In Japan over the past 10 years, more and more people choose to get marry non-Japanese citizens. Indeed, it becoming increasingly common to see international couples all over Japan. However, if an international couple decided to marry, it always is so hard for them to decide where to get married and even where to live. Even after they make these tough decisions, there are still other challenges, namely the Japanese spouse visa. So, in order to help people who have no idea what do, how to get married and to apply for a spouse visa in Japan, we would like to share our story and what we went through.
Before we talk about the Japanese spouse visa application process, we think it’s important to tell our story. Please do mind that your marriage or visa application process may be completely different depending on the country you and your partner are from, as well as your current visa status in Japan.
So, we are a Japanese citizen (husband) and an American citizen (wife). We met 8 years ago in America when Jun was studying abroad in America. After Jun went finished his study abroad, we lived separately for about half a year. Ever since then however, we lived together, in either Japan or America, as an unmarried couple.
Eventually, Jun decided to go to graduate school in America. Around this time we got engaged. During this time years and we cosigned our apartment lease, had a joint bank account, car insurance, etc… All of these things turned out to be very important later, because it was proof that we lived together as a couple. I think this is the prime reason why we got a three year spouse visa the very first time we applied.
Getting Married in Japan
In the end, we decided to get marry and live in Japan for a time. But even after making this huge decisions, it was very hard, and sometimes irritating, to prepare the documents necessary for our international marriage and spouse visa application.
In our case, Lina came to Japan on a tourist visa, since there is no fiancé visa in Japan. Then, we handed in the marriage registration to the local city office in Japan. After filing the marriage registration, we went to the Japanese immigration center to change the tourist visa to spouse visa.
Basic Information for Marriage in Japan
Despite all these steps it is very easy for an international couple to get married in Japan. For the international couple, all you need is to fill out the marriage registration, konin todoke, which you can get at any city office. Then the couple needs to hand said registration in to the city office, along with a few other required documents.
However, before you handing in your marriage registration, I strongly recommend calling the city office in advance. Some cities have very rigid requirements or even ask you to provide additional documents. If you don’t have proper documents they may turn down accepting your marital document and tell you come back with appropriate documents. Moreover, if you don’t call them in advance and you live in the countryside, your city office may take a long time for the city clerks to confirm whether all your paper are in order.
Specifically in our case, Lina had the single status affidavit signed by the appropriate clerk in America, but once she got to Japan it turned out she needed to have it signed by the counselor. We then had to make an appointment for the counselor’s office, wait, get the affidavit signed, then go back to the city office and submit again.
Things you need for a Japanese Spouse Visa
Here is a list of the basic documents you need for a Japanese spouse visa.
|1. Marriage Registration|
婚姻届 [konin todoke]
|・The main document for your marriage.|
・You need to have two people older than 20 sign to act as witnesses.
|2. Passport||・ passport of non-Japanese citizen is require to confirm the nationality|
|3. Certificate of Family Register|
戸籍謄本 [koseki tohon]
|・you need to submit a koseki tohon if the city office you are submitting your marriage registration is not the same city where your Japanese spouses’s honseki (principle domicile register).|
|4. Single Status Affidavit||・Make sure to get from the from the embassy/consulate of your country in Japan.|
・You need to attach translation of the affidavit, but you can do it. Make sure to include your name and address on the translation.
- International marriages in Japan do not require spouses to have the same name. However, if one person does wish to take their spouse’s name, you will also need to file an Uji no Henko Todoke[氏の変更届] (Change of Family Name).
If you have these required documents, your marriage registration form will be accepted and your marriage is complete. Make sure to have the confirmation of acceptance since you need that when you apply for your spouse visa!
What about a Marriage Certificate?
Although Japanese immigration center requires you to register your marriage in the other country, this process may differ from country to county. At least in America, if you marry in overseas, your marriage cannot be registered and the US government won’t issue any document about your marriage. If you need a marriage certificate, you need to get a koseki tohon which proves your marriage is legal. Then bring the document to an American embassy/consulate with a translation and they will verify it.
