Happy foreigners love the new system!
Starting next month (July 9), the immigration authorities are going to implement a series of changes to the rules for foreigners in the country. The biggest is probably replacing the foreigner registration card (gaikokujin torokusho) with a residency card (在留カード). It’s more or less the same, but it will now be administered directly by immigration, not the local authorities.
There are a lot of other changes as well, so it would probably be a good idea to sit down for maybe an hour and familiarize yourself with them. The government’s handy website can be found here for Japanese and here for English.
All in all, these represent some real benefits for expats, so I think the authorities deserve a pat on the back on this one. So far my personal experience with immigration has been very positive, and it looks like my warm feelings will only continue. Here are some of the new rules that caught my eye:
- The general term for a medium-term visa will be extended from 3 to 5 years.
- A “deemed” re-entry system will allow anyone on medium-term or permanent resident visa to leave the country and return without a special application or fee, provided they come back within one year. Longer periods out of the country will still follow the old system of filing an application and paying a fee for a temporary re-entry permit.
- Changes of address will still go through local government offices the same as Japanese people, but changes to marital and employment status, etc. will need to be reported to immigration. That could be a pain in the butt, but apparently they plan to allow you to report changes by mail, which would be a huge improvement.
- The new card won’t include personal information such as employer or school name on the card. Instead that information will be stored in an on-board chip.
- Violations of the new system are now subject to penalties and fines!
- People whose old gaijin cards are still valid in July don’t need to get the new cards right away. You will have up to three years to get the new one.
- Foreigners will be added to the juminhyo system instead of being part of a separate registry. I am not sure exactly why this is a big deal, but presumably not maintaining a totally separate database will save the government some money.
UPDATE: Another big benefit is that for newcomers, residency cards will be issued upon entry, so you will no longer need to show up at city hall to register and wait for the card to be issued. This along with some other services is only available at major airports. You are still required to go to the local office to “notify” them of your presence… But if I’m not mistaken this is functionally not that different from what Japanese people have to do when they move.
Did I miss anything big? Please let me know in the comments, and be sure to read up on the new system!