What Is a Residence Card and Do You Need One in Japan?

You must have it with you at all times.

Residence Card or zairyu ka-do is issued by the Ministry of Justice, through Japan’s Immigration Bureau, to a foreigner who has obtained medium to long-term residence permit status. It’s a very important ID card that must be carried by the foreigner at all times. It is considered an official proof of identity containing information such as the complete name, current address, type of permit, and its validity, which proves that one is staying legally in the country. 

As a Residence Card holder, you have several responsibilities to take note of:

1. You must carry it with you at all times.

Police officers or Immigration officials do random checks on foreigners in the streets. To avoid being accused of being an illegal resident or getting fined, always carry your Residence Card whenever you leave your house. Do take note though that the police or officials must present to you their identification first before they can ask you to present your Residence Card.

2. Notify the Immigration on any changes in name, date of birth, gender, or nationality.

Any changes to the information on your Residence Card should be reported within fourteen days from the time of change at your nearest Regional Immigration Bureau.

3. Notify your municipality when you change your residential address.

You should make sure that the address stated on your Residence Card is current to make it your official residential address.

4. In case you lose your card, immediately apply for re-issuance.

You must apply for a new Residence Card within fourteen days from the day you lose it. Not doing so can get you fined up to ¥200,000 or worse, get imprisoned.

5. Do not lend or transfer it to others.

Needless to say, it is a crime to lend your Residence Card to others for whatever reason they may be.

Medium to long-term residents does not apply to the following:

  • Persons with a period of stay of up to three months or less.
  • Persons with a short term stay status.
  • Persons with a “Diplomat” or “Official“ status of residence.
  • Persons determined by ordinance of the Ministry of Justice to be one of the above.
  • Staff of Japanese office of the Association of East Asian Relations such as Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in Japan, and the Permanent General Mission of Palestine in Japan who are granted “ Designated Activities” permission and their family
  • Special permanent residents

Sources: Foreign Resident Manual by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government and Immigration Bureau of Japan's Website

 (20 November 2019)

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