Residency and Resident Cards

All the essential information about residency and getting a resident card in Japan...

Residency and Alien Registration

Since 2012 a new residency management system has been in effect for medium- and long-term foreign residents. A resident card replaced the former alien registration system and also acts as a form of photo ID.

Note: Residents with a valid alien registration certificate can continue to use this as evidence of residency and identification until July 2015.

The resident card is valid for seven years for permanent residents (or until their 16th birthday if sooner), and up to a maximum of five years for medium- and long-term foreign residents, depending on their residency status. Applications to renew the residency card should be made at the Regional Immigration Office.

The resident card/alien registration card must be carried at all times.

Getting a resident card

Medium- and long-term foreign residents entering Japan at Narita, Haneda, Chubu, and Kansai Airports are issued a resident card along with the seal of landing verification passport stamp. At all other ports of entry a note saying "A resident card will be issued later" will be made in the passport next to the seal of landing verification stamp, and the resident card will be sent to the resident after they have registered at their local municipal office.

Residents entering Japan for the first time should take their resident card and/or passport (where the resident card was not issued at entry) to their local municipal office within 14 days of finding accommodation to notify the Ministry of Justice of their address. A passport style photo will also need to be submitted in order to obtain a resident card.

In order to change any of the information shown on the resident card (name or residency status, for example) the local immigration office should be informed within 14 days of the change. The immigration office should also be informed if the resident card is lost, stolen or damaged.

The local municipal office (or city hall) should be informed of any change of address within 14 days to notify the Ministry of Justice of their address.

Special re-entry permit

Under the new residency management system, foreign residents who hold a valid passport and resident card no longer have to apply for a re-entry permit as long as they re-enter Japan with one year of leaving the country. Note: Failure to return to Japan within the one year period will result in a loss of residency status. Special re-entry permits cannot be extended from outside of Japan.