The goal of this post is to outline the steps that I needed to take in order to marry my Japanese husband. Although the process may vary slightly depending on your nationality, etc, it is my hope that this guide will be of use to others who are planning to marry a Japanese citizen.
- 1 Step 1: Affidavit of Eligibility
- 2 Step 2: Print out a Marriage Registration Form
- 3 Step 3: Getting a Certificate of Family Register
- 4 Step 4: Filing the Marriage Registration Form
- 5 Changing your Last Name
- 6 Changing your Visa to the “Spouse Visa”
- 6.1 Step One: Preparation of Documents
- 6.2 Step Two: Submission of Documents
- 6.3 Step Three: Getting a New Residence Card
- 7 Conclusion
Step 1: Affidavit of Eligibility
If you are from the United States of America, you will be required to obtain a notarized Affidavit of Eligibility from the US Embassy (or Consulate, depending on your location).
In Japanese, this form is called 婚姻要件具備証明書 (Kon-in Yoken Gubi Shomeisho). It is basically just a form that proves that you are not lying about your marital status and eligibility to marry.
To do this, you must first make an appointment for notarial services from the embassy’s website.
On the day of your appointment, be sure to get there a bit early as you will have to go through security. Bring your passport and $50 or the equivalent amount in yen (there is a fee to get this form notarized).
I recommend printing out the form and filling it out before you go, but if you don’t you can get a copy there.
Note that there is both an English form and a Japanese form that you will need to fill out. If you can’t write Japanese, get your spouse to help you.
This step is only for the foreign spouse. Your Japanese spouse does not need to sign anything and does not need to come with you, although they may if they would like to.
Step 2: Print out a Marriage Registration Form
The Marriage Registration Form, called 婚姻届 (kon-in-todoke) can be downloaded online and printed out at home or at your nearest convenience store.
There is a wide variety of designs for this form, and there are no rules about using any specific one. However, it may be better to choose a design that doesn’t have any pictures overlapping text, as some city offices that use a machine to input the data will have trouble reading the form. I got mine from this site.
It’s kind of fun to choose a cute design like this and take pictures before turning the form in.
The left side of the form is for the husband and wife to fill out, and the top right side of the form is for two witnesses (Seiya’s parents in our case) to fill out.
Since his parents live in Aomori, which is quite far from us, we sent the form to them by mail (3 copies, just in case they made a mistake on one of them) and had them send it back to us. You don’t have to have relatives as witnesses (any legal adult will do) and signing the form does not hold the witnesses in any way responsible for anything that happens.
Step 3: Getting a Certificate of Family Register
This step is for the Japanese spouse. He/she must get a 戸籍謄本 (koseki tohon), a Certificate of Family Register. This document will be needed when you turn in your Marriage Registration form.
He/she can only get this document from the city office where their family is registered. In my husband’s case, this city office is in Aomori.
Seeing as it is too far to go there ourselves, he had his parents go get it for him and send it by mail.
If you don’t have this document when you file your Marriage Registration form, you will have to come back again with the document in order to complete the process.
You and your spouse will also have to decide where you would like your new Family Register to be kept. When you get married, a new Family Register is created. Most people either keep the same city office as their old one, or change it to the one that is closest to their current residence.
Step 4: Filing the Marriage Registration Form
You do not need an appointment to file for marriage. You just go to the city office, take a number and wait your turn.
Things to Bring:
- Marriage Registration Form (filled out)
- Passport and Residence Card (Foreign Spouse)
- Copy of Birth Certificate (Foreign Spouse)
- Affidavit of Eligibility (Foreign Spouse)
- Driver’s license or other form of ID (Japanese Spouse)
- Certificate of Family Register (Japanese Spouse)
- “My Number” Cards
- Health Insurance Cards
- Inkan/Hanko (Japanese name stamp)
You will probably be asked to write a translation of your birth certificate and passport. It’s not difficult, and the staff are pretty helpful usually. Your spouse may also be able to help you if you are not good at writing in Japanese.
Before you leave, make sure you ask for a 婚姻届受理証明書 (certificate of marriage). You may need this if/when you try to change your last name. Apparently, you can get a fancy one for a bit more money which you could frame and keep in your house also! I recommend getting one fancy one (to keep) and one plain one (for the name change).
While you are at the city office, if you want to create an alias for yourself, it is a good time to do so. More on that in the next section.
Changing your Last Name
Basically, there are two options:
- Register an alias (tsusho 通称) through the city office
- Change your name legally through the Embassy/Consulate
Registering an alias is rather simple and does not require you to change your name on all of your ID’s and documents. Rather, it enables you to use two different names as you please. In my case, I registered an alias as 前田ローズ (Maeda Rose). This allows me to use this name in Japan in situations where I would prefer to be known this way, but does not restrict me from using my maiden name in situations where it is more convenient to do so.
