Japan Today

The new residence card system -- everything you need to know


On July 9, 2012 the new Residency Management system came into effect. There are two main ways the structure is changing.

The Alien Registration System is ending and will replaced by a residency management system, under the authority of the Immigration Bureau of the Justice Ministry. A Residence Card will be issued, replacing the current Alien Registration card

Foreigners will now be registered locally on a Residence Record or "juminhyo," the same system used by Japanese nationals, which is under the authority of the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry.

Due to the complexity of any system like this, it is probably best to directly read the two ministry’s explanations about how these systems are changing:

Changes to Residence Card System

www.immi-moj.go.jp/newimmiact_1/ (Japanese) www.immi-moj.go.jp/newimmiact_1/en/index.html (English)

Changes to the Residence Record (juminhyo) System

Download PDF (Japanese) Download PDF (English)

Some points that may be of interest to you:

The Alien Registration Card ("gaikokujin torokusho") will be replaced by a new residence card, containing an IC chip. The card will include residence status, period of stay, as well as name, address, birthdate, etc. The IC chip will contain all of the information printed on the card, and is to prevent the cards from being forged or altered.

The maximum visa term available will be extended from 3 years to 5 years for most visa categories.

A re-entry permit will no longer be required for trips out of Japan less than 12-months in length.

Originally broadcast on June 20, Real Estate Japan chatted with Steve Burson, President of H&R Consultants, about what this means for you.

Some Frequently Asked Questions:

I am in Japan now and I have an Alien Registration (“gaijin”) Card. By when do I have to change my card?

You have up to 3 years from July 9 to change your card. The Alien Registration Card will be equivalent to the new residence card during the 3-year transition period. The Residence Card will be issued when you renew your visa, need to change your status, or when your Alien Card expires. If you have Permanent Residency status you will need to obtain the Residence Card by July 8, 2015.

I am coming to Japan after the change on July 9 Where will I get my card and what is the process?

If you are coming to Japan on a visa with a status of residence that is longer than 3 months, you will receive your Residence Card ay the airport in Tokyo (Narita and Haneda), Nagoya (Centrair) or Osaka (Kansai Airport). The card should take an additional 2-3 minutes to prepare as part of the other administrative procedures on arrival. The card issued on arrival at the above airports will not have your address printed on it. Within 14 days you must go to your local government office to complete the “Residence Record” (juminhyo) details. This puts you on the local register of people, and has links to your health insurances, pension, etc. Your address will also be added to the back of your Residence Card

What if I don’t enter Japan through Narita, Haneda, Nagoya, or Kansai Airports?

A Residence Card will not be issued at the airport. Your passport will be stamped indicating that the card will be mailed to you at a later date. After you complete the Residence Record (juminhyo) details at the local government office (within 14 days), the Regional Immigration Office will mail your card to you. It will take about 2-3 weeks to receive the card.

Do I need to submit photos for my card?

If you are coming to Japan for the first time on a mid- to long-term visa (i.e. not a 90-day visa), you will have already sent photos with your visa application. These photos will be scanned and used on your residence card. Therefore, there is no need to supply a photo at the airport, as it will already be in the Immigration Bureau system.

When you renew your visa, you will need to provide a photograph as part of your renewal application. This photo will be scanned and used on your card.

Can I change my Alien Registration Card to my Residence Card at one of the four main airports?

No, this is not possible. This may change in the future, but as of now, only newly entering mid- to long-term residents will receive their Residence Card at the airport.

Can I make changes to my Alien Registration Card without getting a new Residence Card?

From July 9, you can change the address on your Alien Card. Any other changes must be made at the Immigration Bureau and your Alien Card will then be changed to a Residence Card.

Do I have to report in person about changes in my employer?

No, you don’t need to report in person for this, as your employer will no longer be listed on your Residence Card. However, if your visa is based on your employment, you will need to submit a form to the Immigration Bureau by post, to notify them of the change.

The new Residence Card does not show my passport number. Do I need to report changes in this?

No, the passport number, along with date of issue of the passport, your place of birth, residence in your home country, and a few other things will all be missing from the Residence Record and Residence Card.

