Japan’s New Residency Management System

By Donnie | Articles

This may be a little late, but I still think it will be very useful info for some of you. I have gotten quite a few emails asking about the new Japanese residency management system for foreigners along with the Alien Registration Cards (ARCs). A fellow teacher of mine recently did a visa renewal and in the process got a new visa sticker in his passport along with a brand, spanking new card. As of July 9th, 2012, Japan has new residence cards and a new residency management system.

I am not up for a visa renewal until April of 2014, but I still was incredibly curious about Japan’s new system. I was supposed to be having a late lunch in Tokyo yesterday, so I decided to just make a day of it. I went to the Shinagawa Immigration Office and decided to find out as much as I could about the new system. I came out of with a new resident card and load of useful information. Now it’s time to share.

There are four major changes for foreigners to be aware with Japan’s new residency management system: 1) “Residence cards” will replace “Alien Registration Cards,” 2) the re-entry permit system has changed, 3) the maximum length of time for a Japanese work visa has been extended, and 4)the alien registration system is no more.

Yep, Japan has a New Japan Residence Management System

1. Resident Cards will Replace Alien Registration Cards
I know, a card is a card, right? Well sort of. The new cards issued by the MOJ (Ministry of Justice) are known as resident cards and Japanese officials will be looking at these (along with your passports of course) to clear your entry into and exit out of Japan. The cards themselves aren’t all that different in terms of the information they have on them. They still have all of the basics. Name, date of birth, address, nationality, status, and period of stay. The only real differences I can see are the color, layout, more space for the MOJ to enter information on the back, and an resident card number (as opposed to an alien registration card number). I will tell you step by step how to get one of these in a post later this week.

2. The Re-entry Permit System Has Changed
This area was a little gray to me, because I still saw loads of reentry permit application forms at the office. Even in the info booklet that I picked up, they still mention them. I asked to different clerks at the immigration office, and I was told that even though I had an old card (well not anymore) I wouldn’t be required to get another reentry permit. I didn’t know if they meant I didn’t need one because the one I have in my passport is valid until 2014 or if they meant foreigners don’t need them period.

After reading over the booklet, though. I think I understand. Under the new system, if you’re in another country for less than one year, you can reenter Japan without having to have a reentry permit. I’m assuming that those who will be out of Japan for longer periods of time, or who have special registration circumstances have to get a “special re-entry permit.”

3. The Maximum Length Of Stay For A Work Visa Has Been Extended
Instead of three years being the maximum length of time a person can stay on a work visa, it is now a whopping five years! I actually think that’s quite a cool change, especially for those who really want to stay long-term. This applies to those people who are being sponsored by companies to work in Japan (i.e., AEON, Interac, ECC, etc.), those who have the “Engineer” visa status, the “Instructor,” or the “Humanities/International Services” statuses. So now you have a 5-year, 3-year, 1-year, and 3 month period of stay (the 3-month one is new, too).

4. The Alien Registration System is No More
When I came to Tsukuba, I remember one of the first things I did was to do Alien Registration (cue the Twilight Zone music). I filled out paperwork and was given this piece of paper to use as proof that I had done registration. This certificate of alien registration was how I was able to sign up at my local internet cafe (I wasn’t able to get a phone with it, though). Eventually you got your ARC, and you didn’t really need the alien registration certificate any longer. But now instead of the ARC, you’ll get a resident card instead. I don’t know if this means the process will move faster for foreigners living in Japan, but I hope so. One of the things I didn’t like was being phone-less until my card came.

If you want to see the same booklet that I picked up at the Shinagawa Immigration Office with all of this info, in detail, please click this link below, download it, and know all the details. I think this is a SUPER important PDF if you’re a foreigner living in Japan:


Until next time, everybody!

Donald Ash

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  • Dennis Bauer says:

    Too late i already got it! :p

    • Donald Ash says:

      Nice, bro. You’re fast!!

    • Candy says:

      Hi is it hard to get this RC? My current ARC will expire 2015, do I need to get this immediately since I’m planning for a vacation? Thanx

      • Donald Ash says:

        Though I’m not an residency management official, I hear that if you have an old card, you should still be fine.
        However, I found that process of changing to the new one was pretty simple, so I just changed over to get it out of the way.
        It may be worth looking into or at least inquiring about, especially if you’re going on vacation.

      • frank ahanon says:

        My current Alien Registration Card is valid till 2015, I am not planning any vacation before then. Do I need to wait till then before changing to Residential Card? Is there provision for punishment/ penalty for those who change theirs late? Information please!

  • Thanks for the info Japan Guy! Overall the changes seem to be for the better.

  • Nanami says:

    I have been very curious about this. It seems to be streamlining things and making the process more ‘user friendly’ in comparison to the old registration system. I think the re-entry part is one of the biggest changes (for people like me who forget stuff so easy).

  • C.J. Bunny says:

    Old post I know – but it came up highly in a google search for something similar. Just to warn anyone coming across this too, that although broadly correct, there are a number of errors in this post in terms of details and terminology. Please refer to the official immigration site that has all the information clearly stated.

    • thejapanguy says:

      A number of errors? Okay, well, I guess it’s time to do some updates then.
      The link in the post goes directly to the official pdf provided by the Japanese immigration bureau…if there’s any confusion.

      • C.J. Bunny says:

        Example – the re-entry system hasn’t changed much; it’s still basically the same. With the addition that a zairyu card can act as a special re-entry permit. The special re-entry permit is the zairyu card and gives you up to 1 year out of the country. The longer permits are exactly the same as before – these are not “special” re-entry permits. If you exit on a sticker re-entry permit, you do not need to show your card on exit or re-entry. If you have a valid re-entry permit in your passport, you can use that (though if it has less than a year to run, exit immigration will advise you to use special re-entry instead). A still valid ARC can acts as a zairyu card until 2015, and as such can also act as a special re-entry permit if required.
        There’s a few other things too, but now the system has been in place a while, I think it would be really helpful to update as this entry is quite highly ranked. Like adding the changes to the reporting system, different information on the card, that a passport is no longer valid as proof of immigration status etc. Thanks!
        Also, please try to use the term visa correctly.

        • thejapanguy says:

          I think it has changed quite a bit. I remember having to pay for a single or multiple reentry stamp before leaving the Japan to visit home, and I don’t have to do that now. That was a pretty big deal for me.

          Most people who are working here long-term don’t end up staying outside of Japan for longer than a year.

          There will be special circumstances of course. That’s why I linked to the official site because everyone’s situation is going to be a little different.

          The Immigration Bureau will know more than I could ever hope to know Japan Immigration. I haven’t stayed outside of the country for longer than a year, since I moved here. So I haven’t written on that.

          The ARC cards are being phased out, so I didn’t feel the need to discuss that in this particular post. People who do visa renewals and visa status changes will be issued one of the current Residence cards (that’s what happened to me).

          If those same people are leaving the country for less than a year, have a valid visa and a valid Residence card, the reentry stamps aren’t necessary.

          CJ, I know you’re trying to help me and I sincerely appreciate it, but I try to write from my experiences. I wrote this post when I was just starting to learn about the new system.

          I didn’t feel the need to discuss every single piece of terminology. Me saying zairyu card and residence card are the exact same thing. I wanted to keep it simple and just talk what immigration updates I came across.

          Now if somebody has a question, I’ll definitely try my to help them, or at least direct them to a resource that can.

          And I really don’t think I’ve misused the term visa.

          Thanks for comments

  • M2o3 says:

    Iam a resident visa holder, and im out the country for almost a year. Iam planning to go back just for re entry i also have my resident card. Do i have to show up in immigration.

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