Say Goodbye to your Gaijin Card, Say Hello to your New Resident Card

Attention all foreigners living in Japan! Starting on July 9th, 2012, a new residency management system affecting all foreigners living in Japan will be implemented. Whether you are a permanent resident or a visa holder, this new system will affect you. The Japanese Ministry of Justice will be replacing our gaijin cards with new resident cards, changing the length of period of stays, introducting a new re-entry system, and abolishing the current alien registration system.
One of the biggest changes that this system will bring is that when you are granted permission pertaining to residence, such as entering Japan for the first time, changing your visa status, or applying for an extension, you will be issued a new resident card (在留カード). The resident card will also have an embedded IC chip for the purpose of preventing the card from being forged or altered. Unlike the current system in which our gaijin card is valid for 5 years, the resident card will be vaild for the length of your visa or 7 years if you are permanent resident. When you apply for your new visa, a stamp will be placed on your card stating that an application is pending. If the application is approved, you will be issued a new resident card. Also in addition to your new resident card, you will be obtain a certificate of residence (住民票) with your name on it just like a Japanese person would be able to now.
The second change is that instead of getting a 3 year visa, the new maximum for a period of stay will be 5 years. Please note that the 5 year period of stay do not pertain to a student visa. The new maximum period of stay for a student visa will be 4 years and 3 months. It also important to note that if you are holder of a spouse or child of a Japanese national or permanent resident, the minimum period of stay will change from one year to six months.
The third change is that the re-entry permit will be changed. After July 9th if you have a valid passport and resident card or gaijin card and you plan to re-enter Japan within 1 year of your departure to continue your designated activities in Japan, you will not be required to apply for a re-entry permit. This is called a special re-entry permit. Please note that if your visa expires within 1 year after your departure, make sure you re-enter Japan before your visa expires. Futhermore if you left Japan with a special re-entry permit, you will not be able to extend the permit while abroad. If you fail to re-enter Japan within one year of your departure, you will lose your resident status in Japan. Also, the maximum validity period of a re-entry permit will be set at 5 years intead of the current 3 years.
The final change is that the current alien registration system will be abolished. Currently for example if you change your name, visa, residence, or job, you must report the change to your local city office whether it is a ward office or city hall, but under the new system, the place in which you report these changes will change. If you are only reporting a change of residence, you still will be able to go to your local city office. However if you are reporting a change to your resident status such as your name, date of birth, gender, nationality, job, school, or if you get married, then you must report these changes to your local immigration office (not the local city office) within 14 days. Plus any other changes like losing your gaijin card, updating the validity period of a resident card (if you are a permanent resident), you must report these changes to your local immigration office. Also if you entering Japan for the first time with a valid landing permission seal in your passport, you will be issued with your resident card at the airport when the new system takes effect. Tourists will not be issued a new resident card.
After reading all of this, you are probably thinking what will happen to the gaijin card that I already have. The period in which your gaijin card is deemed to be the equivalent to the resident card depends on your resident status and your age as of July 9, 2012. If you are a permanent resident, your gaijin card will be valid until July 8, 2015. If you are a holder of a designated activites visa (instructor, engineer, etc.), your gaijin card will be valid until whichever comes earlier, the expiration date of your current visa or July 8, 2015. If you have a spousal or child of a Japanese national or permanent resident, your gaijin card will be valid until your current visa expires.
In addition to the introduction of the new residency mangagement system, there is will be also new grounds of for revocation of resident status, deportation or penalities. You will be considered for a revocation of resident status if you commit any of the following: you have obtained special permission to stay by wrongful means; you are residing as a spouse with a “Spouse or Child of a Japanese National or Permanent Resident” status, but you have failed to engage in activities as a spouse for six months without a justifiable reason; you have failed to give notification of your place of residence without a justifiable reason or have submitted a false reason. To find out what is a justifiable reason, please go the Japanese Immigration website for more information. Plus, the biggest change under this new system that if a company hires an illegal alien, the employer will be punished.

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Jeffrey Johnston is a Japan based event photographer and publisher/writer and has been fortunate enough to travel and see the world. Been exposed to the limitless possibilities of photography over 12 years ago, he was able to see things differently. He currently shoots in the areas of people, fashion, event & news photography in Japan. He maintains a Facebook page with samples of his work. He can also be found at about contract work or with questions or comments on his photography.


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