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Category: Life Updates

Getting our Long-Term Resident Visa (Ancestry) for Japan – Bonus: Moving to Japan! (Part 4)

The Visa was tough, but not as rough as actually moving to Japan and getting settled! Check out our post about finding an apartment, setting up utilities and making friends in Japan.

TL;DRThe Visa was tough, but actually moving to Japan was a rollercoaster! Finding an apartment, registering at the local ward, figuring out utilities and daily life in a new language? Compared to that, the Visa was a piece of cake! Still – I have to admit that all of it? #worthit. Scroll to the end for our shout-out to all the amazing people that have helped us get settled. Love you guys. 

This is the fourth and final part in an epic series! See below for all posts:

  1. Our Story and Situation
  2. All the Required Documents for an Ancestry Visa in Japan
  3. Application Process and Timing
  4. Bonus: Actually moving to Japan (this post)

Leaving home (for good!)

Leaving was bittersweet – the one thing we’d been barreling toward full-speed was finally upon us, but we still had to say goodbye to our family, friends and the comfort that comes with having a support system. Still, we were moving to Japan! To be honest, sometimes I go outside and it still feels surreal.

A lot of people ask us when we’re coming back and how long our Visa will last. Honestly? We don’t know where life will take us, but we do plan to stay here for the foreseeable future. Our Visa can be renewed annually and once I pass the JLPT, I can renew that bad boy for FIVE years! So for now, this is our new forever home. Japan has unknowingly adopted us! Hahaha.

Actually Moving to Japan

Now let’s talk about the actual move. There are some KEY elements that you need to have sorted when you move. Your one-way flight is booked and you’re ready to go! First things first…

Immigration

Make sure you have your passport with your shiny Visa and your Certificate of Eligibility. It’s crazy how simple it is, but you get in the specified line at Immigration and hand over your docs and they process you right there and hand you a Zairyu Card (Resident Card). Which you’ll need for everything.

Finding an Apartment

You’ll need an agent. Yes, for a rental. Unless you’re fluent in reading (not just speaking) understanding that rental contract, application requirements, and all those fees will be pretty tricky.

For us, it took just about 3 weeks to have keys in hand. A week to tour various apartments, get approved and sign the contract. If you find a cheap enough place to stay when you arrive, I’d say a month would be a less stressful time block to get it all done. Especially if you’re working like we were.

Things we’ve learned

  • Living near a grocery store is key since the refrigerators here are tiny.
  • Living near a station that has multiple trains is also super nice – or between two stations.
  • Measure all your entryways to make sure the things you buy will fit (!)
  • Be ready to buy all the things – Apartments in Japan come with literally nothing. Some don’t even have a stove, much less a fridge, microwave or washer.
  • Everyone hangs their clothes outside vs. buying a dryer. It’s a thing, embrace it!

Buy all the things!

When we first moved here, we went straight to Muji because everything looked so cool and I’ve always loved Muji. While Muji does have an amazing assortment of quality products, it’s fairly pricey compared to Nitori. Not to mention, if you’re just buying things that don’t necessarily need to last forever, you can get them over at Daiso for a low¥108.

  • Big box stores like Yodobashi and Bic Camera have “new life support sets” (lol) that typically include a fridge and washer, plus smaller appliances like a microwave, kettle, rice cooker, etc.
  • Check out Daiso first, then Donki, then Ikea. You’d be surprised with what you can find at Daiso that looks suspiciously similar to brands like Muji.
  • TIMING – we visited Ikea and Nitori while we were waiting for approval so that we could click the order button online when we had an occupancy date. Our furniture arrived the day after we got our keys!

How much did we spend?

We get this a lot, actually. So here’s the breakdown. I shed a silent tear when I added it all up, thank goodness we started saving real early in the process (and that the process took FOREVER ahahhaa).

