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Japan’s New Permanent Residency Rules Explained

How do the new requirements for permanent residency in Japan affect foreign residents?

By 4 min read 9

Back in mid-January, I was somewhat surprised to read that the Japanese Immigration Bureau had announced a relaxation of some of its immigration rules for skilled foreign workers.

Until recently, attaining permanent residency in Japan required a minimum of five and in most cases 10 years of living continuously in Japan to qualify.

With this new legislation, that number has now come down to three years for some and as little as one year for certain, highly-qualified individuals.

But before all you English teachers, students and salarymen and women get too excited about finally being able to get the permanent residence you always wanted, there are a number of caveats attached to these new regulations.

The biggest catch? The offer only applies to highly-skilled foreign professionals.

So, what is a highly-skilled foreign professional?

Unfortunately for me, it’s not a high school teacher, and it certainly isn’t a part-time writer either!

Basically when applying for permanent residency, all foreign residents of Japan are assigned a points score based on their various qualifications, achievements and standing within their workplace.

Under current regulations, a resident who scores 70 points and above is eligible for permanent residency after five years. All other foreign residents have to wait ten years before being considered.

Under the new system, due to come into play sometime in March, those who score 70 points will be eligible for permanent residency after three years instead of five. If you have a score of over 80 points then this drops down to as short as one year.

How exactly is this score calculated?

Well, first off, this particular visa scheme is distinct from the “Instructor/Specialist in Humanities” and similar visas that account for much of Japan’s foreign workforce.

The scheme focuses on three types of work according to the Ministry of Immigration’s official website:

1) Advanced Academic Research Activities. For example, senior professors at highly accredited universities.

2) Advanced Specialized/Technical Activities. We’re talking high-level engineers, scientists and those working in the humanities fields.

3) Advanced Business Management Activities. This category is mostly aimed at the executive level of managers in public or private enterprises. Think: the CEO of Nissan.

Is there anything we mere mortals can do to boost our own scores?

There are numerous advantages that will build your score. Having a doctorate degree will score you 30 points, 20 points in the case of a masters. Other additions such as having an N1 level Japanese language certification will get you an additional five points. Being able to demonstrate a high level of achievement, such as winning well-known awards, conducting projects for a competitive fund or having a patented invention grants you up to 25 points.

Depending on the profitability of your company, you could earn up to 50 points just based solely on the performance of your company if you are a CEO. Other issues, such as your age, salary level, professional qualifications and years of experience are also taken into account.

The exact formula is not set and subject to occasional changes. It has not yet been confirmed if the methodology for calculating the score will be adjusted ahead of next month’s rollout of the new policy.

So, for now at least, it seems this will only have an impact on the top tier of foreign workers in Japan. However, some are hoping that this is a first step towards a wider deregulation of immigration laws in Japan.

Hope for the future?

There are certain areas where Japan continues to lead the world, however on immigration, I am sorry to say we remain somewhat behind the times.

However, we shouldn’t be too pessimistic. Even the most ardent of right-wing nationalists cannot deny the fact that Japan will soon be in a dire demographic situation if there isn’t a significant increase in the working population over the next few years.

Immigration is the only way in the short to medium term to solve Japan’s pension deficit and manpower issues.

And in actual fact, I’ve already noticed a significant increase in the number of mixed race children in my classes over the 11 years I’ve been working here.

Last year, statistics showed that one in every ten new marriages in Japan featured at least one foreign partner. Japan is becoming multicultural, albeit slower and more gradually than the likes of Europe or the US. That trend is, in my opinion, irreversible.

The only question is: will immigration and visa policies be able to keep up?

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  • J.Misters says:

    I am curious – the outline doesn’t state (anywhere that I can see, at any rate) how each segment of points are calculated, (segregated by “Item”) and if they stack or not. Of course, I imagine that having a masters and a PhD are mutually exclusive (taking the higher qualification), but what if a person has two master’s degrees and a PhD? And, further down, for example, Academic Achievements – what if a person has published several papers and made a recognized achievement… do they get a single 15 points? Or is that 30 points? If one of their degrees is from a Japanese university AND they pass the N1… does this equate to 25 points, or simply 15 points (the higher of the two).

    Basically… are points awarded by item category only (taking the highest in each area)? And are some things mutually exclusive – or are they inclusive (eg, multiple degrees).

