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Application for Naturalization

What are the reasons to naturalize? Do you want to live in Japan forever? Do you want to freely go to any country with a Japanese passport? Do you want to participate in Japanese elections? The reasons are as varied as our applicants.

Naturalization means that a foreign national acquires Japanese nationality with the permission of the Minister of Justice. The number of naturalization applicants continues to increase every year as more foreign nationals are considering acquiring Japanese nationality.

Even though the number of applicants is increasing, if you do not meet the conditions of naturalization, you will not be able to obtain permission even if you apply.

Changing your nationality is a major event. At IMS Legal Professional Corporation, we will do our very best to support everyone who has made such an important decision.

Page Contents
Difference Between Naturalization and Permanent Residence
Basic Application Conditions (Work Visa Holders)
Application Process
Refund Policy

Difference Between Naturalization and Permanent Residence

If you are viewing this page, you may have already decided to naturalize. But if you're wondering whether to apply for a permanent resident visa or go through the process of naturalization, let's look at the differences between the two. It is also possible to apply for a permanent resident visa and naturalization at the same time, as long as the application requirements are met. If you are interested in a permanent resident visa, please see this page.

Naturalization Permanent Residence
Examining Body Legal Affairs Bureau Immigration Bureau
Nationality Change to Japanese nationality Retain your home country's nationality
Japanese Family Register (koseki) Yes No
Voting Rights Yes
(Able to vote, run for office, and participate in Japanese national politics)
Passport Japanese passport Passport of your home country
Deportation Not subject to deportation Subject to deportation

The application for naturalization will be processed at the Legal Affairs Bureau that has jurisdiction over the address at which you live. The application will not be processed by Immigration. The application also requires a considerably larger amount of documents and materials than applying for a Japanese visa. Although it can be difficult to understand what kinds of documents to prepare, in reality, it just takes time and effort.

Basic Conditions for Naturalization Applications (for work visa holders)

IMS can provide mutilingual support for completing the naturalization application form, guidance on which required documents are needed, and how to acquire them. If you are considering applying for naturalization, please don't hesitate to contact us.

The requirements necessary for applying for naturalization are strictly set. If you do not meet these requirements, you cannot apply for naturalization, so please check that you meet them.

Continuously lived at a Japanese address for more than 5 years

One of the basic requirements for applying for naturalization is that you have a visa (status of residence) approved by Immigration and have lived in Japan for 5 years or more. If you are in Japan on a student visa, you are not considered to have an address in Japan. As an example, if you have stayed in Japan for 4 years on a student visa and then worked for a Japanese company (on a working visa) for 1 year after graduation, the 4 years as a student do not count towards the 5 years requirement. You will need to wait 4 more years while working at a Japanese company in this case.

In addition, if you leave Japan for more than a few months, the period you lived in Japan up to that point will be "reset", and you will need to re-count your time living in Japan beginning after you return.

Have been working for more than 3 years with a work visa

While "continuously lived at a Japanese address for more than 5 years," you are required to have had a working visa for over 3 years.

When applying for naturalization, it is not necessary to have the longest period of stay (3 or 5 years) as in the case of a permanent residence visa application, as long as you have held the same visa status for 1 year or more. Therefore, it is OK even if you have renew your working visa every year as long as you work for a total of 3 years or more.

*If you have a Dependent of a Japanese National visa, you can apply for naturalization after 3 years of marriage and if you have an address in Japan for more than 1 year. Also, if you have a permanent residence visa, the 3-year working visa requirement does not apply.

20 years old or older

To apply for naturalization, you must be at least 20 years of age and have reached the age of majority according to the laws of your home country. Age requirements are relaxed for naturalization applications for children applying at the same time as their parents.

Be of good conduct

When applying for naturalization, one main question is, "Do you live a serious life in Japan?" This applies to applicants who have never been involved in a crime and do not pose a bother to Japanese society. The amount and severity of traffic violations can also be used as determining criteria.

In addition, whether or not you are diligent in paying taxes is an important criteria, as "tax payment" is one of the three major obligations of citizens of Japan. Those who have not paid taxes can pay past amounts as well, so please pay off your taxes completely before applying for naturalization.

Furthermore, you will also need a certification of participation in the Japanese pension system. If you do not contribute to this system, you cannot apply for naturalization. Payment into the pension system is based on the rule that people living in Japan between the ages of 20 and 60 must pay regardless of their nationality. (There is also a reimbursement system called a lump-sum withdrawal payment when you return to your home country from Japan.) Therefore, you cannot use a non-Japanese nationality as an excuse to not pay into the Japanese pension system. Therefore, please make sure you join the national pension system (employee pension if you work for a company). In some cases, it may be possible to make past payments. If you are a company employee, please check your employee's salary statement to see if the employee pension payment has been deducted.

You are able to make a living on your own

A naturalization application will screen your ability to work and live on your own. There is no requirement for annual income, but you must have a stable workplace and income. Also, if you have some kind of qualification, this will be recognized as "skill/ability" and may work positively toward your application. In other words, not only annual income, but also the ability and skills necessary for making a living in the future will be determined during the examination. The amount in your savings is not as important as the ability to make a living on your own, so please be sure you have an annual income and a stable job.

*For those who have a Spouse of a Japanese National visa status or a permanent visa, the livelihood requirements listed here will be relaxed.