  • Initial fees for our apartment ¥754,266 – this included first month’s rent + prorated for extra days, security deposit, key money, agent fees, guarantor fee, management fee, 24/7 support (not optional) fee, lock change fee, fire insurance fee.
  • Base furniture ¥321,085 – this included our bed frame, mattress, pillows, sheets+pillowcases, refrigerator, microwave, washer, kotatsu, floor sofa, rug and curtains (honestly the biggest cost was linens – curtains for all the rooms and sheets are so $$! – and the kotatsu, which I love and was totally worth every cent now that winter’s here)

For an idea on our apartment size, we have a 500-ish square foot 2 bedroom apartment in a 3-story walk-up building about 5 minutes from the train station in Nakano. Over the past 9 months, we’ve definitely added more furniture and silly things like sleepy animals. Lol. If anyone wants an apartment tour, let us know in the comments. Otherwise, I’m way too lazy to do video. Hahaha.

The document circle of death

When you move, you’ll probably want to get a Japanese cell phone, open a bank account and register at your local ward. However, there’s a tricky paperwork trap.

  • Bank account – you need your resident card, a Japanese phone number and (if you want to wire money overseas) your MyNumber card
  • Japanese cell phone – you need a resident card with your address registered (and sometimes a Japanese bank account)
  • Resident Card – within two weeks of landing, you’re required to register an address with your local ward/city. This is also when you sign up for National Health Care if you need to.
  • MyNumber Card – After you register your address, the local ward will send you your MyNumber card. This usually takes ~2 weeks.

Since we were staying at an AirBnb for only 2 weeks (we didn’t know about the paperwork or have any clue how long the apartment process would take) – we registered using our friend’s address. Once we got our own apartment, we could just change it, but at least we got the 14-day requirement settled.

The one thing we did right was skipping the Japanese cell phone and using Skype to get a Japanese number. We’re both on Google’s Project Fi so we paid for data by the GB and mostly used WiFi. Honestly, there’s a ton of public WiFi in Japan, so on average we burn through only about 1GB a month, so $10 USD. This also gave us the ability to setup a bank account, granted we couldn’t wire any money into it until we got our MyNumber card. Lol.

Sidenote: Having a Japanese phone number also means you can use Takkyubin, which is the best thing ever if you’re moving with four huge bags that are all just skimming the weight limit. (avg bag cost for our huge luggage to go from Narita to Tachikawa was $25/each)

If you book your initial place for over two weeks, I’d check with your hotel/Airbnb host/friend to see if they’re cool with letting you register with that address, with the understanding that you’ll change it upon moving to your own digs.

Utilities

When you live at McDonalds because you have no Internet at home

Hooray for our real estate agent taking care of PART of this. He contacted the electric company, gas company, and water company. All we had to do was make sure we were home for the gas company to come in and get us setup. Internet was a whole nother beast, though.

Setting up Internet in Japan

First – it took THREE weeks to get Internet into our apartment after we moved in. THREE. WEEKS. For two people that work remotely from 5am this was pretty inconvenient, but we did luck out in that there was a McDonald’s down the street that was open 24/7 and had free WiFi. It’s crazy but the coffee shops in our area open at 7am at the earliest, with most cafes with seating not opening up shop until closer to 10a. So McDonald’s became our new coworking space.

Second – the actual process was hard. At this point, my Japanese level was pretty low so we headed to BIC Camera in Shinjuku thinking the bigger areas would have someone that could maybe speak English and we were right! It was a lot of patience on their part and a lot of google translate on ours, but three hours later, we signed a contract and were told to wait.

The next part was confusing. The company came to install the Internet, but while we had the cord running in our apartment, we still could not GET ON the Internet! We had to wait for our service provider (it’s typically a different company) to send us login information. This was all kind of unclear (boo google translate) but luckily the company we went with had English support (another reason we picked them) and when I called them, they were pretty helpful in explaining. It was SUCH a tease, though! We had the Internet – just no stinking login to set everything up. -_-

VPNs, TV and online accounts

Other things we’ve done since moving here is purchase a VPN (we were constantly using public WiFi when we were Internet-less) and setup online accounts for some Japan services. Like Amazon! Holy cow it’s $3USD/month for Prime and Prime shipping is actually next day here. #best. I also bought a Netflix Japan account (similar to US pricing).

Since we don’t have a TV (we haven’t had one since we moved to NYC back in 2011!) we watch most of our shows either on the lappie or the iPad. Which also means no Japanese cable TV, and we have the perfect excuse for when the NHK guys come to the door.

