Shinsaku FUJIKAWA, Qualified Administrative Scrivener / Immigration Lawyer, presents insights of measures in Japan related to the residence visa and measures taken by the Immigration Services Agency in Japan and Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan.
General Flow for Acquisition of Residence Status in Japan
- In general, to acquire a residence status (e.g., a work permit) in Japan, a foreign national needs (1) to obtain a Certificate of Eligibility (hereinafter “COE”) from the Immigration Services Agency of Japan, (2) to obtain an entry visa from the Japanese embassy/consulate of his/her residence/home country/region, (3) to submit the COE and entry visa to apply for the landing permission at the port of entry of Japan, and (4) to obtain a residence card.
- The validity of both the COE and entry visa is 3 months from the date of issue. Thus, a foreign national needs to be careful about the following:
- The possession of a valid COE is a prerequisite for the issue of an entry visa. Thus, within 3 months after the date of issue, he/she needs to apply for an entry visa.
- Even if an entry visa is valid (i.e. issued within 3 months), there is a case where 3 months passes from the date of issue of the COE. In this case, he/she cannot apply for the landing permission.
- Please note some residence statuses such as Diplomat and Official do not fall under the above flow.
Extension of Validity of Certificate of Eligibility (COE)
- Due to Covid-19, the Japanese government has implemented border enforcement measures (https://www.mofa.go.jp/ca/fna/page4e_001053.html, 29 April 2020). As a result, the Immigration Services Agency of Japan is currently refraining from issuing new COEs to foreign nationals who fall under the list in the above URL.
- However, there are a certain number of foreign nationals who have already obtained the COE but are now stuck in their residence/home country/region due to the current situation.
- Considering the current situation, the Immigration Services Agency of Japan has decided to extend the validity period of the COE to 6 months for the time being. Thus, foreign nationals can now apply for an entry visa even after 3 months of the date of issue of the COE (but it must be within 6 months).
- Owing to this extension, the application for an entry visa is treated as follows:
- In the case where the application for an entry visa is filed after 3 months from the date of issue of the COE but where such application falls under the period within 6 months from the date of its issue, (1) a document certifying that an accepting organization in Japan (e.g., a company) can still accept the foreign national based on the originally designated activities and (2) an explanation letter indicating the reason why he/she is not able to apply for an entry visa within 3 months of the date of issue are required to be submitted in addition to the standard application documents;
- In the case where an entry visa is issued but unused, and its expiry comes, document (1) in the above paragraph needs to be submitted in addition to the documents submitted at the time of the previous application; or
- In the case where the application for an entry visa is filed within 3 months of the date of issue of the COE and the expected date of entry to Japan falls within 6 months of the date of its issue, an entry visa cam be issued based on individual cases.
- It should be noted that the required documents to be submitted may depend on respective Japanese embassies/consulates. Moreover, as visa restrictions are currently being updated, it is recommended to check the latest information on the present measures before an entry visa application is filed: https://www.mofa.go.jp/ca/fna/page4e_001056.html (April 1, 2020).
Grace Period for Renewal and Status Change Application
- Many foreign nationals staying in Japan at this moment are being denied permission to enter their residence/home country/region, unless exceptional circumstances allow them to be admitted under the immigration control laws for their respective country/region. Considering this unavoidable situation and to reduce congestion at the immigration bureau, the Immigration Services Agency of Japan has allowed foreign nationals whose residence status expires in March, April. May, and June to file their renewal/status change permission application within 3 months of the original expiry date of their residence status.
- It is also worth noting that this grace period measure is also applicable to those who have a short-term visa. In short, they can stay in Japan for three more months after the expiry of their short-term visa. If they decide to go back to their residence/home country/region during this grace period without filing any renewal/status change permission application, they are required to visit the immigration bureau with their passport and airline ticket prior to departure from Japan.
- For further information regarding this please see: http://www.moj.go.jp/content/001316300.pdf (27 April 2020).
- For those who have obtained the re-entry permission and cannot come back to Japan before the expiry of their residence status due to the impact of Covid-19, they must file a COE application once again if they would like to obtain the residence status in Japan. In this case, in principle, the bureau allows them to submit only the COE application form and the letter of reason drafted by his/her accepting organization in Japan. There is no need to submit any other proof or supporting documents. The standard procedural time for the COE examination is from 1 month to 3 months, but the bureau may expedite the procedure for this kind of case.
- For the time being, the issuance by mail of a new residence card in connection with the renewal/status change application is permitted, if a result letter indicates such option.
Disclaimer: This document has been produced by Mazars in Japan for its Clients. It may not be reproduced (in whole or in part) or transmitted to any other person without the prior consent of Mazars in Japan. Whilst we endeavor to share information that is up to date and correct, Mazars is not responsible for any errors or omissions, or for the results obtained from the use of this information.
The information is as of 1 May 2020.
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