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New Immigration Law Passes

While I'm on the subject of immigration, the Lower House passed a bill on new residency rules last Friday.

The big changes:

  • The alien registration card is replaced with a zairyu (residence) card containing an embedded chip.
  • Visa extensions increased to 5 years from 3 years
  • No need for re-entry permits provided you return to Japan within one year
  • Control of information passed to Immigration Bureau from local governments
  • Foreigners listed on the Juki Net resident registry network
  • Severe punishment for failure to notify changes in personal information

There are definitely some good things in here, such as longer visa extensions and dropping the requirement for re-entry permits, but I can't help but think that the negatives outweigh any changes for the better.

It's going to be a pain in the ass to have to go the nearest (which could be really far away if you don't live in a large city) Immigration Bureau to report that you've changed jobs. Debito suggested in a recent podcast that employers would not be receptive to foreigner employees taking time off to update their personal information, but I think that's unrealistic. In my experience, employers aren't that hard-nosed and I suspect that they would understand that this has to do with one's ability to reside in Japan. On the other hand, foreign employees will probably end up having to use paid holidays to go about this business.

Then there's the matter of being listed in Juki Net. The system is unpopular with the public due to fears over invasion of privacy and data leaks. The constitutionality of the system was challenged by a group of Aichi residents, but the Nagoya High Court ruled in 2007 that Juki Net was constitutional. Still, there are reasons to be suspicious of how personal information will be used, stored, and protected as the safeguards in place are incredibly flimsy:

The bills also have a provision to prevent the ministry from using that data improperly, a decision that was made to ward off criticism that "the minister" could abuse the zairyu card number to violate foreigners' privacy. But no penalty for such abuse was listed.

The practice, dubbed data-matching, was outlawed by the Supreme Court in regard to its use on Japanese citizens.

The provision says "the justice minister" must limit the use of foreign residents' personal information to the minimum required for managing such residents and that the information must be handled with care to protect the rights of individuals. But no penalties or methods for enforcing such compliance are listed in the bills.

Provisions to prevent abuse of data but without penalties? This is a joke.

Perhaps the most worrisome change has to do with punishment for failing to update one's information:

On the other hand, the Immigration Bureau will tighten control of foreign residents by stripping away their residential status if they fail to report changes in address, marital status or workplace within three months. No regulations for that exist under current law.

In addition, those who fail to report such changes within 14 days or are found not carrying their zairyu cards could be hit with a ¥200,000 fine, the same regulation as the current law.

To crack down on fake marriages, the bills allow the justice minister to cancel the residential status of foreigners holding spouse visas who have not conducted "normal spousal activities," such as living together, for six months without legitimate reason. Legitimate reasons include things like domestic violence, Hosokawa said.

These are very severe punishments. In my case, I wonder what would have happened to me had this law already been in place. When I renewed my visa three years ago, I neglected to inform city hall. It's an easy thing to forget. How often does one look at their alien registration card let alone remember that you have to go to city hall and inform them? If you've been in Japan for more than a few years, it's easy to forget. For all city hall new, I was in the country illegally. The matter only recently came to my attention when my town was handing out the ¥12,000 Taro Aso kickback. I received the application form plus a letter asking me to visit them and confirm my residency status. My visa status? I renewed that years ago. It was only when I looked at my alien registration card that I realized the problem. I quickly cleared things up and the people at city hall were very understanding, but had this new law been in effect, I would have been dealing with the Immigration Bureau and it's unlikely they would have left the matter unresolved for two and half years or be very sympathetic. At best, I may have been fined, at worst, deported.

The new law now criminalizes my forgetfulness. When you consider that police can detain suspects for up to three weeks without charges and regularly stop foreigners they catch riding bicycles, it seems to me that the authorities have added extra pretense to stop foreigners and check to make sure their papers are in order. We're told that the changes are supposed to bring more conveniences to legal foreign residents, but obeying the law won't insulate you from police harassment and scrutiny over your residency status should the provisions in the new law be strictly enforced.

Update: Table of changes from the JT article.


I had exactly the same thing as you Shawn. I got my new visa last summer, then around December I had to renew my Hokensho, went to my city office and they told me that I hadn't had my gaijin card updated with my new visa dates. I had no idea you were supposed to do that.

Like you said, under the new laws, you could be looking at some serious punishment. Seems pretty draconian. It looks to me like they're gearing up to start increasing immigration in the near future, and this is the first round of experimental laws.

