New zairyu card

Dear Diary.

Oh wait. This is public.

I’ll bore you with my day anyway.

In 2012 Japan changed its “alien registration” system. All foreigners are supposed to carry an alien registration card (gaikoku tourokushou) with with them. The card needed to be renewed every 7 years at the local ward office.

The change made was to abolish the alien registration system and replace it with a new national “residence” (zairyu) system.

The new zairyu card also has to be renewed every 7 years, but instead of your local ward office it has to be done at the regional immigration bureau.

The Japanese government says the purpose of the new system is to put foreign residents on a more equal footing with Japanese, because now we have domestic registries, just like Japanese people do. And we can do some things we couldn’t do before, like get a “seal verification” from branch office machines and some extra services and whatnot.

Some foreign residents say the purpose is to make it easier for the government to track foreigners.

Whatever. Unlike the U.S., everybody (including Japanese) have to actually register with the government and tell them where you live. Everybody has an “official address.”

In practical terms, what it meant for me was that instead of renewing my old registration card in 2017, I had to obtain a new zairyu card before July 2015.

I figured it was crowded when they started the new system in 2012, and it will probably be crowded before the final deadline in 2015, so I might as well get it done now before my trip to the U.S. next month.

So I went down to the regional immigration office today, in Shinagawa. I live in Shinkoiwa, which really has turned out to be quite the convenient transportation hub to practically everywhere. Shinagawa is just 6 stops away – only 25 minutes.

So it was quick getting there. And it was pretty much a ghost town at the immigration bureau. So I was done quickly and back home, door to door, in under 3 hours.

One benefit of the new system is they finally got rid of the “re-entry visa” requirement. In the past, even though I had permission to live and work in Japan as a permanent resident, I needed separate permission to actually enter Japan if I took a foreign trip. So I had to go down to the immigration bureau from time-to-time anyway and pay like ¥6,000 yen (about $60) for that extra visa. But no more, as long as your overseas trip is for less than a year.

For that reason alone, I think it’s worth it. And I don’t have to deal with any immigration bureau bureaucracies again until 2021.

So there is my exciting day so far. Time for lunch now.


New zairyu card — 3 Comments

  1. I for one am very glad to hear your news. Did you have to bring anything like photo, etc.? Of course your passport and current registration card, but . . . ?

    I also have a friend who said he got his at the office in Tachikawa which would be a lot easier (closer) for me than Shinagawa, so I think I’ll try that.

    I’ll also check when my passport expires (I know my alien registration is fairly new) and see if I can maximize my experience rather than than getting the new registration and then having to renew my passport right after.

  2. My passport expires in March 2015 and my re-entry permit in April 2015, so I think I’ll keep the old stuff for this summer’s trip and renew everything early in 2015, hoping I beat the last-minute rush.

  3. I didn’t have to bring anything but my passport and current registration card. You do need a photo, but they have a photo machine there for ¥800.

    About your passport, you can do that by mail. That’s what I did in November. Extremely simple. Much easier than going over to the embassy.


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