The Japanese Residence Card: Zairyū Card

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If you are moving to Japan for an extended amount of time, chances are you will need to obtain a Zairyū Card. The Japanese word zairyū (在留) literally translates to the English word “residence”, and so the Zairyū Card is simply the name for the Japanese residence card.

This card is required to be held by most long-term residents who possess citizenship from a country other than Japan. It is also required that a resident carry this card with them at all times in order to prove resident status. Obtaining a Japanese residence card in Japan is very simple and the process can be completed upon arrival at the Japanese airport. The residence card is one of, if not the most, important article to possess while residing in Japan.

Who needs a residence card in Japan?

The residence card in Japan was created to replace the alien registration card on July 9, 2012. This was done when the role of issuing residence cards was transferred from the local ward offices to the Ministry of Justice. The card is designed for mid to long-term residents in Japan, and does not apply to people staying less than 3 months, temporary visitors, diplomats, officials, special permanent residents, Korean special permanent resident, or people with no resident status. It was required that people possessing the old alien registration card must move over to the new residence card by July 8, 2015.

How do I get a Japanese residence card?

Obtaining the residence card in Japan is very simple, and is part of the process of arriving at the airport in Japan. Fingerprints and a photograph are taken and then the card is issued. The Zairyū Card possesses all of the most important information in print on the face of the card as well as on an IC chip inside the card. The information includes things like name, date of birth, date of registration, gender, nationality, and visa status.

Within 14 days of settling in to a new residence, you must go to the local municipal office with your passport and Zairyū Card. The office will ask for your new Japanese residential address, and it will be entered into a database as well as printed on the back of the Zairyū Card. It is important to understand that when you leave the country without a plan for return, a hole will be punched in the card making it no longer valid.

What do you need it for?

There are several important uses for the residence card. In Japan, it is required that foreign residents carry the card with them at all times in order to prove their residency status. If you are caught not carrying the card, it is an offense punishable by law. You can be charged a fine of up to 200,000 yen if you do not have the card with you, and if you refuse to present the card, you can be sentenced to up to a year of imprisonment. The residence card is needed in order to sign contracts for things such as opening a bank account, signing up for a phone plan, or getting insurance.

It may seem complicated but once you’ve applied for your visa the process to get your Japanese residence card should run smoothly when you reach the airport. Not only is it required but it’s a useful card and will help make your life in Japan much simpler. If you’re still unsure about any part of the process or how it works, then why not get in touch and one of our Go! Go! Nihon coordinators will help you out.

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