Culture and language vary from country to country. These diversities are fine as long as you are able to enjoy and learn from them while you are in Japan, but they also may complicate matters if you get into trouble. And, while pondering the causes of your problems and how to solve them, your love for Japan may even turn into a dislike for the country. At Koguchi’s Consultation Office we take care of your concerns and respond to all your queries. Foreign nationals frequently happen to encounter problems when going through the various administrative procedures and we would like to help them. We strive hard to convert even your troubles into good memories, therefore, please get in touch with us!
Takao Koguchi, Gyoseisyoshi
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What is the status of residence?
What kind of status of residence is required when a foreign employee is hired?
What kind of penal regulations apply in case of illegal employment?
Do I have to register as an alien in all cases?
In which cases do I have to register changes in registered details in my alien registration?
Please tell me which points I should pay attention to if I want to hire a foreign national!
What should be done if a foreign national sustains injury at work?
Please explain how to deal with injury in a traffic accident in case of a foreign national!
Will a foreign national be entered in the family register if he/she marries a Japanese national or a child is born?
Is paying taxes compulsory for foreign nationals?

Q1 What is the status of residence?
Foreign nationals landing in Japan, as a general rule, have to obtain a landing permit from the Immigration Bureau of the landing area. At the time the foreign national receives this permit, it will also be decided under which status and how long the person will be allowed to stay in Japan. We refer to these as status of residence and period of stay. The Immigration Control Act determines 27 kinds of status of residence and depending on the kind of status of residence, the activities the foreign national is allowed to engage in are regulated. The different status of residence can be roughly divided in two groups: those that authorize to engage in activities or work for remuneration, and those that do not. The former is the so-called "working visa" or "business visa". However, please note that these are not official terms. We cannot give explanations concerning any individual status of residence here, but, either way, any foreign national thinking of living in Japan first of all should find out which kind of status of residence he/she would be able to acquire.
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Q2 What kind of status of residence is required when a foreign employee is hired?

There are 27 kinds of status of residence, out of which 20 are applicable for work (that is, earn wages by working). This means that a foreign national residing and working in Japan always needs to obtain a status of residence. This status of residence authorizes the foreign national to engage in work and corresponds to the kind of activity the person wishes to conduct and their situation. Classifications include that of Diplomat, Journalist, Specialist in Humanities/ International Services, Engineer, Intra-company Transferee, Spouse or Child of a Japanese National, etc.
Although there are kinds of status of residence which basically do not permit to engage in work, a system that allows the person to work a limited fixed amount of hours (part-time work) also exists (the so-called Permission to Engage in an Activity Other Than That Permitted by the Status of Residence Previously Granted).

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What kind of penal regulations apply in case of illegal employment?
A foreign national who engages in work without a legal status of residence might be punished by imprisonment for up to three years or a fine of up to three million yen.
Furthermore, a person who employs an illegal worker at a corporation or mediates such employment might be subject to imprisonment for up to three years or a fine of up to three million yen (in accordance with the revised Immigration Control Act enforced from December 2, 2004).
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Do I have to register as an alien in all cases?
According to the Alien Registration Law, a foreign national has to apply for alien registration within 90 days from the date of landing in Japan (foreign nationals born in Japan within 60 days from the date of birth). To be more precise, you should register as an alien if you expect to stay in Japan for more than 90 days. For a stay of 90 days or less as a temporary visitor registration is not necessary. Therefore, if you stay in Japan holding a status of residence other than temporary visitor we recommend that you register as an alien as soon as possible. As failure to register as an alien may hamper procedures at the Immigration Bureau when applying for an extension of period of stay or a re-entry permit, or may lead to denial of services of local government run and public facilities in your residential area, you should be sure to register.

The place of registration is the ward, city or town office where you reside. Moreover, even if you are a foreign national overstaying your visa, your alien registration will be accepted and, for the same reasons as mentioned before, we recommend that you get registered. There also happen to be cases where foreigners overstaying their visas do not register because they fear that the immigration would be contacted and they would be forced to leave the country (which is called deportation), but, apart from criminal cases, these worries are unfounded.
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In which cases do I have to register changes in registered details in my alien registration?

When registering as an alien, an Alien Registration Certificate (also called gaikokujin-card) with a photograph will be issued. The foreign national may carry this gaikokujin-card with him in lieu of his passport, which is useful in order to prevent the loss or theft of the passport as well.
An application for registration of change in registered items is, as a general rule, required within 14 days in case of any change related to a registered matter such as address or work place. If you apply for registration of change of a registered matter, the changed matter will be added as a postscript on the backside of your card.
Apart from this, the city, ward, town or village office will handle all procedures in regard to exchange, issuance, or re-issuance of a card, if your card has been damaged or soiled, or in case of theft or loss, or in regard to the general renewal every 5 years (a system similar to renewal of the driving license).
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Please tell me which points I should pay attention to if I want to hire a foreign national!
As the penalties in regard to the illegal employment of foreigners has been referred to before, in this section we will consider the rights of foreign nationals as workers. The issue here is whether the Japanese Labor Law also applies in the case of foreign workers. In the case of foreign nationals who hold a status of residence that permits work, as well as in the case of foreign nationals working illegally, Labor Laws such as the Labor Standard Law are applied in exactly the same way as in the case of Japanese nationals. In accordance with this, the employer is not permitted to discriminate between foreign nationals and Japanese workers in regard to working conditions.
It appears that there were cases in which illegal workers, who end up in weaker positions than anyone else, have not been paid their wages or unjust dismissal has taken place. Please ensure that such incidents do not happen.
A foreign national who changes employer can file an application for issuance of a Certificate of Authorized Employment with the Immigration Bureau if he/she holds status of residence authorizing employment and if the allocated period of stay has not expired yet. In this case you can be assured that this will neither result in any problem for the side that employs the foreign national nor is there any likelihood that a subsequent renewal of the status of residence would not be permitted

