Turning Japanese: The Ins and Outs of Naturalization in Japan

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For many long-term foreign residents of Japan, the idea of obtaining Japanese citizenship offers an appealing sense of belonging and permanence. But the process is long and requires a serious commitment. This article will explore the general steps, motivations and considerations for pursuing naturalization in Japan.

Eligibility and Requirements

Residency Duration

You must have lived continuously in Japan for 5 years or more. Some exceptions allow naturalization after 3 years for those married to Japanese citizens or with exceptional contributions to Japan.

Age Minimum

Applicants must be at least 20 years old.

Criminal and Political History

You cannot have a criminal record or history of subversive political activities.

Financial Stability

Financial stability is expected, with an ability to support yourself in Japan.

Renouncing Other Nationalities

Crucially, you must be willing to renounce any other nationalities you currently hold. Japan does not allow dual citizenship for naturalized citizens, with only a few rare exceptions.

Gathering and Submitting Documentation

The application process itself begins by contacting the Ministry of Justice Immigration Bureau that holds jurisdiction over your place of residence. They will provide guidance on assembling the required documents:

  • Birth certificates, family registries and marriage certificates proving lineage
  • Passports, residence cards and other identification documents
  • Proof of residency covering the entire period spent in Japan
  • Tax documentation and evidence of financial stability
  • Official records and translations related to any prior marriages or divorces
  • Photos and records substantiating relationships with family members

In total, it’s not uncommon for completed application files to be several inches thick when submitted!

Application Process

The application process for becoming a Japanese citizen is known for being very detailed and rigorous. The number of documents required to complete the application is fairly daunting. The documents include birth certificates, educational records, tax information, proof of employment, maps of the applicant’s home and work area, and copies of personal identification such as bank books and passports.

Credit: Reddit r/japan, amount of required documents for Japanese citizenship application (manga for scale)

This thorough vetting process has sparked debate among some online users, with some commenting on the relevance of certain requirements. For example, the necessity of providing maps of one’s home and place of work is questioned, with speculation that this might be a test of honesty.

The discussion also touches upon the issue of renouncing previous nationalities. Many countries require proof of renunciation of former citizenships before accepting an application for a new one. Given the number of documents that need to be collated and the intricacies of the process, it’s clear why the application form for Japanese citizenship is both daunting and difficult for many.

Interviews, Exams and Oaths

After submitting the dossier, the waiting begins. Applicants will be called in for detailed interviews about their lives and connections to Japan.

An examination covering Japanese language fluency, culture, society and government may also be conducted. This exam can be retaken if needed.

Finally, soon-to-be citizens take an oath renouncing previous nationalities and pledging allegiance to Japan. Following approval, a naturalization certificate will be issued.

Motivations and Benefits

Some pursue naturalization due to deep cultural and familial ties. Others seek the security and rights conferred compared to permanent residency.

As a Japanese national, you gain voting rights, access to services, and no renewal of residency status. Travel is easy with a Japanese passport.

For U.S. citizens, escaping tax filing is an appeal after renouncing. Other benefits include passing citizenship to children born abroad and bringing relatives to Japan more simply.

Is Japanese Citizenship Right For you?

These must be weighed against relinquishing your original nationality. Reacquiring citizenship later can be difficult.

Naturalization is a personal decision driven by individual circumstances. Long-term residents who see Japan as home are most likely to apply. The process demands complete commitment.

Thorough self-reflection is required when weighing the profound implications. Seeking legal advice is highly recommended.

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