Sorting Trash

Honestly, of all the new cultural things we needed to learn, this one was pretty much the simplest. Since the Ward we live in has quite a few foreigners, they even have the instructions in English. While it makes me sad to think that the government has to be so accommodating, I’m not gonna lie – I was so grateful in that moment. Now that we’re used to it, it’s second nature though. Plastics, burnables, non-burnables, etc.

Meeting New People

I learned this the hard way when I moved to New York, but it’s really important to have a support system when you move somewhere new. Ryan is admittedly WAY better than me at this. Maybe it’s because he has more hobbies (tech meetups, anyone?)? Or he’s just better at planning things when I’m always feeling lazy. Hehe. In any case – meeting people and making friends is huge. And honestly, way less difficult than I thought it’d be.

We were lucky – we already knew some people up here so we immediately had close friends we could count on. But I thought it was important to have more friends (so I can effectively combat the loneliness monster, which always coaxes me to binge Netflix/webtoons and be lazy af) so I started going to Meetup groups and connecting with people online for language exchanges – as well as reaching out to old acquaintances that have moved here, and friends of friends. Those have blossomed into some awesome friendships, and while I still have days when I just chill under the kotatsu and watch TV, I also know some great people that I’m slowly but surely getting to know better!

My advice – put yourself out there! Find Meetups for things you like to do, reach out to old friends and don’t be afraid to make new ones. We met a surprisingly large amount of people at Meetups for things like Dodgeball games, Tech things (Ryan, obvi), Language Exchanges and even Zumba.

Learning Japanese

I wrote about this in an earlier post, outlining a vague syllabus and plan, as well as an update in my year-end/new year post, but let me just say – I can’t stress how important it is to learn Japanese. I’ll be honest, I’ve met a ton of people that have moved here and have said that they’re not interested in learning Japanese and they know enough to get by – and power to them, but I didn’t move here for that.

I moved here to make this country my second home and to do that, I know I’ll need to be able to speak fluently and be able to read as well. Not just get by. Not just kind of, sort of know it. But be able to read books, have an intelligent conversation and make some legit Japanese friends. #goals. Heh.

A HUGE THANK YOU

Last, but definitely not least – since this series was all about moving to Japan, I wanted to give a HUGE HUGE shout out to all the amazing people that helped us get here. We literally could not have done it without you!

  • Tomo – for being our guarantor and making all of this possible!
  • Sheldon & Eri – for helping us out, translating and making us feel like family.
  • Misaki and Mama – for helping us get our apartment – we’d literally be homeless without you!
  • The Colliers Ohana – for supporting our decision to move and letting me keep my job. I’ll be forever grateful for having this opportunity. ❤️
  • Nicole and Elliot – for keeping me accountable during the research and application process!

And of course – to all the amazing people that have helped make Japan feel like home! For all the adventures we’ve had so far, for putting up with our sometimes ridiculous ideas to walk 15 miles home, spontaneous karaoke sessions, search for some obscure limited time snack, some Instagram-worthy dish or some epic 5-hour puzzle race across the City.

Frank, Jeanie, Aunty Amy, Miki, Maisha, Mike, Takeshi, Chikage & Kento, Shizuka, Bill & Keiko, Yasu, Sakura, Soren, Murooka Sensei, Dave, my awesome language partners: Ayumi, Misaki, Maki, Ayako, Nao, Hana and Airi and of course all the family and friends that have come through town to visit us and have kept in touch despite the distance!

We love you guys! 🥰

That’s it!

Never Give Up!

Thanks so much for taking the time to read this novel of a post! If you’re trying to get this Visa, or if you’re moving to Japan and have any questions, feel free to message me! It was definitely scary, the idea of picking up our lives and moving to a new country – but I’m so happy that we did it. If you’re on the fence about moving out of your comfort zone, I can’t emphasize this enough – DO IT.

Like they say, the days are long, but the years are short – make em count!

Links to the rest of this series:

  1. Our Story and Situation
  2. All the Required Documents for an Ancestry Visa in Japan
  3. Application Process and Timing
  4. Bonus: Actually moving to Japan (this post)
1 Comment on Getting our Long-Term Resident Visa (Ancestry) for Japan – Bonus: Moving to Japan! (Part 4)

Getting our Long-Term Resident Visa (Ancestry) for Japan – Timing (Part 3)

Timing is key, making sure you have a guarantor lined up and you’re saving money should be first, followed by long lead items (documents from the Department of State and an FBI background check). Use the included graphic for an (somewhat) easy visual representation.