Anyone know when this kicks in?

No idea, but the bill still has to be passed by the Upper House. On another note, it looks like the JT updated their article with a table that compares the old regulations with the new. I don't recall seeing this when I first read the story online.


reporting to the immigration centre for minor changes? when? we have jobs! lining up for hours, wasting work time at increasingly crowded "immigration centres" listening to someone from a 3rd world nation arguing with an immigration officer, just to report you have a new part time job?
Why doesnt this Govt try fixing something that is truly broken rather than this stupidity- designed to appeal to the xenophobic element in the Japan psyche - an exercise in garnering public popularity.....

If the goverment is really serious in contol or cracking down illegal aliens,they should strengthen first the law and rules of these employment agencies(haken kaisha)or brokers who are dispatching undocumented foreigners to different companies.Employers should be punished and have penalties.We,legal foreigner will suffer the most under this new immigration law,not the undocumented ones.

Question about this new immigration law. It seems quite clear that we must now be enrolled in some form of the National Health Insurance system (whether through Employee's National Health or regular National Health) in order to have our Visa renewed. How about the National Pension? Does anyone have any information about whether we must also be enrolled in the National Pension system? I've seen 2 different interpretations of the new law. The first is that we will be asked for our National Health Insurance cards at the Immigration office. The second is that visa renewal is now tied to being part of the Social Insurance system. If the second interpretation is correct doesn't it seem logical that we would need to be enrolled in BOTH the health and pension systems. What do others think??

Ok all here we go. I asked a question in this forum the other day but it hasn't yet been answered. That's ok I'll answer it for myself. I received in the mail today a letter from the Yokohama City Government stating that I am required to pay them 180,000 yen in back due H. Insurance payments for the past year as well as another 160,000 yen in back due pension payments for the past year. Additionally I will be required to make payments for both going forward from now. Basically around 18,000 a month for H. Insurance and 14,660 a month for pension. That is all, any questions.

You didn't get an answer because few people really know how things will change next year. Thanks to you, now we know. If people are going to get tagged for back payments, it's time to start saving up some cash.


Shawn -

If what happened to me is any indication of the future it does in fact seem to be the case that people are going to start getting tagged for backpayments. That is unless I am just an unfortunate schmuck.

I don't know about being an unfortunate schmuck. I believe it's the rule that you can be charged up to two years in back payments if you haven't been paying into the system. The problem is that a lot of eikaiwas hired teachers without enrolling them in an insurance scheme. You work a few years thinking everything is fine under the insurance your school provided you, oblivious to the law, and then suddenly you have a bill for a few thousand dollars to pay.


That would be a bit of a wanker

These backpayments are going to suck! My visa is up for renewal next year, and it looks as if I will be "forced" onto the govt-run health insurance. Thing is, I don't want to join it, I have private health insurance from back home which I like, and its only about 8000 Yen per month and genreally pays 100 percent of medical costs as opposed to the Japanese Government system where you have to pay 30 percent of your treatment - AND around 16000 Yen per month.
It is quite obvious that the government is making these changes to get some revenue from foreigners.
Do any Japanese have private medical insurance, or are they too forced onto the badly-run, high-cost government one?

Nate -

As Shawn referenced above, the law clearly states that individuals can be charged for up to 2 years of backpayments (both H. Insurance and Pension). In fact we are all supposed to join the social insurance system within either 5 days of starting our work (Employee's H. Insurance and Pension - split 50/50 by you and your employer) or, if self-employed or a part-time worker, within 14 days after arriving in Japan (National H. Insurance and Pension). When most of us arrived here we worked for an Eikaiwa that F^%$ED us by telling us -

A. we weren't permitted to join the Social Insurance System because we weren't Japanese,
B. we weren't "full-time" employees so the "employer" wasn't obligated to put us on the Employees Social Insurance System within 5 days of starting employment (despite the fact that the majority of us worked "full-time" hours), or
C. nothing at all.

The new Immigration Control Law also makes enrollment in the National Health Insurance system kokumin kenko hoken MANDATORY for your visa renewal. There is no way around this no matter how much you like your 8000 yen a month insurance from back home. The only question was whether or not the visa renewal was ALSO going to be tied to enrollment in the National Pension system kokumin nenkin. I would point out that, in light of the letter I recently received demanding Pension payments stemming back to July of 2008, the municipal governments ARE connecting Pension payments with visa renewal... it's just a matter of time, or whether you end up being lucky enough to slip through the cracks.

