Important Japan visa rule update

According to the Ministry of Justice website, starting April 1, 2010, anyone extending their Japanese visa or changing their residency status will be required to show a valid health insurance card/booklet. The relevant portions are below.


8. 社会保険に加入していること

While technically the rules have already required registration in the national health system (technically it is a duty of almost all residents, citizens included) there has not previously been any penalty for non-registration, although I hear a history of insurance non-registration it may cause problems when applying for permanent residency or citizenship. Note that although in principle residents are supposed to be registered in both the national health insurance and the pension scheme, these regulations refer only to the health system, and it does not seem that non-registration in the pension scheme will have any effect on visa renewals.

I have met an awful lot of foreign residents of Japan over the years who have never bothered to register for either public social insurance program and have never had any trouble over it, but this will not be the case in the future. Any Japan resident foreigners not registered in the national health insurance who are thinking of extending their stay past their current visa term had better look into registration ASAP.

23 thoughts on “Important Japan visa rule update”

  1. what if you are already insured overseas?
    my company used to pay for special health insurance coverage from a French company for me when I first arrived in Japan (much better package, 100% coverage, dental and vision included)

    a lot of young French people on this special government contract get this package
    having to pay for a vastly inferior and superfluous Japanese insurance just for the visa is such a waste

  2. It doesn’t matter if you have other insurance or not. In fact, if your company does not register you in Japanese national health then THEY are breaking the law and could potentially get in trouble. Since the employer is required to register you and pay half of your premium, and you are required to have it to extend your visa, I suggest you complain to your boss. In the end it should only cost you a relatively small amount of money anyway-I currently pay 1700 yen/month for mine.

  3. right now I’m a local employee and pay japanese insurance (around 3.400 yen)
    though it’s not 社会保険, it’s BOSCH健康保険組合
    I guess this is valid for the visa thing

    as for my situation when I first came to Japan, it’s a bit of a special case
    I was on a special government contract, technically employed by the French government and “lent” to a French company in Japan
    I was paid in euro in a French bank account and was exempted of taxes in France as well as Japan via special waivers agreed upon between the Japanese and French states

    I think there are somewhere around 100-150 young professionals with this special contract currently in Japan

  4. None of that matters. If you live in Japan, you have to be registered in 社会保険. I don’t actually know what the rules are in terms of the employer’s duty for international transfers like yourself, but I’m almost totally sure that whether your company pays for it or, not you WILL still need to be in 社会保険 to renew your visa next year. If you can find a regulation that says you are exempt from shakai-hoken for some reason though, then please post it here.

    “it’s not 社会保険, it’s BOSCH健康保険組合
    I guess this is valid for the visa thing”

    It is definitely not valid for your visa renewal. If I were you, I would talk to the HR department this week, and bring them a printout of the new regulations I linked to.

  5. Oooh, I can see this move being popular… I personally never understood how these people with travel insurance that covers you for everything for a year for 80,000 yen (seems to be the going price) could really make money, but obviously it must!

    Anyway, last year I paid about 14,000 yen per month (I think…) for two, and between us we used about 300,000 yen’s worth of medical care (before the 70% company discount).

    I can’t speak for francois, but my insurance is proper 社会保険, but it’s branded for my employer.

  6. Doesn’t travel insurance by definition not apply for your country of residence? I think if you’re using it as a replacement for regular insurance while living abroad that constitutes a violation of the contract and they could deny your coverage. Of course, the sort of ex-pat insurance francois says his employer provided is probably an entirely different kind of policy.

  7. if I understand what I read here:

    we’re mixing up 社会保険 which is just “general social insurance” and 国民健康保険 which is the government health insurance
    I, as an employee of a big company, fall under the salaryman category and is enrolled in the 健康保険組合 or “health insurance society” of my company or industry (I have some friends in the Kanto IT workers health insurance society) which is an official 社会保険 provider

    am I wrong here?

  8. I would draw everyone’s attention to the wording:


    Having dealt with the immigration bureau on numerous occasions, I’m sure there’s lots of opportunity to fudge that margin.

  9. Yes, not everyone is required to have shakai hoken, but almost everyone is. But that’s why I recommended he bring it up with his company’s HR department. That way if it turns out he was required to be in it and wasn’t, at least he can try to pass along the blame.

  10. “In the end it should only cost you a relatively small amount of money anyway-I currently pay 1700 yen/month for mine.”

    Roy, that’s because you’re a non-income-earning student. I paid about 1400 or so, and it is distinctly higher now I am getting more money. So it’s not necessarily a small amount of money, though it is calculated based on your income, so in that sense it is relative.

  11. Francois, you know you might be right. I actually hadn’t known that there were other types of insurance that apply. But I would still doublecheck with your company and the relevant government agencies, because with the new visa rules it’s a lot more important than in the past.