In general, I don’t think there is any harm in making an alias, and it might even be a good first step since it might take more time to change your name legally through the embassy.
Something you should keep in mind, however, is that you can only register an alias once. If you decide you want to change it at some point in the future, you may not be able to do so. Therefore, you should think carefully about it before registering an alias.
Disclaimer: This section is directed only towards other Americans. Non-Americans should research how to change their name in their home countries.
As an American, there are two things you will need to do to change your name legally. One is changing the name on your passport, and the other is changing the name on your social security card.
You can do both of these things at the US Embassy in Tokyo (or whichever is closest to you). However, you will need to make two separate appointments to complete these two separate processes.
To get to the US Embassy in Tokyo, you can take the Ginza Line or the Nanboku Line to Tameike-sanno Station.
Take Exit 14 and turn left. The embassy is about a 4 minute walk from there. You will see it on your right. Be prepared to be asked by nearby police what you are doing there. Tell them you want to go to the embassy and you have an appointment. Once they let you through, you will go through 3 layers of security.
There is also an option to send in your application with all necessary documents by mail. However, I would only do this if you are 100% sure that you have everything you need. I wasn’t even half sure, so I decided to go in. Whichever way you choose, you will be without your passport while they are processing your application (which can take several weeks), so you need to plan the timing of it carefully.
I have since found more information about mailing in your application. If you live far from the embassy, this may be the way you want to go.
Changing your name on your passport
To change your name on your passport, you will need to make an appointment with the embassy.
Things you need:
・Translation of Marriage certificate (if you got married in Japan)
・Application for Renewal of Passport
・Envelope with Return Postage
・$110 (In my case, 12,100 yen – depends on rate)
I wasn’t able to find the documents online, so I just filled them out there which was fine. I filled out both the Application for Renewal of Passport and a form for translating my marriage certificate. If you can’t read Japanese, you should bring your spouse with you.
The envelope is for them to send you your new passport when it is ready. If you don’t have one, I believe you can buy one there. You also may be able to come in to pick up your new passport if that works better for you.
After getting your new passport, you have 2 weeks to report this change to the Immigration Office so that they can change your name on your residence card.
I haven’t actually completed this process yet, but I have researched about it. The first step is to email the Federal Benefits Unit and make an appointment.
You will need to bring your passport and marriage certificate, which means that if you are without your passport because you are trying to change your name on your passport, you will have to wait until you get your new one before you can get started on this (that’s where I am right now).
Changing your Visa to the “Spouse Visa”
Funny story (not really), right before I was going to apply for my Spouse Visa, my husband got laid off. He was working for a really small startup company that wasn’t doing well financially and they only gave him about a week’s notice. Now, considering that I work only part-time as a freelancer, that left us in a bit of a sticky situation.
We figured it would not be a good idea to go ahead with the application while neither of us had stable employment and run the risk of my application being denied. So, we decided to wait until the last minute (a few days before my current visa would expire) to go to the immigration office, and put all our energy into securing a new job for Seiya, and gathering as much proof of income between the two of us as possible.
Thanks to some of Seiya’s amazing friends, his new job was decided and once we got all of our documents in order, we headed to the immigration office for stage one of the process.
Step One: Preparation of Documents
This is probably the hardest part of the whole process of marrying a Japanese citizen. Granted, if it weren’t for the unfortunate timing of my husband’s company laying him off, it wouldn’t have been half as stressful and time consuming as it was.
In addition to the list of documents below, we also included several extra documents due to our unique employment situation. On my end, I included contracts from some of my freelancing gigs. My husband included a document from his new job which he had not yet started and his 退職証明書 (Resignation Certificate) from his last job which stated that the company let him go due to their problem, not through any fault of his.
List of Documents
・Letter of Guarantee (身元保証書)
・Questionnaire Form (質問書)
・Family Register (戸籍謄本)
・Marriage Certificate (届書受理証明書)
・Resident Registration Certificate (住民票)
・Tax Certificates (課税証明書・納税証明書)
・Application Form (在留資格変更許可申請書)
Letter of Guarantee (身元保証書)
This form is written by the Japanese Spouse in most cases. You can download the Japanese/English versions of the form below.
Questionnaire Form (質問書)
This form only comes in Japanese because your Japanese spouse is the one who will be filling it out. This form includes a space to write in detail about how you met, and all the other things that happened between then and your wedding. My husband typed up our story and attached a separate paper for that part because it was too long to write in the allotted space.
