-religious) or affidavit (religious) is required and this serves as the ‘certificate of no impediment’ which the municipal office may refer to. To obtain the affirmation or affidavit the British national must read a statement and sign the document in front of an official at the British Embassy in Tokyo, and this is done on an appointment-only basis. The affirmation or affidavit includes the date of the proposed marriage, and for this reason it is recommended that you visit the municipal office with all documents before the proposed date; otherwise, if documents are rejected, you may have to return to the British Embassy to obtain a new affirmation or affidavit.
A ‘long birth certificate’ (as opposed to the ‘short birth certificate’ issued at birth) will be required and this can be ordered online from the General Register Office or Scotlands People. Check in advance with your local municipal office whether they require your long birth certificate translated. There might be local variations on whether they accept the English original, the English original with an informal translation, eg by the Japanese spouse, or the English original with an official translation.
Marriage certificates are not issued automatically because the family register (koseki tohon) is king in Japan. It is strongly recommended to apply for at least one certificate of notification of marriage when submitting your marriage paperwork. Together with an official translation, this should serve as proof of marriage for most purposes in most jurisdictions. (Such a document can be obtained at a later date, but it might be burdensome to order from afar.)
It is no longer possible to register the marriage with the UK consular service.
UK Consular Birth Registration
A baby born in Japan must have the birth registered with the Japanese authorities. If the baby has British nationality there is no requirement to register the birth with the UK authorities, and there is no facility to obtain a full British birth certificate. However, the birth can be registered with the UK authorities for a fee, and a consular birth registration certificate can be obtained for a fee. This consular birth registration is not required to obtain a British passport.
At the same time as this consular birth registration, it is possible to confirm the name as it should be rendered in English, which should be the same as in the Japanese birth registration with a few exceptions, such as clear Anglicisations (eg Arisu -> Alice), adding a middle name or middle names, and registering the surname as a double-barrelled name formed from both parents’ surnames.
It is not necessary to do any of the above, and the name confirmation can be done when issuing the British citizen’s British passport. (When the individual reaches 18, if this process has not already been done, he or she could register his or her own birth in this way including the gaining of a middle name!)
Among the document requirements for the consular birth registration will be a form of the local birth certificate called the shussetodoke kisaijiko shomeisho (出生届記載事項証明書). This is a certified copy of the form that the hospital and parents fill in to register the birth, and is different from the birth registration notification. It can be ordered from the municipal office at the time of registering the birth or shortly afterwards. It may have to be ordered from a different office if significant time has passed since the birth registration. Official translation into English is required.
Death of a British national in Japan
The British government publishes a guide to help deal with practical arrangements following the death of a British national in Japan.
There is no requirement to record the death with the UK authorities, but it is possible to do so here.
Renunciation of British Citizenship
British nationals who wish to naturalise as Japanese, and people who possess both British and Japanese nationalities (a large sub-set of whom would be offspring of British and Japanese nationals aged below 22 years of age) and who wish to retain their Japanese nationality when their deadline for their choice of nationality approaches, may wish to renounce their British nationality in order to comply with Japanese nationality law.
The process for so doing can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/renounce-british-nationality
If an application is successful, a certificate of renunciation will be received. If a successful applicant doesn’t already have Japanese citizenship, he or she will have six months to gain citizenship, otherwise the British renunciation will be invalid.
You have a right (once only) to be registered as a British citizen if you previously renounced British citizenship in order to keep or acquire another citizenship. Further instances are at the discretion of the Home Secretary.
UK Student Loan Repayments
If you have a UK student loan, you are required to tell the Student Loans Company if you leave the UK for more than three months.
People with loans who live abroad are required to fill in an Overseas Income Assessment Form and supply evidence dependent on whether they are (a) employed, (b) self-employed, or (c) not in employment. (There is no facility to check multiple categories; an adviser stated that an applicant should check the most applicable category.) Both the form and the evidence can be submitted online, or posted to Glasgow. Repayments depend upon your loan type and income and are ordinarily made via monthly direct debit.
You will be asked to submit a new Overseas Income Assessment Form annually, together with evidence. You should also do so if your circumstances change in the interim (including if you receive a bonus). A new JPY:GBP exchange rate and JPY income threshold for your loan type will be applied annually, so even with no change in circumstances, repayment amounts may vary from year to year.
If you do not submit the correct evidence, there is a 'fixed monthly repayment' that could be applied, and this rate is considerably higher than many people would be paying had evidence been submitted. A higher rate of interest may also be applied. Also, fines could be applied for failure to keep SLC updated with details such as address change, change of employment or change of employment status, change of country of residence, change of marital status. Anecdotally, it seems lots of people lapse on notifications but are able to avoid fines, punitive interest rates, etc.
Visiting the UK
Driving in GB as a resident of Japan
Holders of Japanese driving licences who are visiting the UK are permitted to drive in GB (there may be different rules for NI) for up to 12 months. Although not required, getting a Wikipedia:International Driving Permit might be a good idea. A translation of the licence may also be beneficial; note that an International Driving Permit translates name, nationality, date of birth, and address, but not the date of expiry of the Japanese driving licence. Recent Japanese driving licences display the expiry date using Gregorian years, which might prove useful if using the licence internationally.
Although published before Brexit, the DVLA Guidelines (PDF) give clear rules on driving in GB on licences from 'designated countries', including Japan.
When exchanging a GB licence for a Japanese licence, the Japanese authorities might not retain the GB licence. The DVLA does not appear to publish information on whether a GB licence which has been exchanged for a non-GB licence yet has been retained by the licence holder is valid for driving (in GB or elsewhere). In any case, GB licences are not renewable from Japan.
Eligibility for NHS treatment
NHS treatment is available in Scotland (PDF) for former UK residents (and their spouses and children) who meet eligibility criteria, summarised as:
- currently working abroad
- lived legally in the UK for 10+ years in the past
- EITHER left the UK less than five years ago OR return to visit the UK at least once every two years (or meet other criteria as detailed in the official guidance)
Discounts for non-UK residents
Non-UK residents are eligible for special deals including:
Applying for a British passport while visiting the UK
UK Government UK help and services in Japan portal.