Japanese Spouse Visa
Basic Information about Japanese Spouse Visa
Submitting your marital document doesn’t guarantee you and your partner can live in Japan together. You still have to apply for spouse visa if you wish to stay in Japan. While many visa in Japan have quite strong requirement, this spouse visa let you do whatever kind of job you want to do and even just stay home without doing anything.
In Japan, there are several spouse visas with different duration of stay. The shortest one is 6 month and the longest one is 5 years. Once more than three years pass you can apply for a permanent spouse visa. Many first time applicants will get a one year visa. To get a permanent spouse visa, you have to live in Japan for at least for more than three years and have previously held a three year spouse visa.
Changing a Tourist visa to Spouse Visa
Because we planned to legally get married in Japan, Lina entered Japan with tourist visa and then applied for zairyu shikaku henko todoke [在留資格変更届] in order to change from a tourist visa to spouse visa. However, under normal circumstances you cannot change your visa status in Japan. Japan only allows you to do this if you have a “special reason”, like getting married. If you and your spouse are already married in foreign country and wish to move to Japan, the Japanese citizen has to go back to Japan first. Then he or she can apply for a zairyu shikaku shomeisho [在留資格証明書] for the foreign partner. Once the zairyu shikaku shomeisho is issued, the foreign partner can bring it into the Japanese embassy in their own country and convert it to spouse visa.
Do I need an Immigration Lawyer?
There are certainly number of immigration lawyers, or gyoseishoshi, who would be happy to handle your immigration. Though prices vary from case to case, it typically costs at least $1,000. Is it worth? We did it completely by ourselves since all you have to do is get the necessary documents. So, as long as your case is not complicated, I think you can do it by yourself.
Documents to Change Visa Status
So, here is the things you need to apply for the Japanese spouse visa. The application you need to get is the “zairyu shikaku henko todoke”, which means you are already in Japan and have tourist or working visa. Please keep in mind that your visa application process or necessary document might be different if you live in overseas and you try to apply for the “zairyu shikaku shomeisho”
|1. Zairyu shikaku Henko kyoka shinseisho [在留資格変更許可申請書]|
|You can download the paper from here. I strongly recommend filling this in in advance.|
|2. A Visa Sized Photo||Must be 4cm x 3cm, with a neutral background. There are many cheap quick photo booths throughout Japan where you can get this.|
|3. Passport||Passport of non-native Japanese spouse|
|4. zairyu card||if you have one|
|5. questionnaire||This is the most important document. You have to explain how you and your partner as well as details about how long you have been together.|
You need proof to verify your story.
Do not under any circumstances lie. If they figure it out, they will deny your visa immediately.
|6. Photos of the Couple||3 to 4 photos of your couple are required|
|7. koseki tohon|
|Koseki tohon of the Japanese citizen|
To verify your marriage. You can hand in the proof of acceptance of your marriage instead.
|8. nozei shomei||Koseki tohon of Japanese citizens|
To see how much you earn and whether you pay tax or not. If you don’t earn enough, your visa may be denied
If you don’t have any income, you can ask your family to be a financial supporter and then you can get a visa.
|9. mimoto hoshosho||Japanese citizen has to write this to guarantee the contents.|
You can download this from the website.
Bring those documents to your nearest immigration center. You have to physically submit these documents and you cannot mail them.
You will receive a card in the mail roughly within 1 to 3 months after you apply for your visa. This card will tell you that you should come to the immigration center to pick your visa. It does not tell you whether you got the visa or not but if the letter say you have to bring a money stamp, your visa is probably issued safely.
While it seems common for many couples to get just a one year spouse visa, but in truth, the duration of visa totally depends on the couple. Some get a six month visa and some may get a three year visa. We got the three year visa right away for some reason, but I think this is probably because we already had a history together with many legal documents to prove it.