Life in Japan

Japanese Immigration Offices and Visa Renewal Process

Since living in Japan, I have had to change my visa type once and renew/extend my visa twice. In this post, I will talk about my experience with the immigration office and give some advice for renewing/extending a working visa. I will also include a list of useful Japanese words that you will need to know when you visit the Immigration Office in Japan.

My First Immigration Office

The first time I had to visit the immigration office was actually when I was still living in Oita Prefecture back in 2016. I was just finishing up 3 years on the JET program and I was getting ready to move to Tokyo and start a new chapter of my life.

At the time, I had an Instructor Visa, which is the visa type that all ALTs on the JET program have. It was decided that my next job would be teaching at an after-school Eikaiwa in Tokyo, which meant that I would have to change my visa type from an Instructor Visa to a Specialist in Humanities Visa.

Round One: Changing My Visa Type

The official name for a change in visa type is a “Change of Status of Residence”. To be honest, it was so long ago that I don’t remember the process very clearly. I remember that I got some documents from my new company which I submitted in person to the immigration office in Oita. Nobody seemed to speak English there and the guy who helped me was kind of stern looking which intimidated me. He asked me a lot of questions and I remember feeling a little nervous. But the whole thing went over pretty well.

As I recall, I went there twice. The first time, to submit documents and the application for change of visa. The second time, to get my new residence card. I believe there were a few weeks of waiting in between and I got a letter in the mail telling me to come to the immigration office again. There was almost no waiting at the Immigration Office in Oita, due to the small number of foreigners. This was a big contrast from my experience at the Tokyo Office.

Tokyo Regional Immigration Bureau

I have been to the Tokyo Immigration Office probably about half a dozen times. Some of them were to submit documents about change of employment. The others were to renew or extend my Specialist in Humanities Visa. I will talk about my experience extending my visa below.

Round Two: Extending My Visa

The first time I went to extend my visa I had no idea what I was doing. Since I was living relatively close to the office (about 35 minutes by train and bus), I went early in the morning in an attempt to beat the crowd. It turned out that my train was delayed and Tokyo morning rush hour crowds were even worse than I imagined. I got there shortly after the office opened, which is already way too late.

First, I had to get an application on the first floor. Since I didn’t know what I was doing, I then waited my turn to ask someone at the information desk. If you know the process well enough, you can skip this and go straight to the second floor.

Things you will need:

  • Application for extension of visa
  • Documents from your workplace (see ① below)
  • Proof that you pay taxes (see ② below)
  • A recent Passport-style photograph (see ③ below)
  • Your Residence Card
  • Your Passport
  1. Every time I got a new visa I had already changed jobs meaning that my sponsor (my company) has been different every time I have extended my visa. I assume, however, that even if your sponsor is the same you will still receive documents from your company to submit.
  2. I don’t remember if I had to get this my first time, but last time I renewed my visa my boss told me to go to my local Ward Office and get proof that I paid taxes before I go to the immigration office. So I got the document and submitted it along with the other documents to the immigration office. I’m not 100% sure if this is necessary in all cases, but it might be better to get it if you’re not sure.
  3. There is a photo booth at the immigration office you can use or you can bring in your own photo. Just make sure it is the official size and your face is clear and looking forward.

Take all of these documents and go to the second floor Area B. If you go up the escalator, you should see a window straight in front of you which will likely already have a very long line unless you are lucky. Get in that line. They will inspect your documents there and tell you if you need to fix anything. Then they will give you a number and a postcard. You will be instructed to write your name and address on the postcard. Do this and then wait for your number to be called.

The next window you will go to is also in area B, just to the left of the escalator. There are a lot of chairs there so you can sit and wait. This part usually takes more than an hour. After you are called, give all your documents including the postcard to them. They will give you a receipt. DO NOT LOSE IT! You will need it next time.

Now you are free to go home! You will need to wait a few weeks for that postcard to be sent to you in the mail. When it comes, it will have instructions on it. Mine said to come to the immigration office for the results of my application and had the following instructions:

  1. Bring your postcard, your residence card, your passport, and your receipt from last time
  2. Get a 4000 yen Revenue Stamp at the Family Mart on the 1st floor of the Immigration Office
  3. Come to Window A1

CONGRATULATIONS! You get to go to the Immigration Office Again!!

Tips For Your Second Trip

The Second Trip always seems to take more time than the first, and last time it took me about 4 hours. Granted, I came in the afternoon. It might be better if you go first thing in the morning and wait outside before they open.

The line was so long I had a hard time finding the end of it. It took about 2 hours to get through the first line, then I got a number and I had to wait another 2 hours or so. I recommend bringing a book or something to do. Last time, I didn’t bring anything. So I actually ended up taking the bus back to Shinagawa Station to do some shopping while I was waiting for my number to be called. Of course, this is a little bit dangerous because you never know how long it will take for them to call your number, but I knew it was going to be a long wait. I made sure to come back within about an hour (with new books in hand) just to be safe.

Finally, you will get your new residence card with a new expiration date. I have only gotten 1 year visas until now (except my very first one which was 3 years). I don’t know what makes them decide the length of duration but in my case it might be because I changed jobs and apartments too much.