  12. I have 国民健康保険 because I’m a full-time student, used to have 社会保険 while at eikaiwa. I assume that the emphasis on 社会保険 is for work visas rather than student visas? Are independent contract workers also on 国民健康? And does this mean that a lot of dispatch and contract companies which have been getting away with murder as far as exploiting gaijin with low pay and no benefits are suddenly going to have to provide shakai hoken and full-time status to their employees? Or just increase the speed of the revolving door and only exploit fresh arrivals?

    Looks like the intention of the law is to make sure every gaijin with a visa is paying into the national health insurance system, one way or another, because it’s the law and because they really, really need the money from the largely younger gaijin population to fund daily doctor visits by Japanese octagenarians.

    I assume the original rule, in which anyone only planning to be in Japan for less than a year is not required to join national heath in any way still stands? Thus the rule is for renewals, but not original visas.

    As for all the people with super-cheap national insurance. Isn’t it because you’ve only been here a year? The rate is determined based on your previous year’s salary, which is zero for new arrivals, thus the below 2000 yen rate. After your first full year in Japan, the rates go way up. Easily over 20,000 a month or so. (Though I suppose that also depends on if your company is sneakily making you pay more than just half the amount… I’m looking at you eikaiwa management!)

    But hey, as long as the pension isn’t tied into this. I’m happy.

  13. I may stand to be corrected on this but to try to answer Level3s question in his first paragraph:
    国民健康保険 is for the self-employed, students, etc.

    社会保険 is for company employees.

    If you are employed at a company, and are not listed as a dependent (扶養家族)on someone else’s insurance, you are supposed to be registered under 社会保険.

    If you are self-employed, or a student not listed as a dependent on your parent’s insurance, or in similar such status such as you do not have an employer who is required to register you in 社会保険 as a full-time employee, then you are supposed to register yourself for 国民健康保険.

    So to Curzon: I would interpret the wording to mean that those on student, cultural-activities or non-breadwinners or self-employed foreigners on dependent visas are exempt from the requirement of being registered with 社会保険.

  14. This is gonna be a massive headache for all those Haken English Companies who have profited from not enrolling their teachers in the national health system and dont check whether their teachers have obtained private insurance. Im sure theyll find a loop hole though!

  15. by the way, when I stated how much I was paying for health insurance, I mixed it up with my unemployment insurance: it’s a lot more.

    雇用保険 – Unemployment insurance: ¥3,580
    健康保険 – Health insurance: ¥19,468

  16. Also, since kokukin hoken is another thing handled at the municipal level, the rates may differ from city to city. It’s based on income and local taxes, but 20,000 insurance sounds nasty. I can get a lot of doctor’s visits for that, since I go so seldom. But at least it covers dental….

  17. “This is gonna be a massive headache for all those Haken English Companies ”
    Good! Too many of them having been ignoring their obligations under the law and/or shafting people since “there is always another fresh face getting off the plane”. There are a lot of Eikaiwa like that as well – they either don’t know what the law says, or they don’t care and prefer to keep their employees in the dark as it saves them work.

  18. Is Gaba the worst offender in the insurance non-payment area? The whole idea that they can sponsor someone for a visa category which legally requires a full time job and therefore registration in the shakai hoken, and then hire the people as “contractors” without paying for their insurance is highly exploitative, and very likely illegal. I can’t wait for someone to sue them like Nova was sued.

    If these new regulations on visa renewal are combined with similarly extreme tightening of the rules (and enforcement of said rules) on EMPLOYERS it might actually be worth it.

  19. Speaking of Gabba, does anyone know if their shares have been delisted from the TSE? They had taken quite a pounding in recent months, and it wouldn’t surprise me that someone’s turned them private.

  20. Thanks for theclarification LB.

    As far as dispatch companies, I’m sure they will never give anyone shakai hoken. They’ll just tell people to register for kokumin kenko hoken.
    Then keep focusing more and more on 1-year-and-out new teachers and working holiday visa holders.

    And when more part time workers with more part-time attitudes results in more absenteeism, they local BOEs will become increasingly disappointed with hakengaishas.

  21. Never mind. Gaba is still trading. I spelled the company name wrong (thus the Gabba above) when I was searching for it earlier.

  22. Saved by the skin of my teeth. I will be renewing my visa in March of 2010, and I haven’t paid my insurance in well over a year.

  23. It goes both ways. Cheap ass eikaiwa companies such as Peppy Kids Club, iTTTi Japan, Geos, GABA… should stop taking advantage of foreign workers on stupid one year contracts and provide more stable employment with national health insurance, shakai hoken.. and the cheap ass teachers should’ve enrolled into NHI which costs a little more than the cheap health insurance that are advertised in the Metropolis magazine. Both parties are to blame for the whole bad industry. The Eikaiwas didn’t tell us workers about enrolling into the NHI when we first started for their crappy and stingy companies. Hard working teachers put in more than 29.5 hours per week. The Labor Law Office should investigate some of these illegal companies that take advantage of cheap foreigners…

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