TL;DRTiming is key, making sure you have a guarantor lined up and you’re saving money should be first, followed by long lead items (documents from the Department of State and an FBI background check). Also: study Japanese! You’ll thank me after you move. 

Disclaimer

I’m not a lawyer. All of the info provided is based 100% on our experience. When we started on this journey, we knew nothing and couldn’t find any detailed info anywhere, so we thought it’d be something helpful that we could share. Yes, we paid an immigration lawyer that was based in Japan to help us through this process. And yes, I think it was worth every penny.

Can you do it on your own? Maybe. I didn’t go to the immigration office (our lawyer said we didn’t need to go, and that it would likely take at least 4 hours), so I’m not sure what the language barrier there would be like, but I imagine if you really needed to, with the help of google translate, it’s possible. We’ll know more after we go in to apply to renew our Visa in February!

This is part 3 in an epic series! See below for all posts:

  1. Our Story and Situation
  2. All the Required Documents for an Ancestry Visa in Japan
  3. Application Process and Timing (this post)
  4. Bonus: Actually moving to Japan

Physically being in Japan when you apply

To be honest, I’m not 100% sure this is necessary. This is just what our lawyer asked us to do and told us it was necessary. I think she also wanted to go over all the documents and wanted to make sure I was physically there to go to the immigration office if there were any issues. She also listed the hotel I was staying at on the application form, so maybe it IS required. If anyone’s completed the process without flying in, let me know in the comments!

Study Japanese!

I honestly wish I took this more seriously before we moved. Maybe I wasn’t 100% sure we were actually moving, or maybe I was just lazy (probably the latter), but while I did glance at things occasionally, I never sat down and really studied. The struggle was pretty real when we actually moved, and if I could do it all over again, I would’ve definitely buried my head in the books as soon as we started THINKING about moving. 😂

Timeline

Honestly – I wish I knew all this upfront. Our process could have been done in WAY less than a year and with far fewer headaches and stress. But *shrug*, that’s life! Below is basically the list from How we got our Long Term Resident Visa (Ancestry Visa) for Japan – The Documents (Part 2), rearranged for a faster timeline.

Step 1

  1. Start saving money
    • Apartment fees in Tokyo are notoriously high and you typically spend upwards of ~5 months of rent up-front (agent fee, key money, first month’s rent, security deposit, guarantor fee).
  2. Figure out what documents you already have.
  3. Koseki Research: determine the hometown of the first generation 
  4. Start reaching out to friends in Japan. 
    • I can’t stress this enough, since finding a guarantor took us the longest. They need to be a Japanese National and (most importantly) be willing to be your guarantor!
    • Once they agree, let them know what documents you’ll need and when you’ll be requesting.
    • Find photos together

Step 2

  1. Request local documents
  2. Create Family Tree document
    • They really just need name, marriage dates and birth/death dates. See this form for what ours looked like. (It includes Japanese translations)
    • You’ll use this in the Koseki request as well as in your Certificate of Eligibility Application.
  3. Make sure your documents are up to date
    • Passports need to have at least 2 blank pages and should not expire within the year
    • Also renew your license and look into getting an International License if you plan to drive in Japan (I did not, I don’t even trust myself driving in the States)
  4. Start filling out Certificate of Eligibility application form. Most of this was obvious, but for the questions that I was unsure about, I’ll include our application answers below:
    • Date of entry (#12): The date you expect to move to Japan. We assumed ~1 month to receive our CoE and Visa and wrote 2/1 (we applied 12/20)
    • Port of entry (#13): We wrote “Narita (or Haneda)”
    • Intended length of stay (#14): We applied for the 5 -year Visa, but ultimately got a 1-year.
    • Intended place to apply for Visa (#16): The Consulate General of Japan in your hometown.
    • Past entry/departure from Japan (#17): you only need to list your most recent (which should be when you fly in to apply) but you’ll need to know the total number of times you’ve been and those dates as well.
    • Family in Japan (#20): this is immediate family, and I included my husband even though he wasn’t there yet. For the employment and Residence Card number section, we just wrote “N/A (applying)
  5. Immigration card received? Make an appointment with the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii (hopefully you have one of these where you live and they offer these services!)
    • They’ll fill out a form to request the Koseki, address all the documents and have everything ready to go.
    • Wait until a month or two before you are planning to apply to request this, as it only has a shelf life of 90 days. From my experience, they turned it around in 2 weeks.
  6. Ask your employer for a Letter of Employment
    • If you’ll continue to work for them while you’re in Japan.
  7. Write your letter of reason.
    • This shouldn’t take long, but you MAY want to have it translated into Japanese by a trusted friend (or translation service). Our lawyer did it as part of her fee.
  8. Start looking at flights/accommodations (for when you apply for your CoE)

