In 2010 I went to Japan on a working holiday visa which I previously wrote a guide for. It was one of my most popular posts ever. During my year in Japan I met a lady who I fell in love with, and later married. She being Japanese meant my future with this country was going to become more closer, and so I needed a more suitable visa than a one-off never to renew opportunity to work. There are 2 options in this scenario (as well as the student visa in which you need a university place in Japan for amongst other things) and they are 1. A work visa and 2. A spouse visa. The work visa required a job offer in Japan, and the spouse visa requires a spouse in Japan. So before you get any of these visa’s bear in mind the basic reason behind them!
That aside, I guess you’re looking at this page because a spouse visa is the one for you. So I’ll help guide you through this and get yours.
I should start by stating a few things about my situation as this will vary per person, although doesn’t affect the application process ultimately. 1. I am male and married in Japan to a Japanese woman. 2. I was on a tourist visa (3 months limit – not allowed to work) when I got married in Japan. 3. I left Japan 1 week after being married and spent a few months in my home country (the UK) in which I needed to get a new passport (as mine had 4 months left of validity so I didn’t want the hassle of changing it abroad on a special visa) and 4. Got the spouse visa approved in my home country.
Official Requirements for the Visa:
1. Japanese Spouse (someone native to Japan and you are married too)
2. Valid passport, preferably with 6 months remaining on it at least.
3. Visa application form – http://www.uk.emb-japan.go.jp/en/visa/pdf/Application_Form.pdf
4. A passport sized photo (45 x 45mm / 2inch x 2 inch, not 35 x 45mm*)
5. An official copy of the family register (koseki tohon – 戸籍謄本) showing marriage
6. Letter of guarantee from Japanese spouse – http://www.uk.emb-japan.go.jp/en/visa/pdf/Letter_of_Guarantee_Japanese.pdf
7. Your spouse to be present in the embassy with their passport OR (if they are residing in Japan and you outside) a copy of their passport showing the photo page and any entry/exit stamps to your home country AND a official copy of certificate of residence (住民 票)
8. Applicants recent banks statements (3 months) or certificate of income from spouse.
Variations of Situations on Getting the Visa:
Notes and Tips:
I was granted a 3 month window to enter the country, this is normal, if you don’t enter Japan during this time, you need to apply for a new visa, the process will be exactly the same and you’ll likely have no problems getting one granted again, but you would be wasting time and money (It cost me £6 in August 2012 for the visa, but that doesn’t include travel costs to the Japanese embassy in London).
I was granted 1 year to start with. You get to specify how long you spend in the country in the application form. I put ‘more than 1 year’ (like the working holiday visa, it’s good to be vague sometime rather than specific) and was granted the year. Most new marriages and first time spouse visa applications are given 1 year almost without exception. 3 and 5 year visa’s are available but generally not given to first time applicants. I can’t think of any exceptions to this, but feel free to leave a comment and give me an example of when this happened.
*Although the requirements state you must have a 45mm x 45mm photo, I applied with a 35mm x 45mm one and they didn’t even mention anything about it. I carried my photo in loose and they glued it to the application form there. Make sure it’s a typical passport quality photo. No glasses, clear view of face, plain background, only you, etc. This photo is not only used on your visa stamp when it’s granted but kept in the Japanese system and goes on a resident card later. If they do have a problem with it, you can probably find a passport photo booth in a train station close by and choose the 45mm x 45mm version rather than waste the trip to the embassy.
I showed approximately £3500 across 2 bank accounts and it was enough. Oddly (after submitting I noticed) I didn’t show my name on the bank statement, just the account number and the figure. Usually bank statements have a name shown on them. This is not a guarantee to get around the amount by showing someone else’s account as they could ask to see the name next to the account number later. But it worked for me. The minimum needed is not stated anywhere officially like the working holiday visa is, but I would try to show more than £2000 if you can, or the equivalent in your own home country currency, or in yen.
You don’t need a university degree to get the visa. A lot of jobs specify the need for a degree, but this is mostly for the work visa that unmarried people come into the country on. Spouse visa’s show a longer commitment than work visas, they are no hassle for employers as they can employ you straight away with little paperwork. So if you don’t have a tertiary certificate of education like a bachelor degree, but do have a spouse visa, don’t let that put you off applying for certain jobs (especially when they state subject/discipline of degree is not important).
When you arrive in the country (assuming you got the visa out of Japan), you will need to go through the usual immigration queue. The difference now (correct from October 2012) is you will be issued a resident card before passing through immigration. You still need to register with your local city ward (where you will be living, presumably with your spouse) within 14 days, but they no longer issue alien cards due to the new resident card system. You must keep your resident card on you at all times, but don’t need to carry your passport (like people on a tourist visa need too) anymore.
After that, you’re all set for at least one year in Japan. I’ll hopefully put up a guide in the future on the renewal process of a spouse visa.
If you’ve got more tips or questions, feel free to leave a comment, I’ve helped many people get a working holiday visa, and hope that I can help others get a spouse visa too. It’s likely you’ve already been to Japan and gone through a visa application if you’re now applying for a spouse visa, but please leave a comment if this was useful.