Difference between Permanent Residence and naturalization
Many of the foreigners living in Japan probably wish to eventually acquire permission for Permanent Residence or to be naturalized to acquire Japanese nationality.
In this article, we will explain the advantages and disadvantages of Permanent Residence and naturalization.
This article should help you to understand the difference between Permanent Residence and naturalization.
So, please read through if you are considering to acquire permission for Permanent Residence or to apply for naturalization.
1. Characteristics of Permanent Residence
Permanent Residence (i.e. the status of residence of “Permanent Resident,” to be exact) is one of the statuses of residence, and is positioned as the highest status of residence among the statuses of residences stipulated in the Immigration Act.
The major differences from other statuses of residence are (1) there is no concept of period of stay, and (2) there are no restrictions on activities in Japan.
1) There is no fixed period of stay
The maximum period of stay is 5 years for any status of residence, except for Permanent Residence and Highly-Skilled Foreign Professional II.
If foreigners wish to continue to stay in Japan after the expiration of their status of residence, they need to submit an application for permission to extend their period of stay to the Immigration Bureau and obtain permission.
Foreigners may feel stressed every time the expiration date approaches, as they have to go through troublesome applications and also become anxious, worrying about whether they can get permission.
On the other hand, Permanent Residence does not have a fixed period of stay, so foreigners are freed from the trouble and anxiety of applications for extension. It may be one of the greatest advantages for foreigners.
You may have noticed that permanent residence cards has a validity period of 7 years, but the validity period of the residence card is literally the validity period of the card itself, and permanent residency is not expired along with the card.
You can obtain a new residence card after the expiration of the previous residence card.
2) There are no restrictions on activities in Japan
Each status of residence designates specific activities, and foreigners must continue such specified activities.
If foreigners do not carry out such specified activities for a certain period of time, their status of residence may be revoked.
For example, if a person with a working type of status of residence quits his/her job, his/her status of residence will be subject to cancellation unless he/she finds a new job within 3 months. In addition, the new job must meet the status of residence he/she already has.
In addition, for those who have a status of residence based on his/her status such as “Spouse or Child of Japanese National,” if they get divorced or bereaved, they are forced to leave Japan unless they remarry or change to another status of residence.
Unlike some other types of status of residence, Permanent Residence does not have restrictions on activities.
In other words, if you acquire Permanent Residence, you can freely choose a job without worrying about its content, and even if you get divorced, your Permanent Residence will not be cancelled.
Thus, if you acquire Permanent Residence, you will no longer have restrictions on activities in Japan, which will greatly expand your options for future life plans.
2. Characteristics of naturalization
Naturalization means acquiring the nationality of another country at the will of the person.
In other words, naturalization to Japanese nationality means that a non-Japanese person acquires Japanese nationality and become Japanese.
If a foreigner naturalize to Japanese, he/she does not fall under the definition of “foreigner” under the Immigration Act (Article 2, item (i)) any more. Therefore, he/she is not subject to the status of residence system and become freed from various obligations as a foreigner.
Since there is no concept of period of stay for Japanese people living in Japan, you will not need to go through application process to extend period of stay any more.
Also, since the Japanese authorities cannot interfere with the lives of Japanese people living in Japan, you will be able to freely decide on work, marriage, and divorce.
3. Difference between Permanent Residence and naturalization: up to permission
From here, we will explain the differences between the application for Permanent Residence and the application for naturalization.
1) Where to submit applications
As mentioned above, Permanent Residence is a type of status of residence, and the Immigration Bureau of Japan manages the residence of foreigners.
Applications for the Permanent Residence need to be submitted to the Regional Immigration Bureau, which is the local branch office of the Immigration Services Agency of Japan.
On the other hand, to simply put, naturalization is the task of creating a new family register for foreigners who become Japanese, and the Ministry of Justice governs management of family register.
Therefore, applications for naturalization are submitted to Regional Legal Affairs Bureaus, which are local branch offices of the Ministry of Justice.
Some foreigners have repeatedly applied at immigration offices and are accustomed to the procedure, but many foreigners go to the Legal Affairs Bureau for the first time when applying for naturalization.
2) Documents required for application
During the examination for Permanent Residence, the officers will check if the person’s status of residence in Japan has been appropriate. When submitting an application for Permanent Residence to the Immigration Bureau, you also need to submit materials that are mainly obtained at Japanese government offices, such as documents demonstrating income, taxation status, tax payment status, pension payment status, etc. in Japan.
Sometimes, we submit foreign documents as well, but in most cases we only submit a marriage certificate that shows marriage relationship with spouse and a birth certificate that shows the parent-child relationship.
On the other hand, when you are applying for naturalization, in addition to the examination of whether or not the status of residence in Japan has been appropriate, it is necessary to submit materials showing your identity.