Step 3

  1. Make copies of your original documents
    • As well as copies of your Passport and ID
    • You won’t get them back if you don’t have a copy to submit with your application
  2. Take a photo
    • This needs to be 4cm x 3cm with a plain white background
    • It’ll be the photo they use on your Resident Card when you move, so make sure you like it!
  3. FBI Background Check
    • If you opted for the electronic background check, then this is when you should have your fingerprints scanned. Our results were returned in 24 hours.
  4. Request documents from your guarantor
    • Signed Letter of Guarantee
    • Current Certificate of Residence (Juminhyo)
    • Company Information
  5. Make copies of bank statements
    • #LookHowMuchISaved #IReallyWantToLiveInJapan 😁
  6. Book flight/accommodations

Step 4

  1. Apply for your Certificate of Eligibility
    • Can’t say I know the ins and outs of this, but we’ll be applying to renew our Visa next month, so we’ll let you know!
  2. Receive Certificate of Eligibility
  3. Apply for Visa
    • Head down to your local Consulate General of Japan and submit your Visa application along with the following documents:
      • Current Passport with at least two blank pages
      • Passport sized photo (2×2) – attached to your form with GLUE
      • Certificate of Eligibility
  4. Once you receive your Visa – Move to Japan!
    • Which is a WHOLE NOTHER process. One that we’ll dive into next week! 😂

It’s a bit hilarious how applying for the actual Visa is a piece of cake. Literally, one form, a few documents and a week later, you have a visa in your passport giving you entry to live in a new country. The Certificate of Eligibility is a time-consuming process that makes that final step super exhilarating and exciting.

I made a “perfect world” timeline where you don’t have to wait on the Dept of State for anything – and theoretically, you could go from research to moving in as little as 5 months. Haha. If only, right? Well, if you were aggressive enough, maybe? Image below, PDF download here.

That’s it!

If you made it this far and you’re not slamming your head into a table, congrats! Haha. Here are links to the other parts of our story, if you’re ready for more:

  1. Our Story and Situation
  2. All the Required Documents for an Ancestry Visa in Japan
  3. Application Process and Timing (this post)
  4. Bonus: Actually moving to Japan

 

2 Comments on Getting our Long-Term Resident Visa (Ancestry) for Japan – Timing (Part 3)

Getting our Long-Term Resident Visa (Ancestry Visa) for Japan – The Documents (Part 2)

A list of every document we submitted (and how to get them!) for our Long-Term Resident Visa.

TL;DRThere’s no shortening this one, read on for how we found our immigration lawyer, all the documents we needed for our Long-Term Resident (Ancestry Visa) and how we got each of them. It’s long, but we hope it’ll help someone else pursuing this Visa one day!

Disclaimer

I’m not a lawyer. All of the info provided is based 100% on our experience. When we started on this journey, we knew nothing and couldn’t find any detailed info anywhere, so we thought it’d be something helpful that we could share. Yes, we paid an immigration lawyer that was based in Japan to help us through this process. And yes, I think it was worth every penny.

Can you do it on your own? Maybe. I didn’t go to the immigration office (our lawyer said we didn’t need to go, and that it would likely take at least 4 hours), so I’m not sure what the language barrier there would be like, but I imagine if you really needed to, with the help of google translate, it’s possible. We’ll know more after we go in to apply to renew our Visa in February!

