The new Japanese “My Number” system (also known as the “Social Security and Tax Number System”) is up and running. All residents of Japan, including foreign nationals and children, have been issued with their own 12-digit identification number. Local city and town offices sent out the notifications at the end of last year. Once you have received your notification, your number can then be used to create a My Number Card (with an optional photo).
The aim of My Number is to streamline and unify administrative procedures among government agencies for things such as taxation and social security, making life easier for both bureaucrats and the general public. Another main goal is to aid in the prevention of crimes such as tax evasion and wrongful receipt of welfare benefits. However, many people have expressed concerns about the new system, including issues such as basic privacy and security of their personal information.
Let’s address some questions collected from foreign residents. Answers were provided by a member of the PR section from the Social Security Reform Section at the Cabinet Secretariat.
In principal, foreign nationals living in Japan are required to carry their Residence Card with them. Is it the same with the My Number card? If I carry the My Number Card, can I leave my Residence Card at home?
Answer: At this point it is up to each individual whether to apply for the Individual Number Card (My Number Card). Thus, as there is no official obligation to apply, it is up to you whether you carry your card with you. (Note: It is advisable to carry your Residence Card with you!)
In the case of foreign nationals, will immigration information (e.g. visa status and period of stay) be linked to the My Number Card?
Answer: There are laws in place to regulate which agencies can use the information in the My Number system. As of January 2016, it will be used primarily for social security and tax purposes, and for disaster prevention measures. Currently there are no plans to link it to the Immigration Bureau. The law would have to be changed if such a move was proposed.
When a foreign national exits Japan with no intention of returning, they have to surrender their Residence Card. If they then return to Japan at some point in the future, they have to apply for a new card. Would it be the same with My Number? Do you keep the same number, even if you leave and then return years later?
Answer: In the case of My Number, you keep the same number. If you leave Japan (with no intention of coming back) please return your My Number Card to your municipal office.
My son, who has Japanese nationality, is currently studying at college overseas. What happens with My Number for Japanese based overseas for study or work?
Answer: The local municipal office gives out each person’s unique number based on the individual’s registry of address. (Note: This is called the juminhyou in Japanese. Since 2012 both Japanese and foreign nationals are registered in the same system). Therefore, those who are not registered with an address in Japan will not receive a number. Individuals living overseas will join the My Number system upon return to Japan and being added to the registry of addresses.
I’m married to a Japanese man and I have my last name in Kanji on such things as my bank accounts and health insurance card. Under the old system with the Alien Registration Card, people like me could choose to have our names in Japanese listed on the card as an “alias”. However, the new Residence Cards for foreigners (introduced in 2012) only allow names in English characters. This was potentially problematic in my case, as some of my forms of ID no longer matched. So, I went ahead and got myself a Juki Card (Basic Resident Registration Card), since we can have the “alias” on that. But now I’ve heard the Juki Card system is to be replaced with My Number. I’m confused!
Answer: As you have heard, the Juki Card has been replaced by My Number as of January this year. However, Juki Cards issued before December 2015 may still be used for ID purposes until their expiry date. If an alias is listed on your address registry (juminhyou), it will also be allowed on your My Number Card.
I heard that bank accounts will be added to My Number from 2018. Will this include overseas accounts held by residents of Japan? If so, how does the Japanese government intend to handle that? What about joint accounts?
Answer: Yes, the My Number system is slated to expand to include deposits and savings accounts from 2018. However, this will not apply to overseas accounts. Even in the case of domestic accounts, inclusion in My Number is arbitrary, not compulsory. Moreover, the mains purposes for including bank accounts in My Number is as a means of safeguarding assets in case of the failure of an financial institution, and for means testing for taxation and welfare-related issues.
I’m very concerned about the safety of my personal data with this new system. Some years ago, there was a huge leak of personal information from the Japanese pension system. How are you going to safeguard the data for My Number?
Answer: We are taking various safety measures. For example, providing just My Number alone won’t be accepted for filing applications (with the government agencies) and access to information will be controlled. Information will also be encoded. Moreover, the system will be monitored and supervised by an independent information protection committee, and there are regulations in place to deal with any intentional leaking of personal information.
My workplace has asked me to provide My Number, and this makes me anxious. What happens if someone at my company uses my data unlawfully?
Answer: My Number only includes access to a limited range of information determined by law, and as a general rule, highly specific personal data cannot be accessed. Members of staff at firms who handle My Number are charged with taking appropriate management measures to prevent leaking of information. Such personnel can receive instruction and advice from the independent information protection committee (mentioned in Q.7 above). Personnel who share information from My Number files without adequate reason can by punished under the law.
What happens if I lose the My Number Card or if it is stolen?
Answer: Highly specific personal information is not recorded on the IC chip in the Personal Number card. A password is necessary to access the information in the IC tip, and the information cannot be accessed if the incorrect password is input several times. Furthermore, a 24-hour call center will deal with loss or theft of the My Number Card, and access to the information on your card can be blocked. The call center will operate 365 days a year. You will then need to apply to your local municipal office to have your card re-issued.
Where can I get more information in English about My Number?
You can call the My Number system: 0120-0178-26 or in regards to the card itself: 0120-0178-27. Or visit: www.cas.go.jp/jp/seisaku/bangoseido/english.html (Information in many other languages is also online.)
I work at a university and I’ve been told that from this year the university will require all students to use My Number as ID to access various facilities on campus. The Japanese government has stated that participation in the My Number system is not compulsory, so why is this permissible?
Answer: Getting a My Number Card is not compulsory. In this case the decision to require My Number as ID for students is at the discretion of the university, but the Japanese government would like as many as people as possible to participate in the system. Now that the system is in place, My Number can be used to establish identity for a variety of municipal services, contributing to improved convenience in daily life for citizens.