More details on the new “zairyu cards”

Debito has gotten hold of the actual proposal to overhaul Japan’s alien registration system (as blogged in this space last week). If you read Japanese, go straight to his post and read the primary sources.

Some of the details which are now clear:

  • Initial registration will still be done at city hall — “to the Minister of Justice by way of the mayor.” Address changes will also be made to the local government where the holder resides, but other updates will go directly to Immigration (or to whichever Justice Ministry office is designated for that purpose).
  • Separate re-entry permits will no longer be required for short trips out of Japan, so long as the foreigner has their zairyu card when they return. (Re-entry permits may stick around for use on longer trips out of Japan.)
  • Eligibility to work will now clearly show up on the face of the card as either “free to work,” “restricted to activities within status of residence” or “may not work without separate permit.”
  • My card will no longer say “attorney.” Dammit.

29 thoughts on “More details on the new “zairyu cards””

  1. In re registration, glad most simple stuff is done at city hall, but please don’t have us Tokyo residents go crowd the waste dump in Shinagawa for other registrations, please.

  2. The immigration office in Kyoto was completely renovated a couple of years ago, and when I’ve had to go in the wait has been much less than what it was before. Nice to know they’re going to overload the system and undo all that progress.

  3. It was no much nicer when Tokyo-dwellers had Shibuya and Otemachi as options . . . I hate Shinagawa. That is all. (I’m always tickled to see that the facility next door to the dirty-gaijin-processing-plant is labeled as a “garbage factory” on the station’s multilingual maps, though.)

  4. About the new cards: No more re-entry permits for short vacations? That’s pretty good news.

    About Shinagawa: I’m glad I don’t live in Tokyo. Been to the trash plant a couple times in the past, and never want to go back.

  5. Isn’t that because it’s also a prison of sorts? I know they have cells there to hold visa overstayers and other miscreants while they investigate them. The area on the left as you go in is labeled for people waiting to visit the incarcerated.

  6. The pages at have Jennifer “Yoko” Chiyoda’s card. She lives in the “Zaimu Mansion” in Kasumigaseki. 31 years old, Canadian, studying abroad…

    I love the imaginations on these people.

  7. Not needing to worry about a re-entry permit is nice, I agre – Debito called that the “gaijin tax,” and for once I agree – 6,000 yen for a couple of minutes’ work? I would like to know the limit on a “short trip” however.

    I am also glad I do not live in Tokyo. My immig. centre is never busy.

  8. Most new buildings in Japan look the same. It has something to do with an inherent need for conformity that we westerners will never understand. Just stand in line quietly, give them your passport and don’t complain…

    Actually, the whole visa renewal experience had become quite innocuous by the time I left Japan, but that was Osaka. In terms of paperwork and general incompetence of the officials I have dealt with, my recent immigration to the United States has been far more of a rigmarole and far, FAR more expensive.

  9. “my recent immigration to the United States has been far more of a rigmarole and far, FAR more expensive.”

    I have heard that from a number of people. In general, the more I hear about and experience other supposedly ‘immigrant-friendly’ countries the better Japan looks.

  10. If Japan was charging $1000 to get a residence permit, I’d probably be ranting in the comments over on Debito’s page….

  11. I wonder, what “filing fee” does Japan charge for permanent residence permits? I have PR in the States, so it is probably not fair to compare the fee for U.S. residence to the fee for visa extension, etc.

  12. “In general, the more I hear about and experience other supposedly ‘immigrant-friendly’ countries the better Japan looks.”
    Japanese immigration law is definitely easier on immigrants in a lot of ways than the US, and probably most other countries. But that isn’t necessarily correlated with societal attitudes. Like I’ve said before, in Taiwan I felt that the attitude towards foreigners was a lot more “normal” than in Japan, but the actual law/regulatory apparatus was far more annoying than Japan.

  13. Bryce: You do? I thought you just moved there last year. Had you lived in the States previously?

  14. “But that isn’t necessarily correlated with societal attitudes.”

    No, but then I was referring to government attitudes. Once we start comparing social attitudes we are on a very slippery slope to chaos.

  15. Do foreign community in Taiwan preach the locals in the manner that “things are different in Japan,and for the better”kind?

    That could be part of the reason why the social attitude is different…..

  16. Aceface: Maybe the ones from third world countries do, but not so much westerners. Taiwanese are known for being friendly and hospitable, not super polite like Japan. Very different.

    “No, but then I was referring to government attitudes. ”
    Right, and I agree there. I haven’t looked into it, but I imagine that Taiwan’s foreigner registration is a hodge-podge of regulations left over from the Japanese colonial period, combined with laws the KMT brought over from the mainland, some extra polite state influence from the Chiang Kai-shek dictatorship, and some moderately recent rules aimed at curbing illegal working by students. Of course, it’s not actually nearly as bad as THAT makes it sound-in principle it’s more or less the same as the Japanese system, with a number of differences in the details, such as the registration office being part of the police system instead of the municipal government.

