How to Get a Japanese Spouse Visa

October 30, 2012 · 3 comments

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.

Kinkakuji spouse visa

Kinkakuji

My Situation:

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:

Getting married outside of Japan – Assuming you still have a Japanese spouse, but not a Japanese wedding certificate you may have noticed that it’s not even a requirement for the visa either way. The process should be exactly the same. The only thing that you need to do before going ahead with the visa though is registering yourself as the spouse on the koseki tohon. This is a separate procedure which I don’t have experience in so can not advise on. You will likely need a translation of your wedding certificate amongst other things though. However once that is done, the spouse visa application is the same.
Getting the visa inside Japan – To be in Japan legally you must have a visa of some sort. There is a chance you got married in Japan and have enough time to change your visa status over to a spouse visa. This needs to be done at a immigration office (doesn’t have to be a local one to you). This process can be difficult (not impossible) on a tourist visa as the 3 month period is quite limiting (you’re not usually allowed to change anything within 6 weeks of arrival). Please be aware of the conditions of the tourist visa, the idea of it is for tourists and not opportunists to change visa status later, so it is definitely not the best way to do it. I came in on a tourist visa, proposed and quickly got married (which partially was to get a spouse visa later rather than get married at a later date, and then apply for a spouse visa even further down the line) in the 3 month limit. It is very difficult to change tourist to another status as it shows intention of not being a tourist. You can extend the tourist visa to 6 months to give yourself more time, but this could increase chances of rejection if your reason for extension is to change visa status.
Saying that, if you have a work visa then you have time to do this and won’t need to return to your home country. It’s just as you may expect of Japan, paperwork intensive. However, because no paperwork needs to be sent abroad it can be done quickly if everything is in order (all the requirements above are met). I believe there is a bit more paperwork required than doing it out of country, such as a brief overview of your relationship (when you met, got married, photos of you together in different places) in the form of a questionnaire/shitsumonso (質問書) for your spouse and a change of status application (在留資格変更許可申請書). Just to reiterate, you don’t need to do this questionnaire or submit photos if you apply outside of Japan.
The certificate of eligibility – This is as per the name, a certificate that cuts out a lot of the checks. You need the application form (#3 in requirements above) along with the certificate of eligibility and that’s it. This usually passes through quicker (3 days) than the typical 5 day limit of a normal visa application. Sounds great right? As for how you get the certificate. I’m not experienced in this and didn’t do it this way, but from what I can tell, it’s basically submitting the same information (in Japan usually by your spouse rather than yourself) with a bit more paperwork and you get the certificate (which is valid for 3 months). From research before it seemed easier and more convenient for me to go through the longer list of paperwork above than to get the certificate of eligibility, but it’s certainly an alternative option to consider. My opinion is it’s designed for the future in the change that maybe paperwork will ease and make visa applications easier. But for now, I’d advise going with the standard method of requirements listed in this article.
If you’re not in Japan or your home country – This shouldn’t be a problem as from what I can see there is no requirement to go to your home country (like there is with a working holiday visa). So you should be able to carry out the process as normal as long as there is a Japanese embassy or consulate where you now are. Bear in mind you will need to leave your passport at the Japanese embassy/consulate though which could get you into trouble if you always need it on you.

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).

On Arrival:

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.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Jackie October 31, 2012 at 7:31 AM

Apply at a U.S. consulate or embassy in Japan for an Affidavit of Competency to Marry. This certifies that you are legally eligible to be married. There are two parts to this document, the second of which needs to be completed in Japanese.

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AdventureRob November 3, 2012 at 3:07 AM

Thanks for info Jackie. Although this article is to help those already married primarily. I would guess the marriage procedure is different depending on where one of the partners is from as all would need to go to their embassy/consulate for advice on the matter.

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