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What should be done if a foreign national sustains injury at work?
A foreign national who encounters an industrial accident within Japan, in principle, will receive insurance benefits in accordance with the Workmen's Accident Compensation Insurance in the same way as a Japanese national. Here, the entitlement to benefits does not change, even if the foreigner is overstaying his visa or engaging in an activity that is not authorized by his/her status (i.e. if he is working illegally).
Apparently, there are cases in which the persons concerned forgo insurance benefits due to problems such as overstaying the visa, or, for the same reason, employers do not cooperate with the formalities. However, because foreign workers are usually not reported to the immigration authorities during the insurance benefit procedures, applications for Workmen's Accident Compensation are likely to be handled positively in regard to the victim.
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Please explain how to deal with injury in a traffic accident in case of a foreign national!
If a foreign national falls victim to a traffic accident and claims compensation, the person who caused the accident (or the insurance company he/she is insured with) has to cover damages such as medical bills, compensation for sick-leave, loss of profits, and consolation money basically in the same way as in the case of a Japanese victim. The issue here is the assessment of loss of profit in case of claims for compensation of income. Here the problem arises whether the income standard within Japan (such as average wages) or the standard of the home-country of the foreign victim will be considered to assess the loss of profits.
Many matters, such as whether the foreign national is holding a status of residence or staying illegally, whether he/she is authorized to work or working illegally, whether he/she will continue to stay in Japan after the accident or return to one's home-country, the extent of damage (accident resulting in death, whether any lasting damage was suffered) have to be considered.
Even if we look at court verdicts in such cases there is no consistency and we can find judicial precedents in which the Japanese standard was recognized and others in which it was not recognized. From the standpoint of a foreigner who suffered damages, compensation based on the Japanese standard should be demanded. The matter should be handled in accordance with the concept of equality under the law as laid down in the Japanese constitution and in the interest of a fair distribution of the burden of compensation between the parties concerned.
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Will a foreign national be entered in the family register if he/she marries a Japanese national and a child is born?
In the case of a foreign national getting married to a Japanese national, a new family register with the Japanese husband (or wife) as the head of the household is established in which the foreign wife (or husband) is only mentioned as the foreign national the Japanese spouse is married to.
Furthermore, if a child is born to this married couple, the child will be entered in the family register of the Japanese father (or mother) as a Japanese national. (Of course, the name of the foreign parent will also be entered.)
When a new family register is established due to the marriage to a foreign national, usually the Japanese spouse will be entered with his/her premarital name, but the name can be changed to that of the foreign spouse by notification within 6 months from the day of marriage. (In this case the name will be registered by the equivalent in Katakana as the letters of the Roman alphabet cannot be used.)
However, even in this case, no family register is set up for the foreign spouse.
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Q10 Is paying taxes compulsory for foreign nationals?
The two kinds of taxes that will most likely be of concern for foreign nationals are income tax and resident tax. In principle, income earned by foreign nationals within Japan is taxable in the same way as that of Japanese nationals but, as circumstances are different from one foreign national to another, the way this matter is handled differs depending on the length of stay (whether you are staying for less than a year, or a year or longer) and whether you have a domicile ([jusho] as opposed to a residence [kyosho]). Furthermore, foreign employees, as well as Japanese employees, are subject to payment of income taxes by means of withholding at the source by the employer. Resident tax will be withheld in the same manner in relation to the domicile or residence the foreign national held on January 1st of the respective year.
The situation is also the same as for Japanese nationals if a final income tax return is required or in case a tax refund could be expected if a final return was filed. It is different, however, in cases such as foreign nationals receiving income abroad or remitting allowances to dependents abroad. Here you should consult a licensed tax accountant or a tax office to confirm the appropriate procedures.
If a person who is required to file a final tax return departs from Japan permanently prior to the due date to file a tax return there are two ways to proceed.
Firstly, the taxpayer can designate a person to administer his tax affairs and receive the return on their behalf. In this case, the person has to notify the tax office of the administrator in advance.
The other way is to prepare the tax return before departing and entrust a proxy only to receive the money in case of a return. This method requires that the taxpayer hands in a letter of attorney related to the reception of the return to the tax office at the time of filing the tax return.