The residence card is mandatory for anyone who intends to remain in Japan longer than the period of stay authorised with a tourist visa. It is used as an ID-card in the Japanese administration system. The residence card will be required for most of the procedures that you will need to complete within the first days following your arrival to Japan. Without it, you will not be able to subscribe to a phone plan, open a bank account or rent an apartment.

Are you coming to live in Japan soon and are wondering what’s the best way to plan your arrival? What are the first steps to take upon your arrival in Japan? How to plan best in order to save time and to ease your integration into the new environment? It is genuine to have such questions before departure, and finding out the answers ahead may help you save quite an amount of time as you move to Japan. Among these procedures, there is one that will impact all the others. Without it, you will not be able to open a bank account, rent an apartment or subscribe to a phone plan. It is a significant document that you are required to obtain in order to settle in Japan. This document is the residence card, also called Zairyū Card in Japanese.

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What is the Zairyū Card? (Residence Card)

Zairyū Card is the name given to foreign residents’ ID-card in Japan. It is mandatory to have one as soon as your time in Japan exceeds the legal period of stay authorised for touristic stays for nationals from your own country. Citizens from Canada, the United States, Australia, New Zealand and Hong Kong can stay in Japan for 90 days without applying for any visa if it’s for touristic purposes. Citizens from the United Kingdom can stay up to 90 days on a tourist visa as well, but can also apply for a visa extension up to 6 months during their stay. You can check the list of countries with visa exemptions here.

The Zairyū card is the one document each foreign national needs to carry at any time while staying in Japan. No matter whether you are in Japan for work, studies, or any other reason, the Zairyū card will be considered as the equivalent for your ID-card by the Japanese administration. It contains information such as your name, last name, birth date, nationality and your address. You will also be able to check the status of your visa, its expiration date, and details about engaging in other activities than the ones previously granted.

Once it has been issued to you, you must always have it with you in order to be able to show it during identity checks. If you were not to have it with you, you may have to pay a fine that can go up to ¥ 200,000, and be charged with a one-year prison sentence, in worst cases.

zairyu-card-residence card in Japan

How to get your residence card in Japan?

If your arrival in Japan happens to be from one of these international airports: Narita, Haneda, Kansai, or Chubu, the residence card (Zairyū card) will be issued to you directly upon your arrival. If you are going to enter Japan through any other entrance point, you will have to go to the closest Immigration Bureau in order to apply for you card.

Once your card has been issued, you will have to register your address of residence within 14 days. In order to do that, you need to go to the city hall affiliated to your place of residence. Your address will then be written on the back of your resident card. You will have to repeat this process every time you change addresses. If you were to change your visa type, you will need to renew your residence card as well. Finally, if you ever lose your residence card, you will need to declare it as lost at the nearest police station. It is a requirement in order to renew it.

In order to save time

Note that registering your address of residence is a procedure that can be time consuming and that the staff at the city hall rarely speaks English. If you’re not comfortable with Japanese yet, do not hesitate to ask a friend or a colleague to come with you in order to facilitate the process. If you’re a student on an exchange in Japan, some universities may have some groups of students who can help you with this kind of procedures. Moreover, some wards in Tokyo have some annex city halls. Less crowded than the main ones, they may help you save a considerable amount of time.

As written in the beginning of this article, the Zairyū card is an imperative document that will be necessary for you to settle in Japan, and for your daily life. If it is not issued to you upon your arrival, start the procedures to obtain it right away, as quite numerous operations for settling down in Japan will require it.

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