By ATOM Legal Professional Corporation English speaking lawyers in Japan

If you are a foreign national with a spouse visa/status of residence in Japan and are facing divorce, it’s natural to be concerned about the fate of your visa once the divorce is finalized. This article will cover the necessary matters concerning changing your visa status post-divorce. It’s imperative that you don’t overstay your visa while living in Japan as the consequence is deportation, which would make re-entry into the country illegal for a period of 5 years.

Reporting the divorce

If you get divorced from your Japanese spouse, you are required to report the divorce to the Immigration office within two weeks. You can download the Notification of Relationship with Spouse form from the Ministry of Justice website, or click here to access it. Once you have completed the form, bring it to the Immigration office nearest you to officially register your divorce. It is also possible to complete this process online by clicking here.

To learn more about the specific methods of divorce in Japan, click here.

Time limit to change visa status

In 2012, the law was changed whereby a foreign spouse of a Japanese national who becomes divorced may no longer stay in Japan until the expiry date of their spouse visa. Now, the immigration office may revoke your spouse visa after 6 months from the divorce. You must file a petition for change of status of residence within this 6-month grace period, or leave Japan upon the end of the 6 months. Note that this does not apply, of course, if you are already a permanent resident of Japan.

Change of status of residence

As your spouse visa will expire within 6 months of your divorce, if you plan on remaining in Japan, it will be necessary to file a petition for change of status of residence.

If you are currently employed, you may choose to have your company sponsor a working visa. Alternatively, it is eventually possible to change your spouse visa to a “Long Term Resident” visa if you have lived long enough in Japan (approx. 5 years) or if you have a child of Japanese nationality to raise in Japan. In order for the prior condition to be applicable, the child must be underage and you should have parental authority (child custody) over the child.

According to Article 20.2 of the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act: Any Foreign National who wishes to have their status of residence changed… must apply to the Minister of Justice for the change of the status of residence in accordance with the procedures provided for by the Ministry of Justice Order; provided, however, that if the relevant Foreign National wishes to have their status of residence changed to that of “Permanent Resident”, they must comply with the procedures pursuant to the provisions of Article 22, paragraph (1).

When an application for a change of status of residence has been submitted as set forth in the preceding paragraph, the Minister of Justice of Japan may grant permission only when the Minister finds that there are reasonable grounds to grant the change of status of residence on the strength of the documents submitted by the foreign national (Article 20.3, Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act).

Summary

Check the below important matters as a summary of what was covered in this article:

  • A spouse visa is valid for 6 months after the divorce is filed
  • You must file a petition for change of status of residence if you intend to stay in Japan beyond the above-mentioned 6-month grace period
  • It is left to the discretion of the Minister of Justice to grant permission to change the status of residence of a foreign national 
  • You may apply for the Long-Term Resident visa if you have lived in Japan for approximately 5 years or longer, or if you have an underage child of Japanese nationality

Consult an English-speaking lawyer

To avoid any of the serious consequences that come to bear when one overstays a visa in Japan, as well as the risk involved when changing the status of a visa, contact an English-speaking lawyer to ensure you are fully aware of the steps you will need to take to legally stay in Japan.

Call 03-6868-8647 for a consultation, or contact us through our online contact form.

This page is intended to be used for informational purposes only and should not be a substitute for obtaining professional legal advice. For advice from a lawyer, please call the number listed above.

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