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11 Things You Need To Know About The New My Number System

The new Japanese “My Number” system (also known as the “Social Security and Tax Number System”) is up and running, here's what you need to know.

By 7 min read

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.

Question 1:

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!)

Question 2:

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.

Question 3:

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.

Question 4:

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.

Question 5:

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.

Question 6:

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.

Question 7:

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.

Question 8:

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.

Question 9:

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.

Question 10:

Where can I get more information in English about My Number?

Answer:

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.)

Question 11:

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.

  • Jan Johnson says:

    This year in March, an 87-year old friend, woman was stranded in France (long story covered by French media in detail) and e-mailed me to send funds for food and shelter. At the same time, I had auto insurance and bills coming due. I have a bank account in the U.S. and because I am below the welfare line, depend on it when I’m at a financial low.
    Of course, I would help her and have money transferred for my own needs.
    Time passed. I received a call from my Japan bank. The money had arrived. Please pick it up in person and complete application for “My Number” as they would not send or receive transfers in the future. This time would be an exception. I argued that I had done this with the same bank for 40 years, the money was from Japanese univ. faculty retirement bonus and each time I had to fill out a one-page paper with my “stamp” explaining why I needed the money.
    That filled me with apprehension for the “My Number” system. Then, I asked to transfer a portion
    of it to my friend in France. They would not do so – that would be my “second” time.
    I set out to find another means. Western Union also told me “my number” would be required.
    I did find a way, but in the meantime, she was taken to a homeless shelter, barefoot in sandals and a borrowed coat. (she is from a tropical country). Normally, what would have taken 6 hours took nearly a month, something neither of us could foresee.

    Later, I tried to open an account in a huge international bank – Mitsubishi – I am not afraid to name it,
    that required my U.S. social security number. Is that really lawful? After papers were completed, they informed me that when “my number system became law, I would have to provide it” and that even if
    I canceled my account, the information I gave them was stored for 10 years.

    I began talking with friends and acquaintances – Japanese, and found that

    . Not one of those who were independent (not salaried) had accepted the card.
    . Only 7% of Japanese actually accepted MN (newspaper) It passed into law regardless
    Thousands of protesters in Tokyo alone took to the streets (Eng. Language newspaper translated from Japanese.
    . You need it when applying to schools and universities if they require it. (web article)
    . In order to buy/sell/open account in stock market, MN card required. (verified)
    . Applying for a job or even registering with an employment agency. (friend looking for work)
    . Keeping a job after law introduced. (H.S. teacher)
    . Paying income tax.
    . Purchasing an airlines ticket. (checking non-Japanese airlines now – has anyone flown lately?)
    . opening a bank account – even a local one (non-Japanese only?)
    . bank to bank transfers, loans and…? (my own experience above)
    . buying a large-ticket item – new car or home etc. (car dealer -not verified yet)

    A current problem

    A month ago, my younger sister was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer with a 3-month prognosis.
    I cannot purchase an airline ticket to the States.
    I cannot have money transferred from my US bank to buy the ticket.

    Accepting MN allows checking not only the details of my own US account, but also private assets of relatives, beginning with my beneficiary. (according to bank and articles) I appear to be the first non-Japanese to be slapped down by MN.

    If anyone out there has advice of any kind, I would be very grateful. Even an idea I may not have thought of. Anything’s worth a try. I cannot afford a lawyer. The US embassy is located in Manila.
    If anyone knows a contact with an opposition group, I would appreciate that, too. I am 77, and a bit addled by all this. My e-mail is acceptable, and I am also on Facebook and Linked-in. (Not sure I can find this page again. )

    Jan Johnson

  • Bernie O'Mahony says:

    Our cards arrived in October and after careful examination of them and the requirements to get the photo ID cards, we (myself, my Japanese wife and our son), refused them. The Tax Office here are completely useless – as a self-employed individual, I pay my own taxes. One year I KNEW I had more than $3,000 to pay but they said it was zero. The following year, I was fined $600 for non-payment of taxes the previous year AND they tried to add an additional $1100 I earned from Hitachi, despite having the paper that clearly showed tax having been paid on that amount. They then wanted all my bank account details so they could take payment at their discretion. I refused and told them I will seek the advice of a lawyer.
    Turns out I was not in the wrong!
    In a court ruling, the judge stated that the Tax Office had made the mistake and that no fine was justified, nor was I required to give my bank account details. At the end of it all, I was given back money to the tune of $1200!
    Under this new system, if you register your bank accounts under the new My Number system, they will have authority to take as much as they like from your bank account, without even having to inform you first!

    The laws in this country have grown steadily more and more absurd over the 16 years I’ve been here, I’m still fighting for the right to vote – and why shouldn’t I be allowed to given that I pay the same taxes!

  • Takasagodai says:

    There has been a lot of controversy concerning this system, and many people opposing it have refused receipt of the My Number registered letter. In fact, when we refused the letter, the postman immediately pulled out a printed slip prepared for the purpose on which refusers sign to state their refusal. I was surprised and asked the postman if many people are refusing, and he said it was so.
    In our case, my husband, who is a Japanese economist, decided to refuse because he believes the system is intrusive and the government untrustworthy. I agreed because of misgivings arroused by earlier proposals regarding the use of My Number cards, particularly the idiotically cumbersome one in which all shops would arm themselves with card readers and we would all use our My Number cards when grocery shopping in order to get a slight discount on food tax. That proposal was withdrawn but it convinced me that the government instituted this plan without thinking it through, and that it may indeed be vulnerable to information leakage while also offering the government many avenues to invade citizen’s privacy in the future.
    One big problem with the My Number system is that the registered letter is addressed to only one person, but contains the numbers for all family members. There are four adults in my family, but we are not able to individually accept or refuse it. There is also the problem that although the government says it is not compulsory, we are already being asked by employers for the number. I feel uneasy about this.

    • Michele Marcolin says:

      Indeed. They say it is not compulsory, but they ask it eeverywhere. It is a bore. You can’t even send money or make bank transfer abroad if you do not have it.

      • Starbucks Coffee says:

        My number card with demonetization using the methods of the Indian Prime Minister Modhi would be a great way to confiscate money in Japan.

  • aa13 says:

    Thank you for your helpful article. A few questions referring to your answer in Q7:

    “We are taking various safety measures. For example, providing just My Number alone won’t be accepted for filing applications (with the government agencies)

    • what else will be required?

    and access to information will be controlled.

    • how will it be controlled?

    Information will also be encoded. Moreover, the system will be monitored and supervised by an independent information protection committee,

    • who is this committee and where can we find information on this committee? Also, are they actually independent?

    and there are regulations in place to deal with any intentional leaking of personal information.”

    • what are the regulations and how will any breach be handled?

    One of the main concerns is regarding My Card is identity theft, which can potentially lead to large financial theft/loss.

  • saiaki says:

    This article is very simple and reasonable explanation, than any government or media explanation in Japanese. Thank you, Alien Queen. lol I think you are very busy to bear huge numbers of eggs and children everyday.

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