Thanks for clearing things up David
Looks as though there are no ways around it, a fair whack of our savings are gonna be taken up in those backpayments, and also we will have to cough up a lot more next year for monthly Pension/Govt. Health Insurance. I'm going to look at it as a big tax increase. On the upside, I can retire here and at 65 can kick back and enjoy the Japanese pension! Yihaaa! Might just head down Okinawa way in 35 odd years...

What, Okinawa for retirement? That place is a grave yard, for young American souls, who were mowed down like lawn in Spring, because the Japanese aggressors simply had to take orders from the Emperor, no matter what.

Fine, go and live with the ghosts of your slaughtered comrades. Lest we forget.


Anyone looking to live long term here really does need to have their head examined

I say we all return to our Countries, send all the Japs back here and
stop trading or having anything to do with these racist morons.....!

I think it is high time for people who can go home to start going home! when most of the poeple leave and there will be no one here to slave as ALTs and ekaiwa clowns - maybe then they will start rethinking the working conditions of the foreign teachers . but only maybe... I am not going to brave the race to the bottom to the bitter end.

When you go to renew your visa make sure that you mention your eikaiwa company's name and hopefully they'll be punished for it or even just call up the labor law office and report them.

The people at immigration don't care how bad your companies are and it's not their job to. They are programmed to ensure your immigration documentation is valid and current. They are not going to take any initiative to that would lead to eikaiwa investigations.

99.999% of the general Japanese public doesn’t care or pay attention to the working conditions in the Eikaiwa sector. You’re at the bottom of the totem pole, don’t expect sympathy or support during this recession. Your treatment and compensation will continue to be dictated by the management of your company. In these tough times they will continue to squeeze as much out their expendable English speaking units as possible. They can always have more shipped over.

The ship has sunk!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

ps. Don`t come to teach English in Japan!

Was it ever afloat?

You are not going to fix anything around here by whining or complaining. To anyone! Period. There are a lot of ways to effect change but they generally require such things as money or guns which most of us don't have. Here are some ideas -

1) Start your own 'good' company and beat the bastards at their own game!
2) Hire a lawyer and sue, sue, sue! All of them. Even city hall!
3) Hire an advertising agency and start a PR war. Billboards, radio, TV, Morning Musume even. Then people will pay attention!
4) Hire terrorists or North Koreans to drop some well placed bombs!
5) Bribe the lawmakers.
6) Leave. No business skills? No Japanese language skills? No money? Well, you can always change yourself. Get out now and don't look back.

Well you asked to report a few bad companies, Geos, GABA, Peppy Kids Club, iTTTi Japan, KTC Chuo Shuppan, Aeon, Nova..

James....ECC....G-Con... Smith's School of English.... The list is endless.......!

Don't forget the bad ALT companies too like Interac, cheating and taking advantage of freshies off the boat.

Heart English School out of Mito Ibaraki. Wakabayasi (or as those who know him affectionately call him Bakabayashi) is famous for being even more of a sleazebag than Saruhashi. I personally know teachers who have been cheated out of their final pay by this walking douchebag.

I've heard some bad things about Heart Eikaiwa School too...allegedly Bakabayashi is famous for being a sleaze. Hope it goes down soon along with GEOS, G-Con, Mark Smith's School of Englissh, etc

So - does this mean that every time I get a fricking part time job to supplement my income I have to tell Immigration?! Geez - it's not gonna be worth staying here! Can anybody tell me what's going on?

Since I've been here I've got part time work (official - employer takes tax) to supplement my main job (employer also takes tax). So now I'll have to tell Immigration or risk being fined?!

Also, I haven't been enrolled in the NHI/pension since living here (4 years). How likely issit I'm gonna have to pay 2 years of back pay for each?

You can go to immigration and get permission to have a job outside of your VISA status. If I remember right, I didn't pay anything for this other than the price of a postage stamp (and the time and money that it took to actually get all the way out to the immigration office twice).

The form you want is called 資格外活動許可書 (Shikaku-Gai-Katsudou-Kyoka-Sho). In English it says "PERMIT TO ENGAGE IN ACTIVITY OTHER THAN THAT PERMITTED BY THE STATUS OF RESIDENCE PREVIOUSLY GRANTED". (Overly long English title, and in all caps to boot).