In fact, under this new system, the Residence Card will show your Status of Residence and period of stay, items that were included in the visa stamp in your passport. The only time any of this information will be entered in your passport is on your initial entry to Japan. On renewing a visa, the information will only be entered on your Residence Card. Each time you renew your “visa (status of residence)” you will be issued with a new Residence Card.

It is going to be quite important, therefore, that you always have your Residence Card with you when you are traveling in and out of Japan. Your visa status can be verified only if you have your Residence Card with you.

The new Residence Card contains an IC chip. What information will be on the IC chip?

Under Japanese Law, they are only allowed to record on the IC chip the information that is already on the card. There will be no additional private information on the IC chip.

What is the point of the IC chip on the card?

The IC chip will enable authorities and 3rd parties to verify that the information written on the card is actually correct. i.e., this is to protect residence cards from being forged or altered.

Who will be able to read the information on the IC chip?

This hasn’t been announced yet. One can safely assume that immigration offices, police, and the like would have them. Japanese driver’s licenses throughout the country are being updated with IC chips. In the case of the licenses, it is possible to see the information on the chip using “readers” at the License Centers. One can imagine that banks and perhaps mobile phone providers will initially be the type of places who will buy the “readers” in order to verify information on the cards.

What is the biggest time-saver of this new system for me?

The biggest time-saver for new arrivals to Japan is that you won’t need to make an extra trip to immigration to get a re-entry permit. As long as you are going to be coming back to Japan within 12 months, you will be exempt from needing a re-entry permit.

I heard that permanent residents will have special considerations. Are you aware of what these are?

For permanent residents, the Residence Card will be valid for 7 years. You will need to go to the Immigration Office every 7 years to get it renewed. For any other resident, the Residence Card will be valid for the length of your status of residence (the maximum length of a visa will be extended from 3 years to 5 years).

I read “everything other than change of address and job requires a visit to Immigration.” What are some examples of things that will require a visit to immigration?

The most common reason would be to renew your visa (status of residence) or when your child turns 16, which will automatically see you getting a new Residence Card. The next most common will probably be if the card is lost, stolen, damaged or defaced. And then there are other cases such as when your status of residence changes (mostly happens when renewing your visa any way, but could change if you are no longer a “student” or if you get divorced from a Japanese and are on a spouse visa), if you change your name, if you change your sex (could be an issue for some parts of Shinjuku, I suppose) or your nationality changes.

So how does one get off the old Alien Registration card and get on to the new IC card? A visit to immigration? How many times? Once to register and once to pick up?

Yes, you need to take a trip to the Immigration Bureau to get your new card. It should be issued there on the spot, unless of course, you are renewing your visa, in which case it would be done once your new status of residence is given. On the spot issuance is supposedly only to take a few minutes, although you will need to complete an application form and submit your photo to be scanned, so I imagine it will be like the time it takes to get your re-entry permit now. However, it is not recommended that you try changing to the resident card in the first few months from July 9, as congestion is expected, and initially you might need 2 trips.

Won’t the expired visas in the passport be confusing when trying to prove that you are indeed a resident in Japan?

I believe that Japan will be notifying all the countries of the world and the airlines about the changes. The best solution here is to carry your Residence Card with you at all times, even when overseas, as this will be the only form of identification of your status in Japan (aside from any old passport stamps). So, present your Residence Card with your passport in any situation where it is necessary to prove residency.

What happens with children and their Residence Cards?

Children will be issued with a Residence Card, but no photo will be placed on the card. Children up to the age of 16 have no legal requirement to keep the card on their person, as per the child alien registration card from before. From the day of their 16th birthday, children need to receive a new residence card with the photo, and will need to keep the card on their person like the rest of us.

Passport numbers are recorded on the alien registration card. Will they be on the Residence Card too?

Up until this point, passport numbers have been recorded on the AR card. The passport number is not placed on the new Residence Card and there is no need to notify changes in your passport number if you get a new one. The Residence Record (juminhyo) also does not require your passport number, so the only place where your passport number will be recorded now is when you come in and out of the airport, and perhaps on the applications for your visa and visa renewals. This is a change in favor of everyone, as there is no longer anything to do when your passport changes.

How long will it take to get your Residence Card at the Immigration Bureau?