This is part 2 in an epic series! See below for all posts:

  1. Our Story and Situation
  2. All the Required Documents for an Ancestry Visa in Japan (this post)
  3. Application Process and Timing
  4. Bonus: Actually moving to Japan

Finding an Immigration Lawyer

This was the trickiest because it’s the Internet and you honestly have no idea who you’re talking to. Nothing quite like wiring money and being catfished online. I literally googled “Immigration Lawyer Japan” and (after a quick check of their website to see how legit they seemed) sent a standard email with our basic situation, stating that we’re looking to get our Ancestry Visa and asked for timing and fees.

From there I started going back and forth with several lawyers before finally settling on one. She responded quickly, was very thorough and only charged us a $50 consultation fee until she understood the full scope of our situation (which was waived when we later decided to use her services).

All the Required Documents for an Ancestry Visa

This was definitely one of the most challenging parts of the process. Dealing with timing, and things that are just 100% outside of your control is a huge exercise in patience. I spent quite a bit of time calling and emailing people, researching online, and visiting places in person to figure out how to get these docs. Then even more time following up to make sure we actually received them! Here’s to hoping your experience is less painful.

I’m honestly not sure just how necessary all of this documentation was, but we received our CoE just about one month after submitting our application, so I’m including everything we submitted!

Document List

  1. Ancestry Documentation (basically all birth, death and marriage certificates leading back to the first generation Japanese National)
    • Great-Grandfather’s Koseki Tohon (Family Register)
    • Grandmother’s Koseki Tohon
    • Grandparent’s Marriage Certificate
    • Grandmother’s Death Certificate
    • Grandfather’s Death Certificate
    • Mother’s Birth Certificate
    • Father’s Birth Certificate
    • Parent’s Marriage Certificate
    • My Birth Certificate
    • Copy of Passport
    • Copy of State ID / Driver’s License
    • Family Tree
  2. Other Documents
    • Application for Certificate of Eligibility – Available in PDF or Excel
    • Current photo (4cm×3cm)
    • FBI Background Check
    • Letter of Employment
    • Bank Statements
    • Guarantor (Japanese National)
      • Letter of Guarantee
      • Certificate of Residence
      • Information about the company they work for
      • Photos to prove relationship to the applicant
  3. Letter of reason which includes:
    • Why you want to live in Japan
    • Explain your current financial situation / how you will support yourself when you’re in Japan
    • The type of apartment you want to live in / provide proof that you’re researching apartments
    • That you are not a criminal (basically just say you’re not, and refer to your background check)
    • Level of Japanese language
    • How you know your guarantor

Documents Required for the Spousal Visa (Based on Spouse’s LTR Visa)

  1. Personal Documents
    • Birth Certificate
    • Copy of Passport
    • Copy of Driver’s License
  2. Other Documents
    • Application for Certificate of Eligibility – Available in PDF or Excel
    • Current photo (4cm×3cm)
    • FBI Background Check
    • Bank Statements
    • Proof of job search (if applicable)
  3. Marriage Documents
  4. Letter of reason which includes:
    • Why you want to live in Japan
    • Explain your current financial situation / how you will support yourself when you’re in Japan
    • The type of apartment you want to live in / provide proof that you’re researching apartments
    • That you are not a criminal (basically just say you’re not, and refer to your background check)
    • Level of Japanese language

Where to get ancestry documents

Every State is different, but typically birth and death certificates are a piece of cake to request online. Hopefully, you already have most of the ancestry documents you’ll need in your safety deposit box (or a dusty box under your bed). Since I’m sharing my experience, everything explained below will be what I did for Hawaii. If you’re not from Hawaii, google will be your new best friend.

For ease of explanation, I’m referring to the documents/process based on my family. My grandmother was the Japanese national, who married an American citizen while still in Japan (Okinawa, actually) and my mother is an American citizen, but was born in Okinawa.

I was super confused by this initially, but it turns out to be pretty simple. Back then, your citizenship was based on your father’s citizenship, so they registered my mother as an American and her birth certificate isn’t a standard one. It was filed with the Department of State in Virginia as a “Register of Birth – Child Born Abroad of American Parents”. Thankfully, my mom had her original birth certificate.

