Procedural pitfall can lead to visa overstay and deportation of individuals seeking permanent residence in Japan

Jackson Sogo (Japanese Gyoseishoshi Law Office) – Client Alert

Area: Immigration

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.

*** Jackson Sogo (www.jacksonsogo.com) is a Japanese gyoseishoshi law office offering a wide range of Japanese corporate, immigration and family law services to clients in native English. This client alert is provided for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Copyright Jackson Sogo. All rights reserved.

New system in Japan to allow for the filing of hand-written wills

Jackson Sogo (Japanese Gyoseishoshi Law Office) – Client Alert

Area: Family Law

Effective July 10, 2020, Japanese law will permit individuals who have executed a hand-written (or “holographic”) will to file that will with the Legal Affairs Bureau for safekeeping until their death. The system, which is also available to foreigners and is set forth in the Act concerning the Storage of Wills at the Legal Affairs Bureau, will allow heirs and beneficiaries to (i) confirm whether a will has been filed with the Legal Affairs Bureau, (ii) request a copy of a filed will, and (iii) view a copy of a filed will at an office of the Legal Affairs Bureau following the death of the decedent. An individual who has filed a will may revoke or replace the will freely at any time prior to death.

The new system is meant to help prevent the loss, destruction or tampering with of wills and minimize disputes related to the same. Under the new system, heirs and beneficiaries to a filed will will be notified when another heir or beneficiary requests or views a copy of the filed will. Wills filed under the system will also not need to go through probate, which should speed the process of distributing assets.

One point of concern with the new system is that wills filed with the Legal Affairs Bureau will not receive the close review they would receive if filed with a notary public as a notarized will. There are currently three types of wills permitted under Japanese law, and a will must conform with the strict rules of at least one of those types to be valid. The acceptance of a will by the Legal Affairs Bureau is not an acknowledgement that the will is valid, and therefore if a will is challenged, found invalid and no other valid will exists, the deceased will be deemed to have died intestate and the intestate laws of Japan may determine the division of assets, not the provisions set forth in the will.

Also, although the new system is intended to provide safekeeping for the final binding will of the filing individual, the filing of a will will not invalidate a newer, valid non-filed will under Japanese law. Individuals making use of the system should therefore be aware that any new will created after filing may supersede the will they have filed with the Legal Affairs Bureau.

Jackson Sogo (www.jacksonsogo.com) is a Japanese gyoseishoshi law office offering a wide range of Japanese corporate, immigration and family law services to clients in native English. This client alert is provided for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Copyright Jackson Sogo. All rights reserved.