We have confirmed that this is likely to be similar to the time it takes to get your Re-Entry Permit - they will issue on the spot on the same day. However, they are not confident to commit to any guarantees of how long things will take initially, as like any new system, they are not quite sure how long things will actually take, and what problems they will come across. The Immigration Bureau sincerely recommends that, if possible, to refrain from changing your card immediately, as if there is a rush on the Immigration Centers, they are not sure that they will be able to handle the influx. Best recommendation would be to “stay away for a while.” But, eventually, it should be a very straightforward process. If you are renewing your visa, you would receive a new Residence Card once the new visa has been approved (obviously this won’t be the same day).

How will other countries / airports know about this change?

The Immigration Bureau has indicated they will be doing this as thoroughly as possible. However, no matter how well they do it, and how well they explain things to the airlines, there is going to be obvious confusion initially at every airport that boards a person to Japan. The best and only advice therefore will be, without fail, always take your passport and Residence Card with you to the airport, and treat them as a pair when you are traveling.

If you have any other questions, please contact Steve Burson of the H&R Group (Relo Japan) at steve_burson@morethanrelo.com.

© Japan Today

©2024 GPlusMedia Inc.

Login to comment

all the information I wanted to know in one simple post. Thanks :)

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Best recommendation would be to “stay away for a while.”

That is one piece of advice I can assure you I will be pleased to follow!

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Excellent article and I couldn't spot any mistakes!

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Japantoday: Good Job!

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I got my new card on Tuesday in Otsu. For anyone in Shiga, the wait wasn't that bad...about 1.5 hours. The only reason why it was even that long was because the server was very slow and glitchy then. I think if you live in an area with a low foreign population, you can go anytime you want. However....Tokyo is a nightmare and I wouldn't brave it until you must.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

While my wife was shopping abroad she had her purse, containing her alien registration card, snatched. It made no difference getting back into japan because (fortunately) her passport containing a re-entry permit wasn't in that purse at the time. She reported the theft of the ARC and applied for a new one soon after returning to Japan. But it's inevitable that some people while traveling will lose their resident's cards, and that's going to make getting back into the country a major operation. I will photograph or scan both sides of mine and store it electronically so I'll have a copy to show a Japanese embassy or consulate abroad... just in case.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

One thing I do not understand is why the ARC, needs to be shown at an airport outside of Japan. The passport has the visa along with the re-entry permit so I cannot get my head around why the ARC is needed. Anyone know? Thanks.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

TokyoGas, I think it's just because the airlines want to be sure you'll be able to get into Japan with no problems and that you're not going to be "turned away", because the airline would then have to foot the bill for flying you out again. It was the same with the old system when the visa info was in passports, but practically I don't think the airlines checked that much, although I can't be sure what they actually look at when they look at your passport at immigration.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

What's missing in this article is that the police will be issued projection IC chip readers.

Which means that if they see a foreigner on the street they'll be able tos simply point the reader at the foreign and it will capture the data on the card.

So if you're strolling about without your card on hand they'll know immediately and approach you and ask you to present it.

Moreover, the readers can and will be imbedded in the ticket gates. So they'll have a record of your movements within the transportation system.

-8 ( +0 / -8 )

Neversubmit: You seem a little paranoid. I am sure that you have follwed the news on this site for a while and have read many of the crime articles. It appears that the police hardly have the energy to enforce some of the most basic laws and never leave the police box (according to many posters) So no fear about the police suddenly feeling the need to find you to see your ID. Also, they don't get any prize for asking for you to present your ID when you have it...they CAN give you a fine though if you don't have it from what I understand.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

oikawa - Thanks for the comment. I understand about the airlines not wanting to pay for people, but I still cannot understand why ask for the ARC when the details of your visa/re-entry permit are already inside your passport. I have been through a few countries before returning to Japan and the only place which asked to see my ARC was in Bangkok by the check-in staff of the airline. When I asked the official why, they either did not know or did not want to answer.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

TokyoGas, no problem. I assumed you'd seem this but maybe not though,

The only time any of this information will be entered in your passport is on your initial entry to Japan. On renewing a visa, the information will only be entered on your Residence Card.

Visa information will NOT be in passports anymore after you renew it the first time, only the ARC.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Neversubmit, you are exaggerating the IC chip reader's range and sensitivity. It will not read anything beyond immediate vicinity. And absolutely not if you have other IC chip cards (bank cards, commuting passes, etc) or IC Card Protector in your wallet (presuming that's where you keep your gaijin card) messing up it's signal.