Just go to immigration, and tell them what you want, then they will ask you to fill out a form that includes a description of what you want to do, then they will send you a postcard when your permission paper is ready and you have to go pick it up.

This is a good idea for everyone to do, because you can get kicked out of the country for not having this if you somehow get caught or reported by your employer.

Also, even part timers are eligible for Shakai Hoken. Since you aren't enrolled, then your place of business should have to pay the back enrollment fee, and then they can work out a deal with you for you to repay your less-than-half of the back enrollment:

i just wanna clear this up, my friend who's been in japan for 12years which is undocumented or illegal living there plans to get married now with her japanese boyfriend. is it true that if she get married now, she'll send her back to her mother country and will never have the chance to get back in japan. hope you clear this things to me. thanks!

My wife is a psycho and says she will not be my guarantor to renew my visa in April 2010. I have no one else but her. I think she wants a divorce and is using the visa as a way to get the government to kick me out of Japan against my will.

She can have her divorce but I have paid into the social security system for almost 20 years and I want that.
So I want my permanant visa. I have renewed my visa 7 times for a total of 21 years.

Is there anyway I can just buy a Liability Insurance Policy to be my guarantor in japan and be done with
the problem of asking my wife or any one else in Japan to be my Guarantor? I don't have any Japanese friends I could ask to be my guarantor. This Guarantor issue is a real problem for all foreigners in Japan that a simple insurance policy could solve.

Thank you

The new immigration law cam on effact since MARCH 2009 by new (rediculass) government.


i have a question,i am married to a japanese for 20 yrs and im carryin a spouse visa,my husband is jobless for a year and since he's not doing any actions until now though he keep on promising that he will find one,i am thinking of leaving our house for a while ( it may take months)and rent my own apartment ,to make him realize that he should seriuosly have to do something otherwise i will file a you think the govt will consider my case a legitimate reason?If not,I'm afraid they will cancell my visa,in that case i cant do anything but to stay with him and work until death to support our kids while he's watching tv,sleeping and playing tv games the whole day,i think thats unfair!

I think if your husband is jobless, and you have kids, and he is sitting around watching TV, sleeping, and playing TV games, then perhaps he needs some help.

Men are proud, particularly, Japanese men – would appear to me, his retreat into that pattern is a combination of deep shame, hopelessness and fear – almost a child like reaction, but quite a common one, in fact.

Mind you, he may be burying shame and fear by convincing himself, ANYTHING is better than going back into the WORK MACHINE, the corporate FACTORY, that is so often working life in Japan. “I have the life – those suckers are suffering day to day, and I am not”

What are his skills?

Japanese men are often too embarrassed to seek professional help.

Perhaps a more subtle approach will kick start his sense of pride.

If he does some volunteer work in the Tsunami affected areas, it may (a) lift his spirit (make him realize he is capable of work and instill a fresh sense of pride, which may carry him forward), and (b) lead to being offered some kind of job, somewhere (people usually notice and reward hard-work and good nature, if they can).

It would be the typical Japanese woman’s response to signal “DO SOMETHING or ELSE”, if you take the path you intend to take, BUT, because of the depth of pride of Japanese man, all it may do is drive him from the home, to the park bench, and a life of one cup sake for breakfast.

Remember this – while he may be communicating with you as if his pride is still in tact (“shut up woman, what would you know”), in fact, he will have a very low sense of pride and very low sense of self-worth.

If you try to force him into action, berate him, or belittle him, by nagging, or making threats, for example, he is likely to go in the opposite direction you intend.

Perhaps and approach that respect his manhood, and nurtures whatever pride is left in him, all very gentle, and all very subtle, is better than rubbing salt into his wounds, and leaving him (the result of which could be catastrophic – ie the straw that broke the camel’s back).

Perhaps you could take a small amount of time off, and do some volunteer work yourself, asking him to come along – and then hope, he does it for longer than you can.

Remember, most Japanese men have two families in the life – the first one is “the company”, and the second one is the one you both share at home. It would appear he has been dumped by one family, that he would have expected to be with for life, already – remember that, and the impact that has on the Japanese male’s brain, before you take the action you are considering.

If he's got the money, he can do what he likes. If he hasn't got the money then I suggest you go out to workd and tell him to cook dinner

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