  • Mila says:

    Hi Liam, thanks for information. Will this point based system apply to me if I’m married to Japanese and already living in japan? I’m scoring 90, however as I entered as a spouse and not via company route I doubt I can use this one year consideration
    Thank you

  • Yakimi says:

    “There are certain areas where Japan continues to lead the world, however on immigration, I am sorry to say we remain somewhat behind the times.”

    “We”, Liam? How is it that an English-teaching expat who has resided in this country for six years can possibly use the national “we” to berate what is ostensibly his own country for failing to as of yet totally embrace the wildly transformative projects in demographic engineering that Western countries are currently in the process of repudiating, under the auspices of an ideology which, let’s not forget, was imposed on Japan and Europe by an accident of military history?

    If you had any familiarity with the ethical language of nationalism that the post-war ideological superstructure has done so much to eradicate from our minds, you would see exactly how comically repulsive it is to pretend that your voice is somehow representative of the population you claim to speak for. You live among them as a guest, and you enjoy the benefits of the society that they have maintained, yet you have the temerity to demand that they engage in a radical project to import a great many foreigners to satisfy a bizarre and purely metaphysical standard of “multiculturalism” which seems strangely indistinguishable from the creation of a global liberal monoculture. And when the Third World entroaches on your neighborhood, you no doubt will pack your bags and flee this country which you call yours for another which has retained the benefits of a sensible nationalism.

    • Matt says:

      I am unsure of where Mr. Liam appears to “berate what is ostensibly his own country” as you suggest. If anything I find his writing to be quite calm and collected. I suppose you just wanted to use the word berate? It is certainly a fun word, but I suggest you be more meticulous in your analysis of the authors tone before making wild assumptions.

      I do certainly agree that it is perhaps difficult to use the “we” as he is stating a personal opinion, but that being said it is an opinion shared by many Japanese. It seems we agree for different reasons though. You seem to be in the, “you will never be Japanese if you’re a foreigner” group. A mentality with reasoning that I can understand but your wording makes me wonder what “guest” actually means. Is a foreigner with Japanese citizenship still a guest? Is a foreigner with permanent residency still a guest? Is a foreigner who has spent more than six years in a country that he considers home still a guest? (See Home Sweet Home blog.) Perhaps its all simply subjective? You continue by saying that Mr. Liam has the “temerity to demand” that Japan embrace multiculturalism…Where are you getting that? Where is this “temerity to demand” coming from?

      “There are certain areas where Japan continues to lead the world however on immigration, I am sorry to say we remain somewhat behind the times.”

      I find it more and more curious how the authors statement here has led you to think that this qualifies as any sort of audacious “demand.” Perhaps what is most outrageous is you go on to state that once the “third World (not entirely sure where you got the third world from as it was not mentioned once in the sentence you quoted nor in the entire article…) encroaches on his neigborhood he will no doubt flee…”…Without a doubt…he will flee…I feel like I should ask one final time…Where are you getting this from?

      Mr./Ms Yakimi, your writing is quite eloquent but your reading comprehension leaves much to be desired as your assumptions, about nothing related to the article, are nothing short of preposterous.

      Anyway, I enjoyed the article on, “Japans New Residency Rules Explained.”
      Keep on doing your thing Mr. Liam!

  • Kai2591 says:

    Thanks for this useful information 🙂
    Here’s to getting 70 points! XD
    Good luck everyone!

  • EmRossell Olympia Macaya says:

    Hi Liam. This article is so informative. Would you mind sharing what are the qualifications or eligibilities and the top things their looking for an English teacher in Japan? Thank you in advance. Keep up!

  • Dale Goodwin says:

    Interesting. I got my permanent residency years ago, but I am a little surprised it didn’t say something about having Japanese dependents. Getting my visa renewed and working was always easy for me because I was married to a Japanese.

  • OMNOM says:

    After reading your blog, I think I’m now contented of having 5 year working visa as Engineer.
    I came to Japan in 2008 with 3 year working visa. Renewed another 3 and after that I got 5 years.
    I am now directly and full time employed in a company.
    I’ll be renewing my visa on 2019 and will apply for another 5 years.
    By the way way;
    -what does it make difference to have a permanent visa when you still have to renew your card?
    -Is permanent visa better that 5 years?
    -Is there any benefit with regards inside and outside your job?
    permanent visa can do any job as far as I know, but if one foreigner is already engineer or any equivalent position (salaryman) would you still looking for another job?
    lots of thing that confused me.

  • Razgriz says:

    I love Japan and as much as I would love to live there, I cant fault them for their immigration policies. In fact theirs should be a model for the rest of the world. I thought it was a pretty fair deal before the changes even.



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