  17. Re: Bryce

    I don’t think that all the new buildings look the same. There’s certainly a lot of similarities and big style differences with here in the UK, but beyond that there are plenty of differences.

    Re: Bryce, Jade, etc.

    My wife applied for a 2 year spouse visa for the UK last autumn. Before that she’d had a tourist visa for one visit, and a 1-year student visa. Much much more hassle and money than any of my visas for China or Japan.

    Ok, so the UK and USA are all modern and inclusive to ethnic minorities, but both countries have vocal groups opposed to further immigration, and have many more people applying for immigration. So their governments (1) have to show that they’re being tough on immigration and (2) have a monopoly on visas and a large supply of willing applicants. Which translates into crap service which applicants have to sell their first-born for.

    £400 and a 2 month wait for a straight forward 2-year spouse visa. After 2 years we then get to fork out £750 (at the moment) for Indefinite Leave to Remain. Now, THAT is a gaijin tax.

  18. That’s a pretty good point, Chris, about supply/demand. If Japanese immigration rules were as tough as the US and fees as high, maybe they just wouldn’t get enough foreigners willing to deal with the hassle.

  19. “Bryce: You do? I thought you just moved there last year. Had you lived in the States previously?”

    No, I have the good fortune to be married to a U.S. citizen. I also had a thousand bucks, a job offer (which in theory didn’t help, but my start date made them hussle a little more) and the tenacity to get through a byzantine bureaucratic process apparently created and overseen by monkeys bashing on typewriters.

    However, PR is instantaneous for spouses of citizens once they enter the country, which is a bonus. It’s only painful until you hit the border (or – probably more accurately – get your SSN four or five weeks later).

    “I don’t think that all the new buildings look the same.”

    That was sarcasm.

    “Which translates into crap service which applicants have to sell their first-born for.”

    That’s an interesting and I’d say fairly accurate assessment, but if immigration services are underfunded, then why the confusing bureaucratic process? Why not save money eliminating the rather unnecessary paperwork, contradictory instructions and bureaucratese. Just make the system highly selective. It’s not just that the rules are a hassle. It is that they are stupid.

  20. Ah, married to a Usanian makes all the difference. Pretty much the same in Japan.

    “if immigration services are underfunded, then why the confusing bureaucratic process? Why not save money”

    I think this is precisely the opposite reason. In a private company, your ideas would certainly be implemented. But in a govt bureaucracy, perhaps the red tape is there to show the Treasury that they need more money, not less work. It reminds me a bit of all the road crews at the end of the fiscal year digging up perfectly good road to make sure they use up their budget to avoid getting it trimmed next year.

  21. BTW, although Japanese law is easier than some other countries in many ways for immigrants, let’s also not forget the minuscule refugee acceptance rate. A year or two ago the US took in almost 80,000 ( and Japan only 41 in 2007 (, although Japan is actually much closer to many of the countries that produce refugees.

    The rejection rate for refugees in Japan, roughly 90 percent, is the highest for any industrialized nation. According to the U.N. High Commission on Refugees, Japan has accepted only 451 refugees over the last 25 years. In 2006 only 26 were granted asylum and only 41 in 2007. The usual litany of excuses — overcrowding, weak economy, fragile legal system — might explain Japanese reluctance to accept refugees, but other nations confront these problems as well.

  22. It’s interesting to compare that rejection rate with the very high acceptance rate for naturalization (refer to Debito’s latest post). Within Japan that is – I don’t know the figures for the US.

    Hmmm. I did find this:
    “Asylum seekers making claims to avoid deportation made their cases in front of immigration judges. They had the right to appeal to the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) and subsequently to federal courts, and to the assistance of counsel at their own expense.
    A study of the decisions by immigration judges from 1994 to 2005, conducted by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University and released in 2006, found that *the median rejection rate was 65 percent*, but that eight judges denied asylum to 90 percent of applicants, and two granted asylum to 90 percent. The study also reported that judges denied the claims of 93 percent of asylum seekers without attorneys, and 64 percent of the claims of those who had attorneys.”

    China has twice the refugees and asylum seekers of the US, I note, with the overwelming majority being from Vietnam.

  23. Any reaction to this?

    The Nichibenren appears to be coming out strongly against this reform, citing:
    – harsh 200,000 fines
    – lower standards for privacy than Japanese nationals
    – SDP head Mizhuo Fukushima implied that the centralized info management will lead to “surveillance” of foreigners
    – A DPJ member wondered aloud if the new system would scare all the legit foreigners “underground” which seems kind of unlikely
    – A zainichi activist thought the new system would require people to update at the immigration office, not local town halls (which I think is inaccurate)

    They propose explicitly providing that zairyu card numbers cannot be used to track foreigners.

    I guess this is just their opening shot in the final negotiations over the bill?

  24. Does anybody out there have the gen on the new Zairyu Card? Is it true that they are trying to force applicants into the Naional Insurance System. Now that they can’t enforce the “No Insurance No Visa” anymore, they are trying to do it with the new I.D.-chipped Zairyu Cards???

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