It is because as the result of naturalization, a new family register will be created, by which your identity as a Japanese is proved, and for that, following matters need to be demonstrated: the names of parents, their status in family (e.g. how many siblings and how many older siblings), marriage record, adoption record, birth record (if you have a child), and all kind of other matters related to you.
Please note that, such records/documents need to be certified by the relevant public institution of your home country.
As you can see, there are many documents that you must obtain from your home country when applying for naturalization.
This is another factor that makes the naturalization procedure seem troublesome.
3) Examination period
According to the official announcement, the standard examination period for Permanent Residence is 4 months.
However, in practice, permission is rarely obtained within 4 months. It varies depending on each immigration bureau, but it usually takes about 6 to 10 months.
You may have been surprised by the length of the examination period for Permanent Residence, but it takes even longer for naturalization.
The standard examination period has not been announced, and it takes approximately 1 year from application to official permission (i.e. publication in the official bulletin) for general foreigners other than special permanent residents.
We have heard that it used to take a couple of years.
As we will describe later, permission for naturalization cannot be easily revoked.
The examination is carried out very carefully as the compilations of family registers have a great effect on inheritance, etc.
4. Difference between Permanent Residence and naturalization: after permission
Next, we will compare the legal effects of Permanent Residence and that of naturalization after permission.
1) Revocation of permission/deportation
Permanent Residence is a type of status of residence, and you remain as a foreigner even after receiving permanent residency, so the Japanese government will continue to have authority to provide or cancel your status of residence.
Therefore, for example, if you submit false documents when applying for Permanent Residence to obtain permission, your status of residence of Permanent Residence will be revoked.
In addition, if you commit a major crime and are sentenced to imprisonment, you become subject to deportation, and you may actually be ordered to leave Japan.
In such case, compared to other statuses of residences, the fact of having the status of residence of Permanent Residence is generally taken into consideration, but you can still be subject to deportation.
On the other hand, once naturalization is granted, it would not be revoked.
In theory, it is possible for the Minister of Justice to revoke it by his authority, but since Japan does not allow dual citizenship, revoking the permission for naturalization makes the person stateless. If you do not have a nationality, you will have various disadvantages in both public and private matters, so unless public interests outweigh such huge disadvantages, naturalization permits cannot be revoked.
For your information, permission for naturalization has never been revoked in the past.
If there is a serious and obvious illegality in the process of applying for naturalization, it is possible in legal theory that such naturalization is invalid.
Having said that, people allege such invalidity only when they are regret about naturalization. In such case, they file an action to seek for confirmation of the invalidity of the disposition of naturalization permit (In our opinion, unless it is a case of mistaken identity or other special cases, the court will unlikely find invalidation of naturalization disposition).
In addition, unlike Permanent Residence, you would never be forced to leave Japan just because you have committed a serious crime after naturalization.
2) Re-entry permit
Even if you obtain a permission for Permanent Residence, you stay as a foreigner under law, so you must obtain a re-entry permit (or a deemed re-entry permit) if you intend to re-enter Japan from overseas.
If you do not re-enter Japan by the re-entry deadline, you will lose your Permanent Residence.
On the other hand, naturalization makes you a Japanese national, so no matter how long you stay outside of Japan, you can return to Japan.
Under the Japanese Constitution, foreigners do not have right to vote or to be voted.
Regarding the right to participate in local election, it is said that the Japanese Constitution does not prohibit local governments to give foreigners who have settled in Japan (i.e. permanent residents and special permanent residents) the right to vote or to be voted, but no local government has granted such rights before.
Therefore, even if you obtain Permanent Residence, you cannot run for members of the Diet or vote in the Japanese elections.
On the other hand, naturalization will give you rights equivalent to those given to Japanese people, so you can vote in elections, and former foreigners who have naturalized can become members of the Diet.
Even if you get Permanent Residence, your nationality will not be changed, so you will continue to have the same passport as before.
On the other hand, if you naturalize, you can get a Japanese passport.
Japan has visa exemption agreements with many countries, and you can travel to those countries without a visa.
If you like to travel abroad, this may be a big advantage for you, too.
5. Summary of the difference between Permanent Residence and naturalization
While reading this article, you might have felt that naturalization is more beneficial than Permanent Residence.
However, Japan does not allow dual citizenship, so if you are permitted to be naturalized, you must, in principle, renounce your nationality.
After the renouncement of your nationality, your home country will regard you as a foreigner, so you may have to obtain a visa every time you return home depending on which country you are from.
Once you change your nationality, it will not be easily restored.
Having said that, Permanent Residence and naturalization have many advantages, and they worth considering.
The comparison of Permanent Residence and naturalization is also introduced in “The advantages of a permanent resident visa,” so please refer to the article as well.
If you plan to live in Japan for a long time, why not try to obtain permission for Permanent Residence or to be naturalized as your eventual goal?
We offer free consultation for Permanent Residence and naturalization, so please feel free to contact us, Daiichi-Sogo Group!