Marrying a Japanese Person

Find out what a foreign resident or non-resident needs to do to marry a Japanese citizen, and how it affects nationality and surname...

According to the research carried out by the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, of those couples that married in Japan in 2010 approximately 30,000 or 4.3 percent are Japanese-foreigner couples. The rates are higher than the above in urban areas, such as in Tokyo and Osaka.

In general, procedures on such international marriages are more complicated and time-consuming than ones in the foreign national’s home country.

Below are descriptions of the necessary procedures.


In principle Japanese people keep their Japanese nationality unless they willingly take their spouse’s foreign nationality and renounce their Japanese nationality.

If the home country of the foreign husband has laws that automatically give its nationality to his wife, his Japanese wife will have dual nationality status. In that case, she will need to select one of the two nationalities within two years.

Family Name

Japanese people keep their Japanese family name. In the case that the Japanese wife wishes to have her husband’s foreign family name, she can apply to the authorities within six months of the date of marriage and change her family name.

Once children are born, they will have Japanese nationality as long as one of their parents is Japanese. In addition to the nationality of the foreign spouse, the children may also have the nationality of the country in which they were born. In the case that he or she was born in a foreign country and has dual nationalities, the parents must submit a report of the birth and a reservation of nationality to the Japanese embassy within three months. Otherwise, the child will lose their Japanese nationality!

Registration of Marriage

Of course, the couple needs to submit their registration of marriage just as other Japanese couples do. Foreign spouses also need to obtain a certificate to prove that they already meet all the conditions to be qualified for getting married according to the laws in their home countries.

Registering for ID, Insurance and Welfare

Since July 2012 the system of alien registration cards managed by each local government has been abolished. According to the new immigration control system, those foreigners who have obtained a Japanese visa for middle to long term residency (three months or longer) will receive a resident card instead of an alien registration card, which is to be issued and managed by the Immigration Bureau of Japan. Once they have received a resident card they can also apply for national health insurance and a government-managed pension plan. They can also procure a certificate of residence at the city offices bearing either information about themselves alone or including all of their family members, regardless of the nationality of each member.

Last but not least, consider inheritance. When one spouse passes away in future, the inheritance will depend on their having been married in a strictly legitimate manner according to the laws of both countries.

It is important for newlyweds to ascertain their rights and duties in relation to the legal procedures for such occasions

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