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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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:
- Bring your postcard, your residence card, your passport, and your receipt from last time
- Get a 4000 yen Revenue Stamp at the Family Mart on the 1st floor of the Immigration Office
- Come to Window A1
CONGRATULATIONS! You get to go to the Immigration Office Again!!
Tips For Your Second Trip
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!