How to Get Your Japan Residence Card

November 6th, 2012By Category: Uncategorized

In a previous post on my blog and (here on GaijinPot) I mentioned to you that there have been some pretty significant changes to Japan’s Immigration System, many of which are changes for the better. For example, those with a valid Japan work visa, unless you’re staying out of the country for longer than a year, you reentry will be as simple as showing your new card to Japanese officials at the airport. The maximum visa length has also been extended to five years instead of three. Rumor has it that it’s a little more difficult to obtain permanent residency, but I’m not sure how true that is because I’ve haven’t applied to be a permanent resident. Now that you know some of the changes that have been implemented by the Ministry of Justice, I think it’s a good idea to show you how to get your new card. Here’s my personal experience:

Before we get into the actual how-to’s of getting your new card, here are the four things you’ll need to successfully change your Alien Registration Card:

1. Resident Card Application Form
2. Your Old Alien Registration Card (ARC)
3. Your Passport
4. A 4cm x 3cm Passport Photo

Step 1: Get Your Resident Card Application Form

I’m sure that each Immigration Bureau has a different setup, but there should be an information desk, of some sort, near the main entrance. At the Tokyo Immigration Bureau on the first floor, you’ll see it directly in front of you as a you walk in. Go to the desk and you should see the forms in plain view. If not, you may have to ask on of the clerks for the form.

In Japanese, the word Residence Card Application looks like this:

在留カード交付申請書 (KANJI & KATAKANA)
ざいりゅうカードこうふしんせいしょ (HIRAGANA & KATAKANA)

So you can ask the clerk :
“Zai ryuu ka-do kohu shinseisho wo onegaishimsu.” or
“Zai ryuu ka-do shinseisho wo kudasai.”
This means, “A Residence Card Application please.”

If that’s hard for your to remember (It is a mouthful of Japanese),

Take out your old Alien Registration Card and say, using your best gesture for changing something:

“Sono ka-do wo chenji wo shitai.” Which means I would like to change this card. That should be good enough to at least get you the application form. If talking fails. If you can’t speak Japanese just yet, don’t sweat it. Copy and paste the kanji characters above into your cell phone/smart phone or jot down the hiragana on a piece of paper and just show it to the clerk.

Step 2: Fill Out the Residence Card Application and Affix Your Photo

Hopefully you got all of the things you needed before heading to Immigration Bureau. However, for those of you who didn’t, and you’re going to the bureau in Shinigawa, you’re in luck! I personally walked in with nothing but my passport and my old Alien Registration Card and I came out of the bureau with a brand new residence card.

At the Shinigawa Bureau (and I’m guessing most others as well), there are several instant passport photo booths you can use to take pictures cheaply and easily. It cost me just 700円 for a sheet of passport photos. The Shinigawa Bureau even has this snazzy little cropping device to cut your pictures to the exact 4cm x 3cm size requirement with the push of a lever. They even have scissors and glue you can use free of charge.

After filling out the short application form, glue your photo to the picture box in the upper right box on the form.

Step 3: Take Your Application to the Next Station for Processing

After all is filled out you’ll take your application to the next counter for processing. I can’t remember the exact booth I went to upstairs. I want to say it was counter number two, but don’t quote me on that. There will be signs in English that will direct you to the proper counter. If in doubt ask the clerk at the information desk. You can just walk over with your filled out form, look confused and say “Dou suru?” and he’ll tell you which booth number to go to. You’ll give the next clerk your application along with your passport and previous Alien Registration Card.

Step 4: Get Your Number & Wait

Once the processing clerk has your application you’ll get a number in exchange. Take your number and get comfortable (especially if you’re there during peak late morning/early afternoon hours).

This can potentially be the hardest part of the entire process. I had to wait for a couple of hours to get my card because I went during a peak time. Please keep in mind that if you get there early and you’re one of the first ones in, you can get out fairly quickly. The early bird catches the card…er…worm.

STEP 5: Get Your New Residence Card

If all went well, your number will show up on the screen, you’ll go to the counter and get your brand new, residence card. CONGRATULATIONS!

Photo by LucasTheExperience via Flickr Creative Commons

Author of this article

Donald Ash

Donald Ash is the creator of website.  He is from Atlanta, Georgia, U.S. and is currently living and working in Ibaraki, Japan as an English teacher.  The majority of his professional work has been in the educational field, having taught both karate and middle school in the United States.

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  • Guillaume Choinière says:

    I will be in japan in a few weeks as part of an exchange (about 6 month), If I understood right, I will get my residence card at the airport (Narita) and I need to complete it at a local government office. Is the ward office (Kohoku or Naka, in Yokohama) the place to go? And what documents, besides the residence card and my passport, do I need to get it completed? Thanks!

  • Kryonetik says:

    I believe you can at Narita, Haneda, Kansai, or Chubu airports, at the municipal offices. I’m guessing that your already back in Japan though? Did it work out?

  • Jeanette Tovey says:

    If I am entering japan on a Sunday, can I still get my resident card issued at the airport?


  • leslie nguyen says:

    The five steps don’t sound too bad, thanks ~

  • zoomingjapan says:

    This sounds annoying. So I have to go all the way to an immigration office and can’t do it in the city hall? For people living in the inaka, that’s really annoying! 🙁
    I’ve been here for almost 5 years now and my ARC is soon expiring, so I need to get the Resicdence Card. Gotta figure out where to go, I guess.

    Thanks for this article! ^^