You have a IC commute pass such as Suica etc? The ticket gates do not reduce your saldo if you just walk by the station, right? You have to put it very close to the reader in order for it to register.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

This is good information for those that need it.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Thanks for that brilliant information, very precise and answers just about anything the average visa holder would need to know

1 ( +1 / -0 )

So if you're strolling about without your card on hand they'll know immediately and approach you and ask you to present it.

NeverSubmit, the number of foreign visitors to Japan outnumbers foreign residents by nearly 4 to 1. If what you write is true, don't you think the police would become terribly busy demanding tourists and other short-term visitors to show their passports?

1 ( +1 / -0 )


Obey the law and you should not have to worry.

It seems a lot of foreigners who claim that Japan is some kind of police state (absolutely ridiculous, try living in a real police state) don't want to obey the local laws. It's just ID. Be thankful it's not a tattoo.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Great posting. Thanks.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Good job, Steve Burson! Thanks for all the great info!

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Neversubmit: any evidence? How about a link to or a picture of these devices? As others have pointed out, these cards, like Suica, etc are proximity cards i.e. - must be within inches of a reader to be read. If you are still worried, wrap your card in tinfoil, heard it makes a good hat liner, too. Deja vu - because folks made the same claims when the new passports came out with IC chips a few yrs ago.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Thank you for a very comprehensive overview.

One issue that does not seem to be covered is loss of a Residence Card when you are overseas. What is the procedure when you lose a Residence Card overseas, and your passport no longer contains evidence of any permission to be in Japan (no re-entry visa and original entry to Japan was over 10 years ago)?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

who the heck are these "third parties" than can verify info on the new cards?

0 ( +0 / -0 )


So if you're strolling about without your card on hand they'll know immediately and approach you and ask you to present it

Surely they wouldn't bother if they've already read the data. If they can't detect the presence of a residence card, that's when they'll approach you.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Reckless: You can...for 3 years. But probably within that time you will have to go immigration and would get a new one then. After the 3 years, you may have some issues with being able to use it as ID and maybe if the police find out (while they are scanning all the foreigners from kilometers away with their super new high tech card readers), then maybe you will have to pay a fine.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

oikawa - oops... I did miss that part. Me old peepers ain't what they used to be.

However, I have been asked to show my ARC along with my passport when returning to Japan. This only happened in Bangkok. The guy I was behind was also returning to Japan and he gave the check-in people an earful of questions as to why they needed to see his ARC when all the details of his visa/re-entry permit were available in his passport. I don't think he ever got an answer. I know I didn't when I asked.

Anyway, nice and informative article.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Sounds like an improvement over the past system in all ways.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

My main concern about the new card is the re-entry section. At 3,000 yen a pop on re-entries for people leaving the country for a week to not needing one at all makes me suspicious. They are going to lose a lot of money on those re-entries now. Why are they making it cheaper for foreigners and where are they going to make it up? There is something going on with this card that we don't know about yet.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

I have received a message from Japan embassy in Beijing that the Japanese government is giving preferencial treatment for those who didn't over stay their entry in Japan to acquire residence permit to stay in Japan with a minimum money to invest in Japan. I just want to confirm from you since I will be very much interested in such a move.

Regarded, Kumi Kwasi

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I have a quick question which I hope someone in the know can answer.

I have the old "Gaijin" card and I'm planning to leave the country for a short holiday next month but I don't have a re-entry permit at the moment, would I still need a re-entry permit under the new system?

Cheers in advance for any help

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I have a question, too. I applied for changing my status from Temporary Visitor to Spouse of a Japanese National. Now we are waiting for the notification post card. Once I received the card to pick up my new status I would like to apply for the RC right after. The Immi website http://www.immi-moj.go.jp/english/tetuduki/kanri/shyorui/11.html is requesting documents I do not have at the moment or I am not sure about the meaning e.g. an alien registration certificate or documents certifying my identity..? I was not able to to register at my city office becuase I do not have an RC yet.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Login to leave a comment

Facebook users

Use your Facebook account to login or register with JapanToday. By doing so, you will also receive an email inviting you to receive our news alerts.

Facebook Connect

Login with your JapanToday account

User registration

Articles, Offers & Useful Resources

A mix of what's trending on our other sites