Useful Japanese Words

  • Immigration Office – 入国管理局 (nyuukoku kanrikyoku)
  • City Office – 市役所 (shiyakusho)
  • Ward Office – 区役所 (kuyakusho)
  • Residence Card – 在留カード (zairyuu kaado)
  • Period of Stay – 在留期間 (zairyuu kikan)
  • Renewal/Extension – 更新 (koushin)
  • Status of Residence – 在留資格 (zairyuu shikaku)
  • Change – 変更 (henkou)
  • Permission – 許可 (kyoka)
  • Application – 申請 (shinsei)
  • Proof You Pay Taxes – 納税証明書 (nouzeishoumeisho)
  • Income – 収入 (shuunyuu)
  • Income Tax – 所得税 (shotokuzei)
  • Residence Tax/Municipal Tax – 住民税 (juuminzei)
  • Long Line – 行列 (gyouretsu)
  • Waiting Time – 待ち時間 (machi jikan)


This post was about my personal experience dealing with Immigration Offices in Japan. Other people may have different experiences, as not everybody has the same exact visa situation. I do hope that this information will be useful for other foreigners living in Japan and feel free to add your own experience in the comments if you would like! I am no expert, but I have been here for a while so I will do my best to answer any questions you might have! Good luck and see you again!

An American girl writing about living and working in Japan. 日本在住のアメリカ人の女の子のブログ。


  1. アバター stilloutsiders より:

    A very good, clear guide for people who aren’t familiar with the process and even for those who are!
    I’d like to add that while there are some genuinely helpful Immigration staff downstairs and upstairs, the way the upstairs process works is out-of-date and unnecessarily stressful. And disorganised, yes Immigration, disorganised.
    All foreigners are lumped together, no streamlined process based on different visa types. How hard would it be to have different application spots at the counters for different visa type?
    On any given day those who work in education are in the minority of the foreign workers so those applicants could have a spot together with applicants who work in the manufacturing industry for example.
    It seems Immigration likes to keep working foreigners as opposed to international students who get their own spot,uncomfortable for hours.
    The draining waiting times are simply the result of either don’t care attitudes on the part of those who run Immigration or lack of efficient thought processes.
    Some who wait for 5 hours or more cannot be served and so have to leave and try to come back another day. Too bad they have work commitments and have to squeeze in their trip to Immigration on a day off that may not be compatible with waiting a long time again.
    What on earth will happen when the new, bigger numbers of foreign workers come?
    Time for those running Immigration to start treating applicants more as human beings and less as outsiders who are tolerated.

  2. アバター Syed ali raza より:

    Am farmar go your cuntre at work

  3. アバター kaye より:

    if you recieve letter from immigration that it means rejected? thank you

    • Rose Rose より:

      Without seeing the contents of the letter, I am afraid I cannot say for sure. If you receive a letter and you cannot read its contents, I suggest asking someone you know to help you read it.

    • Rose Rose より:

      Sorry for the late reply! I cannot say for sure. It really depends on what the letter says. Good luck!

  4. アバター crystalgel より:

    Hi! I was wondering what does it mean by “application receipt” on the postcard? I don’t remember getting one. Will this affect my Visa status if I don’t bring this when I go 😭 I have to soon and I’m kind of worried

    • Rose Rose より:

      Sorry for the late response! As I mentioned in my post, the first time you go to apply for the visa extension, you should receive a receipt. You are supposed to keep that until the next time you go (after you get the postcard in the mail) and bring it with you when you go to pick up your new residence card. I imagine you can still get your new residence card if you lose the receipt, but I honestly don’t know as that has never happened to me. I hope that everything went OK for you and sorry again for not replying sooner!

  5. アバター Fely より:

    Good morning Miss Rose,

    I would like to ask a question, my question is “Can I renew my working visa here in Japan even if I don’t have my passport?” the reason is I submitted it to Canada Visa Application Center and because of the pandemic virus the processing time will be delay.
    Thank You for your time.

    • Rose Rose より:

      Hello! I think you might need your passport. But the good news is that if your visa expires in April, May or June of this year, you get an automatic 3-month extension due to the pandemic. So, I would advise you to wait to renew your visa until the summer. Hopefully, things will be better by then and you will be able to get your passport back. Here is my source:

  6. アバター Lillian より:

    You mentioned that it’s possible the visa amounts dropped to 1 year due to changing jobs too often. Can I ask how often you had changed? Curious about what is considered “too” often. Especially with a 3 year visa, that’s enough times to have 3 different jobs!

    • Rose Rose より:

      So, the first visa was a 3 year visa because I came to Japan on the JET program. However, after that, I moved 5 times and changed jobs 4 times (between 2016 and 2019). Each time I renewed my visa, I had a new job and a new address. So, my theory is that might not have made me look very stable. But you’re right, most of my jobs I stayed at a year or more. Only one of them was less than a year (about 4 months).


      August 2013 – JET program (3 year visa)
      August 2016 – Moved to Tokyo, Kids’ Eikaiwa, new visa type (one year)
      January 2017 – moved again, changed job (Adult Eikaiwa)
      August 2017 – applied to extend visa (granted one year)
      Feb~April 2018 – moved to Kanagawa, changed job (Kindergarten)
      August 2018 – applied to extend visa (granted one year)
      September 2018 – moved again
      April 2019 – changed job (remote work), got married
      June 2019 – husband changed job
      August 2019 – applied for spouse visa (granted one year)
      September 2019 – moved back to Tokyo

  7. アバター TJY より:

    Thank you for sharing your experience; very helpful. I have a question about the expiration date. When you received your new residence card, was the expiration date a) one year from the previous card’s expiration date, b) one year from the day you picked it up from the immigration office, or c) one year from the day it was approved? Thanks in advance!

    • Rose Rose より:

      You’re welcome! 🙂 I believe it was one year from the previous card’s expiration date. It seems that it always expires around August 4th or so for me. I usually start the process a month or two ahead of the expiration date and get my new card around the end of July or the beginning of August.


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