Japanese National Pension requirements for students

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When first arriving to Japan, there are plenty of things to do. One of the questions you will likely encounter has to do with pension: these slips are similar to the health insurance ones, coming in thick envelopes, and not everybody agrees on what the proper way to handle these is. This article will answer the most common questions related to Japanese national pension.

A word of caution though: rules and guidelines related to pension vary depending on where you live. This article aims to provide general information so you can get started, but we recommend everyone to refer to their school or ward/city office for more specific information.

As a student do I have to enrol in the Japanese pension system?

At the time of writing, August 2019, everyone has to register for the National Pension (国民年金 kokumin nenkin) if they have a residence card and live in Japan, this is also applicable to the student and working holiday visa holders

As a student do I have to pay the National Pension in Japan?

Whether you have to pay a pension is dependent on your earnings whilst you are living in Japan. National Pension is calculated on the earnings of the year prior, so for the first year in Japan, there is usually nothing to pay. From the second year, the pension payments depend on how much you earn.  If you are a student who is not working, or you have low income (find out more here), then you can apply for an exemption (支払い免除 shiharai menjo).

I’m new to Japan. How do I enrol in the National Pension?

When you go to your main ward/city office to register as a resident and enrol for health insurance, you can also enrol in the National Pension at most offices.  If you cannot do it in your main ward/city office, they will direct you to the correct pension office to help you.

You will need to bring the following documents with you:

  • My Number Card  (マイナンバー mai-nanba)
  • Residence Card (在留カード zairyu ka-do) (If you have more than one, you need to bring them all)
  • Passport (パスポート pasupo-to)
  • Student card (学生証 gakuseisho)  (if you have received one)

After signing up, you will receive a yellow card in the mail along with your pension number. Keep this card as you will need to show it each time you go to your ward or municipality office, or for pension-related matters.

How do I get a National Pension payment exemption and can I do this at the same time as I enrol for the pension?

The good news is yes you can enrol in the pension and get an exemption (支払い免除 shiharai menjo)  at the same time if you are a newcomer to Japan with no work history. Just inform your main ward/city office when you go to enrol and they will help you with this process.

How long am I able to be exempt from payments as a student?

You can claim the exemption for every year that you are a student, subject to your income. Most language students do this for two years. It is important to do the exemption from your landing point into Japan to the end of the pension year. You then need to renew each year.

The pension year varies depending on your institution type:

  1. For university students, the pension calendar period is April to March.
  2. For the others, including students of language school, the pension calendar is from July to June of the following year.

For example, I am a language school student who arrived in January 2020.  I need to enrol at that point until the end of the pension year, which is June. In July 2020 I then need to re-enrol until the following June (unless my course finished earlier).

I already live in Japan and haven’t enrolled in the Japanese National Pension, what should I do?

Everyone with a resident card needs to enrol in the national pension scheme. Signing up as a student and getting the exemption, means that you start to ‘contribute’ to the pension whilst you are studying. This is important if you want to stay in Japan long term.

For the most up-to-date, and further information on the National Pension and how it applies to you, contact your school or your main ward/city office.

Useful language for the pension office

Navigating pension requirements can be tricky, but hopefully having some basic language will help! Here are some essential words and phrases:


National Pension Scheme
国民年金 (こくみんねんきん)
Kokumin nenkin

Pension Office
年金事務所 (ねんきんじむしょ)
Nenkin jimusho

Pension contributions 
年金支払 (ねんきんしはらい)
Nenkin shiharai

Exemption of contributions
支払い免除 (しはらめんじょ)
Shiharai menjo

Useful phrases

Excuse me, where is the national pension department?
Sumimasen, kokumin nenkin ka/gakari wa doko desu ka?

I am a student at _______________. Could I please apply for the exemption?
Watashi wa _______________ no gakusei desu. Nenkin no gakusei menjo no tetsuzuki wo shitai no desu ga.

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