You are able to lose your nationality

Japan does not allow dual-nationality, so you must renounce your nationality before or after your naturalization is permitted. Please check the laws of your country before applying to see if you can renounce your nationality.

Ability to speak Japanese

Can you speak Japanese? When applying for naturalization, you must have a 7 to 8-year-old level of proficiency in Japanese. Since this is the national language ability required of the Japanese elementary school grades (grades 1-3), you must be able to understand simple kanji in addition to hiragana and katakana. Bascially, you should be able to have a smooth conversation in Japanese with an official from the Legal Affairs Bureau. Naturally, you need some Japanese ability in order to live in Japan as a Japanese citizen. Although it is sometimes said that you need to take a reading and writing test in Japanese when applying for naturalization, in reality, this requirement depends on the results of the conversation with the Legal Affairs Bureau official who is in charge of your application.

Application Process

Thank you for reading this far. Have you determined whether you can apply for naturalization and your chances of success?

Naturalization applications are time-consuming and labor-intensive, including having multiple interviews before the application is accepted and the long time it takes to prepare documents. Applications will not be accepted unless all documents are complete. The examination period usually takes 6 months to 1 year to complete, from the time the application is accepted.

Naturally, everyone has different lives and careers. If you ask IMS Legal Professional Corporation to act on your behalf for your naturalization application, we will inform you of all of the required documents and you will spend less time and effort. Below is a brief outline of the process if you request our services.

1. First, send us an email at or call us at 03-5402-6191.
2. Then, please answer the questions asked by one of our certified administrative scriveners or our staff.
3. If we determine that you are able and ready to apply for naturalization, we will give you more information during a pre-application consultation.

※Paid consultation, 5,500 yen (tax included) for 30 minutes. This consultation fee is non-refundable and not included in the money-back guarantee.
4. During the pre-application consultation, we will ask you for details about your current circumstances and background. We will also provide you information on the application contract.

※Receiving a consultation is different from requesting application services. There is no problem only receiving a consultation and then deciding not to apply.
5. Client requests IMS application services
6. Sign contract and issue invoice (contract can be signed online)
7. Pay application fees (cash, bank transfer, or credit card payments available)
8. One of our administrative scriveners will make the initial consultation reservation with the Legal Affairs Bureau and accompany the applicant

※For naturalization applications, the Legal Affairs Bureau will request extra documents in addition to the basic documents, depending on the applicant's nationality and past history. If the applicant goes to the consultation alone and only brings the documents they have been told, they may have to make several trips if the consultation officer only tells them, "Bring this document next." However, if accompanied by an administrative scrivener, they will be told all the necessary documents at once. We can help save you the trouble of multiple trips to the Legal Affairs Bureau.
9. Applicant gathers required documents
10. The administrative scrivener in charge creates the application materials including letter detailing reason for applying

※This reason letter must be handwritten by the applicant. We will give you the contents of what to write, and then you will have to copy it by hand in Japanese.
11. Final check of application documents with the applicant
12. Submit application to the Legal Affairs Bureau

※Since the application must be submitted by the applicant in-person, you must visit the Legal Affairs Bureau yourself. At that time, the administrative scrivener in charge of your application will accompany you.
13. If the Legal Affairs Bureau does not accept the application, we will refund 66,000 yen from the amount received in step 7.
14. Examination start (during the examination, the Legal Affairs Bureau will send you a notice about the interview)

※The administrative scrivener will not accompany you to the interview. (We will provide you information on possible questions.)

※The examination period takes roughly 10 to 15 months.

※During the examination period, the Legal Affairs Bureau may request that you submit additional documents or attend an interview. Please let us know if you receive any requests from the Legal Affairs Bureau.
15. After the examination is completed, the Legal Affairs Bureau will notify you of the results.
★ If your status of residence expires during your naturalization application, you will still need to apply for a renewal of period of stay.

Multi-Language Support

IMS Legal Professional Corporation values smooth communication with our clients, which is why we offer our services in multiple languages. If you are worried that your situation is difficult to explain in Japanese, we have native staff who can speak Chinese, Korean, English, and Vietnamese, so please feel free to contact us in your language of choice.

Sincere Effort

Unlike visa applications, naturalization applications are not as simple as preparing and submitting basic documents. We will comprehensively analyze the client's status of residence, confirm details in advance, and consider how to proceed according to the client's individual situation. As part of our good faith efforts, if we believe that it will be difficult for the client to naturalize based on their information, we will honestly say as much.

Therefore, we would like to ask for the cooperation of our clients, and be honest with everything when consulting with us. For example, traffic violations, having past delinquent taxes, or leaving the country for several months all affect the decision regarding your application. We are not examiners; we are a company that wants to support our clients' naturalization applications. In order to do this, it is very important for us to judge in advance whether or not you can get permission to naturalize.

■ Refund Policy

For clients who elect to use our naturalization application proxy services, IMS Legal Professional Corporation will accompany the applicant twice: once at the initial meeting with the Legal Affairs Bureau, and once at the time of application for naturalization. If at the initial meeting the applicant is determined to have not met the requirements for naturalization, 70% of the contract amount will be refunded.

※Please note that we cannot provide a refund if the applicant decides to cancel the application or loses contact with us after the initial meeting, even if the application is approved.