Friday, September 06, 2013

The New Re-entry Permit System

As you most likely know by now, there has been a pretty big change in the Japanese immigration system over the past year or so. Gone are the "gaijin cards," replaced with more inoccuous sounding "resident cards." Even better, the expensive and terribly inconvenient "re-entry permit" (sai-nyukoku kyoka 再入国許可)that all resident aliens were required to pony up for before leaving the country. 

But little do many foreigners know, the re-entry permit system is not actually gone; rather, it has just been simplified and stream-lined, thereby removing the trip to the immigration authorities before you travel. Let's take a look.

The new entry permit is technically called a minashi sai-nyukoku kyoka ni yoru shukkoku-chu (みなし再入国許可による出国中), or as the authorities call it "departure with special re-entry permission." Let's just call it a "new re-entry permit" for now.

The new embarkation/debarkation card for residents
Remember that long, foldable card that you always have to fill out before you leave and enter Japan? Well that is still around, with a few important modifications. The biggest change is the check box toward the bottom of the card that asks whether or not you want to apply for "departure with special re-entry permission on the spot.
The re-entry permit is now stamped
on to your embarkation card

Make sure you check this box if you plan to return to Japan. If not, you will have to fork over your Resident Card and you will forfeit your status of residence. Your re-entry permission is good for one year from the date you leave the country (2 years if you are a Special Permanent Resident like an ethic Korean or Chinese).

According to the authorities, the re-entry window cannot be extended while abroad and, for all intents and purposes, no exceptions are made for those who spend more than a year abroad.

The actual permit itself is stamped on to the back of your embarkation/disembarkation card. The embarkation half of the form will be torn off by the immigration officer and the disembarkation half will be stapled and folded into your passport. Make sure not to tear it off!

If you are looking for more info, make sure that you check out the Immigration Bureau's English Q&A site or drop them a line for more specific council.


  1. An important addendum: If you plan to leave the country for more than a year, you'll need to acquire a re-entry permit in the old fashion; visit the immigration bureau that covers your jurisdiction and apply for a re-entry permit sticker to be placed in your passport. As part of the application, they'll probably ask some cursory questions about why you intend to be out of Japan for more than a year yet want to retain your current landing permission and status of residence. In this case, when you go through immigration at the airport, you should not check the 「みなし再入国許可」 checkbox on the embarkation card. Instead, point out your re-entry permit sticker in your passport to the immigration official to make sure your departure is processed correctly.

  2. I did not check the box and was granted re-entry without a fuss.
    I highly doubt they would revoke your status of residence simply because you didn't check a box.

  3. My guess is that the immigration officer checked it for you. When you pass through, they usually explicitly ask if you are planning to return to Japan and if that return will be within a year to check if you fit the criteria for someone needing special re-entry permission and just forgot to check the box.

  4. LP- Good point. I think the new law says that over one year re-entry permit is "will issue," meaning that you will need to make a pretty solid case with evidence to the immigration authorities as to why you need to be away for so long. And even then they still can tell you "no."

    Taxed- Probably depends on your immigration officer. I missed one small box and was promptly sent to the back of the line. If you have a return ticket on hand they will probably just assume you are going to come back.

  5. can i reenter japan eventhough my resident card is expired and my special re-entry permit isnt a year yet?