Thursday, August 23, 2012

Is it worth contacting a Japanese immigration lawyer? - My visa saga continues

The short answer for me was yes. Contacting an immigration lawyer hasn't yet helped me to resolve my visa issue, but it has helped me to clarify things I was unsure about, and has already saved me from potentially wasting more time.

The first point I've clarified is that in my case of applying for permanent residency, since I'm not married to a Japanese citizen or permanent resident, and do not fall into the 'contributions to Japan' category of desirability, I will have to wait to meet the '10 years legally consecutive stay' requirement. If you are married to a resident of Japan, have been for at least 3 years, and hold the maximum number of years on your current visa, then you can apply for PR after just one year of living in Japan.

It's important to note the legally consecutive part of the 10 years requirement for permanent residency, as many resources in English regarding PR list it vaguely as a 10 year 'stay.' You may, like me, have 'stayed' more than 10 years in Japan, but if this was via various visas then your whole stay may not be legally defined as consecutive. Check the landing permission date /上陸許可/ jyourikukyouka (image below) on your alien registration card to know for sure the date from which your current 'stay' is being calculated. I presume that the new resident card which will shortly replace alien registration cards will have something comparable regarding your landing permission date written on it too. (Update, November 2013: I now have a zairyu card to replace my alien card, and there is no "landing date" info. Only the date that you got your zairyu card. Information about your first 'landing' in Japan on your current visa must instead be stored on your file at immigration, rather than on the card now. This is a shame, as seeing the "landing date" on the old alien cards made everything much clearer regarding the length of your current stay).

Your current 'stay' in Japan is calculated from your landing date

In my last post on applying for permanent residency I mentioned the ‘Points-based preferential immigration treatment for highly skilled foreign professionals’ that started in May 2012. I had hoped that the fast-track feature of needing only 4 and a half years before applying for PR might help in my situation if I could make the 70 points required for the special status. The immigration lawyer has helped me understand that this would not be a solution for me because I would need to stay in my current job while running the new business. An additional issue is that my current period of stay would be reset to zero with the change in visa from my current Specialist in Humanities and International Services visa to the new special status visa. Considering that I'll no longer be 34 years old (worth 10 points) and may no longer make the 70 point threshold at the time of extending that visa and reapplying for permanent residency, this would make my application much less certain than if I simply waited 3 years on my current visa.

I'm now finding out what my remaining options are, such as the Business Manager / Investor's visa which I'd written off previously as not applicable for a small business but with professional help perhaps there will be a way to make it work, or finding out if there is a way of extending my current visa through the new business until the time I can apply for PR.

Though I have conceivably been saved from another 10-month wait to find out an application isn't suitable for my situation, the particular lawyer I contacted hasn't actually charged me for any of the advice given to date (though I offered to pay!). This might not be the case with all immigration lawyers, but it doesn't hurt to enquire. For your reference, applications for visa statuses and PR etc. appear to range around the 84,000 - 157,500 JPY mark.

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