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Renewing and Changing your Visa in Japan

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For those who choose to stay in Japan for an extended period of time, there is no end to the frustration and consternation that changing and renewing our visa causes. This is quite different from applying for a temporary visitor’s visa or a working holiday visa, which Japan offers to approximately 10 countries. Other visas, however, involve being sponsored to continue to live and work in this country. While it is theoretically possible to self-sponsor your own visa in Japan, this will not be covered in this article, although a link with some information on the topic is available on the bottom of this page.

 Unless you have permanent residency or a spousal visa, or are simply traveling on your 90-day tourism visa, you need a job that is willing to support your residency. Visas typically have to be renewed every 1-3 years, and in typical Japanese fashion, a wealth of paperwork is required every time. In today’s JAPAN LIFESTYLE GUIDE we aim to make a step-by-step, easy-to-follow way to renew or change your visa as painlessly as possible.

Your visa


Depending on the nature of your job in Japan, you will need to apply for a different class of visa. This is conveniently located under “status” on your residence card (also known as a zairyu card). For those relatively new to Japan and Japanese, knowing the status of your visa in Japanese can be immensely helpful during the renewal process. Here are a few common examples:


  •         Kyoiku (教育) – Instructor visa. This is commonly given to ALTs or other native English teachers in Japan.


  •         Gijutsu / jinbun chishiki / kokusai gyomu visa (技術 / 人文知識 / 国際業務) – “Engineer/Specialist in Humanities/International Services,” commonly known as a “humanities” visa. The humanities visa encompasses workers at many private language schools, as well as a wide range of other language-based and internationally focused activities not involving teaching.  

For more info about jobs in Japan- specifically, finding one, click HERE.


When to start


Technically you may start the renewal process three months from the date your current visa is set to expire, as written on your zairyu card. While the renewal process probably won’t take a whole three months, it is advisable to at least begin to get your paperwork together at that time. Certain documents will need to be requested from your employer, and may take longer than you expect to arrive, especially if they have to be mailed to you by post. It is important to note that visa offices do not accept anything emailed- snail mail seems to be the only way to go. Once your submission process has begun, you will usually get some extra time in the event that the friendly immigration officer requires more info or you made a mistake, but as a rule visa overstayers are NOT tolerated in Japan, and are prosecuted quite harshly.



What you need to renew/extend a visa in Japan


For extending your visa, anticipate needing most, if not all, of the following. We have indicated which documents you need to supply yourself (SELF), and which you need to receive from your company in advance (JOB).


  •         Application Form for Extension of Period of Stay (SELF) (JOB)

The exact nature of the form will depend on your visa, so be careful to fill out the correct one. Attach a recent photo (ID-sized, or approximately 4×3), which can be taken at one of the many photo booths near convenience stores, for example. Part of the form must be filled out by you, while the rest needs to be filled out by your employer. It is very important that your name is written exactly as it appears on your current zairyu card.


  •         Zaishoku Shomeisho(在職証明書)(JOB)

This must be supplied by your employer; it’s usually just a simple piece of paper confirming that you actually work where you claim to, which is signed, dated, and hanko-ed.


  •         Copy of Employment Contract (SELF)  (JOB)

Hopefully you remembered to keep a copy? Although your employer surely would have this on file. It must be current. In some cases, employers give “intent to rehire” forms before the official contract; this may also be acceptable as long as it’s in date.


  •         Kazei Shomeisho (課税証明書) (SELF)

A Tax Certificate from your local city/ward office that shows your previous year’s income.

Note: This is only available if you have already paid taxes where you currently live, otherwise, see below for other circumstances. There also may be situations where you must supply a Hi-Kazei Shomeisho (非課税証明書) instead, such as if you have a tax exemption.

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  •         Nozei Shomeisho (納税証明書) (SELF)

A tax certificate from your local city/ward office that shows the record of your tax payment. In many cases, this will be for the year prior to the one listed on your Kazei certificate.


  •         Gensen Choushyu-hyo (源泉徴収票) (SELF)  (JOB)

Chances are, you have gotten these slips from time to time, sometimes with your paystubs. If you have trouble finding it, you will need to get another from your school, company, etc.


  •         Letter of Release / Taishoku Shomeisho (退職証明書) (JOB)

This is only necessary in cases where you have left a job and have gotten the same type of job somewhere else. For example, if you got your previous visa while employed by one language school, and have now left that school and joined another one. Although companies are supposed to supply one of these when asked, there have been situations where it takes a lot of time.


  •         Juminhyo (住民票) (SELF)

This is further proof of your current address. Not always necessary, but easy enough to get; just ask for one at your town/city hall and pay a small fee.


  •         Copies of Passport, Residence Card, and Insurance Card (SELF)

Take your resident card, your passport, and health insurance card with you when you submit the application at the immigration office.  They will be reviewed and given back to you.  Keep a copy with your submission as a courtesy.


Changing your visa status

Changing your visa status is often a bit more complicated than simple renewal, as you will need documents from both the job you are leaving as well as the one you are entering- another reason why you should not do this at the last minute! Please note that your “Application Form for Extension of Period of Stay” form should be for the class of visa you are applying for, NOT your current visa. In addition to the above-mentioned paperwork, you may require some or all of the following:

  •         Copies of the company registration / Touki jikou Shoumeisho (登記事項証明書)

Get from your school, company etc.

  •         Financial profit and loss statement

Get from your school, company etc.

  •         Permission from immigration office / Shuuro kancho kara kyokasho (就労官庁から許可書).

Your company needs to do this on your behalf!

  •         “Materials showing the business substance of the recipient organization.”

A company pamphlet, brochure or something of that nature.

  •         “Documents certifying the activity, the duration, position and the remuneration of the person concerned.”

Again, just ask your new school or company to write something up and hanko it.

Where do I go?

Bring the forms to your nearest immigration office. Most major cities in Japan have one that handles visa renewal. Tokyo, for example, has two: one in Shinagawa and a much smaller office in Tachikawa. In the case of major cities, it is definitely recommended that you come early to minimize your wait.


What happens next?

When you submit your application, you will get a receipt stapled into your passport, and you will be given a postcard to put your address on. This postcard will be sent to you once your new visa is ready.

Return to the (same) office with your passport, postcard, receipt, current zairyu card, as well as a 4,000 yen revenue stamp, also known as a shunyu inshi (収入印紙). These are available at the post office as well as many convenience stores.

What if I’ve moved?

If you move from one part of Japan to another, say, for work, you will likely need tax paperwork from your previous address if you have yet to pay tax in your current location. If you don’t want to take a nostalgic trip back to your old stomping grounds, you can request they mail it to you, but this will involve additional paperwork, as well as time, to send and receive the documents.

Moving in Japan can be quite stressful in many other aspects, click HERE for a helpful guide about it.


What if I am unemployed?

Unfortunately, there may be situations where your documents are rejected. You will also be unable to renew your visa if you become unemployed. In that case, you have three months until immigration may consider revoking your visa regardless of the time remaining on it.

For all other queries, call the Immigration Information Center (Tel: 0570-013904).

Helpful Links:

If you have a plastic “my number” card, it may be possible to renew online


Forms for changing status of residence


 Extension forms



Further immigration support


One expat’s experience with self-sponsoring visas in Japan


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