Family Register (戸籍謄本)
Your Japanese spouse can get this document from the city office in which their family is registered. Your name should also be on it, assuming that you filed your marriage in Japan.
Marriage Certificate (届書受理証明書)
This may not be necessary, but I also submitted my Japanese marriage certificate. This can be obtained from the city office where you submitted your marriage registration form.
Resident Registration Certificate (住民票)
When you get your juminhyo (住民票) from the city office, there are a lot of options about what kind of information they will include on it. I just opted to include everything because I wasn’t sure what information they needed. You definitely need to select the option for all members of your household (世帯全員) to be listed on it.
Tax Certificates (課税証明書・納税証明書)
Assuming you and your Japanese spouse both work, you will both need to include your tax certificates for the previous year. You can get these from the city office as well. Keep in mind, if you moved to a new city within the past year, you may need to visit your previous city office to get these forms.
Application Form (在留資格変更許可申請書)
This is the application form that you need to fill out to change your residence status to “Spouse of a Japanese National.” You will need to include a recently taken passport-size photo of yourself.
According to my research, it is common practice to include a rather large number of photos of the married couple spanning the time of your relationship. In my case, I made a word document of about 50 pages including photos and explanations of the photos, starting with the very first picture Seiya and I ever took together back when we first met, all the way up to our wedding. It might have been a bit much, but it did the job!
Step Two: Submission of Documents
Once you have all of your documents together, it is time for you and your spouse to go to the immigration office to submit your documents.
I had read that an envelope was necessary and so I had prepared one, but they told me at the window that they didn’t need it and it was returned to me.
It is important to submit your documents including your application for a change in status of residence to the immigration office before the expiration date on your current residence card in order to decrease your chances of being rejected.
Since I am a resident of Kanagawa, I was lucky enough to be able to go to the immigration office in Yokohama this time around, which is much less chaotic than the Shinagawa office.
In fact, it only took about an hour and a half to complete this step, whereas it has always taken me at least 3-4 hours in previous years.
If you are sure you have everything you need, head over to the “Application” section (Window 2 at the Yokohama Office) and take a number. Once your number is called, an officer will check your documents to make sure everything is there. You will then be asked to write your address on a postcard which they will send back to you by mail when it is time for you to pick up your new residence card.
Finally, they will stamp the back of your residence card. This stamp extends your residence card validity period for something like 2 or 3 extra months. So you don’t have to worry about your visa expiring while you are waiting.
It only took 2 weeks for my postcard to come back, which is definitely on the fast side! I have read that it takes an average of about 3-4 weeks, so my advice is to just try to forget about it for a while until you get that postcard back.
Step Three: Getting a New Residence Card
So, you got the postcard! Congratulations! Take it, your passport, and any other documents that are marked as necessary on the postcard, and head back to the immigration office.
First you will need to buy a 4,000 Yen revenue stamp at the convenience store located in the immigration office building.
Take these and go to Window 3 (in the case of Yokohama office) which was called something like “persons with notices” to give them your postcard and other required items. They will give you a number and a paper called “certificate for payment of fee” which you will stick your revenue stamp to. Then, you wait for your number to be called at Window 4 which I think was called something like “pick ups only.”
I waited for probably about 60-90 minutes for my number to be called, and then I was handed my new residence card with… only one year for the validity period.
It’s bittersweet. On one hand, I am relieved that my application was accepted and I can continue to live happily with my husband here in Japan. On the other hand, I am disappointed that I will have to go back to the immigration office again next year for yet another extension process.
On the bright side, in 4 more years, I will finally be eligible to apply for permanent residence. Then I will no longer have the stress of having to go to the immigration office every single year to submit paperwork.
For those of you who do get three years on your Spouse Visa, congratulations! You are lucky enough to get a chance at permanent residence the next time you have to go to the immigration office. But don’t fret if you only get one year. I’ve had one-year visas for the past 3 years in a row (my first one was a 3 year instructor visa, followed by 3 one-year visas). But I’ll never give up! 頑張ろう！
Disclaimer: I had already been living in Japan on a Specialist in Humanities Visa at the time of my application for the Spouse Visa. For those who do not live in Japan, the process to get a Japanese Spouse Visa are not going to be exactly the same as what I have written here. That being said, every situation is different. You may not need all of the same documents that I did, or you may need additional documents that I didn’t need. This post should not be taken as legal advice in any way.
I hope that this post was informative although I know that a lot of the information in here might not apply to everyone’s unique situation! If you are getting married in Japan, I wish you the best of luck and I hope you have a happy marriage! If you haven’t already, check out our wedding pictures here!