As Japan continues to attract more and more foreign talent, the option of settling in Japan as a permanent resident has received increasing attention. Although the base requirement for application continues to be 10 years of continuous residence, special rules have been enacted that lessen this requirement for spouses of Japanese citizens, spouses of permanent residents and certain highly-skilled workers, allowing some foreign residents to obtain permanent residence in as little as one to three years.

Individuals seriously considering permanent residence should be aware, however, that Japanese law does not treat applications for permanent residency the same as applications for change of status and visa renewal in all respects.

The most critical difference relates to the so-called “grace period” granted to most foreign residents applying for a change of status or visa renewal. Under the applicable special provisions of the law establishing the grace period, an individual who has submitted an application for change of status or visa renewal by the expiration date of his or her visa is permitted to remain in Japan legally until the earlier of (i) the time a decision is made on the application by the Immigration Bureau or (ii) 2 months after the expiration date of the applicant’s visa.*

Foreign residents should understand that while this grace period is available in many cases, it expressly does not apply to applications for permanent residence.** Individuals applying for permanent residence must therefore maintain another valid residence status in Japan throughout the application process. Failure to do so may result in deportation and prevent the individual from re-entering Japan for 5 or more years (this period may be reduced in certain circumstances).

The consequences for visa overstayers are serious and long-lasting, so foreign residents seeking permanent residence in Japan should take special care to ensure that they do not jeopardize their ability to remain in Japan long-term in the process of applying for permanent residency.

* In the event the Immigration Bureau intends to deny an application, it will typically reach out to the applicant, inform the applicant of its intention and permit the applicant to amend his or her application to apply for a temporary “special activities” visa that will allow the applicant time to prepare to leave the country.

** Please note that there are other cases in which the grace period may not apply. Please contact us for more information.

*** This client alert is provided for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Copyright Jackson Sogo. All rights reserved.

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