How to get copies of Birth, Death and Marriage Certificates filed in Hawaii

Starting with the easy stuff. Birth and marriage certificates filed in Hawaii can be requested online from Vital Records. You can request these for yourself and your spouse, but your parents will need to request their own docs. It’s $12.50 to have the document mailed to your residence.

Death certificates are less simple, but still easy. You need to fill out a form then either mail or take the form to the Vital Records department.

How to get copies of Marriage Certificates filed with the Department of State

Get ready for an epic headache and a lot of waiting. Because my grandmother was married to an American citizen while they were still in Japan, her marriage certificate was filed with the Department of State in Virgina. (Note: if they were both Japanese nationals, then the Koseki Tohon will include their marriage.)

Let it be known that I sent a letter with all the information required to the Department of State in early October and I didn’t receive a copy of my grandparent’s marriage certificate until May. MAY. Because both my grandparents had passed away, it became a FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) request, and thus took an additional 16 – 20 weeks ON TOP OF the originally quoted 6-8 weeks.

All that being said, follow the instructions on this link if one or both people on the marriage certificate are alive (Have them request the document).

If both people have passed away, follow those instructions, but do not send your letter to Vital Records. Instead, send the letter (along with death certificates and any documentation (birth/marriage certificates) that you already have to prove you’re related to the parties on the marriage certificate.) to:

U.S. Department of State
Office of Law Enforcement Liaison
FOIA Officer
44132 Mercure Cir
P.O. Box 1227
Sterling, VA 20166

The only way to shorten this timeframe is to expedite your mail and (if you’re sending to vital records) include a check for them to expedite the shipping back. If you’re sending to the Law Enforcement Liaison, they automatically expedite your return shipping. There’s no way to pay for them to expedite the actual process, so if you need to do this, I would do this first.

How to get copies of a Koseki Tohon (Family Registry)

Step 1: Figure out their hometown

In Japan, the Koseki Tohon is filed in each City’s Hall of Records. I went to the Japanese Embassy and filled out a form to request a copy of my grandmother’s immigration card. Note: this can take up to a month. I got lucky and my mom happened to have a copy of my grandmother’s birth certificate (note: the Japanese government still requires the Koseki Tohon) which included the city where it was filed.

The embassy gave me a printout of the address for that City’s current address, as addresses and locations have changed over time.

Step 2: Mail request to Japan

From there, I reached out to the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii, as they provide genealogical research assistance. There’s a fee associated with it (I think it was $25) but the fee is waived if you’re a member ($35). You fill out the Genealogical Research Assitance Agreement and then schedule a meeting with one of their volunteers. If you work during the day, you’ll need to take off since they only work on Friday afternoons, from 1 pm – 4 pm.

It’s helpful to have the City Hall of Records webpage so they can find the address in Japanese, as well as the person’s name written in Kanji if you have it. Since I was requesting my grandmother’s Koseki Tohon, I actually needed to request my Great-Grandfather’s, since back in the day, the Koseki Tohon is under the male head of household.

You’ll need ancestry documents outlining your lineage so you can prove you’re related. Since you’re already gathering these, this should be easy. I provided just the birth and marriage certificates that I had on hand – grandmother, mother, father.

The volunteers wrote the letter and addressed the envelope and included a label with my mailing address for them to return the document. From there I went to the post office to get a $15 International Money Order (to pay for return shipping) and mailed off. Including the fees for the money order, total shipping (sent registered mail to make sure it arrived) was $46.12.

Step 3: Wait patiently

I mailed my package in Mid-October and we received it back in about 2.5 weeks. Based on the information provided by USPS, the Hall of Records took three days to find my grandmother’s Koseki and mail it back. Everything else was just transit time to and from Japan.

Timing is everything. The Koseki Tohon needs to be dated within 90 days of your application. We screwed up on this, as we were waiting for other documents to arrive (curse you Dept of State!) and ended up having our lawyer re-request. Also – if you’re going to hire a lawyer, you can provide them with the hometown and they should be able to request this for you (for a fee, of course).

I thought this would be more difficult, but aside from the initial back and forth with the embassy and the JCCH while I was trying to figure out the process, it was smooth sailing and fairly quick.

Other Documents to provide

FBI Background Check

To prove you’re not a criminal, they require an FBI background check. There are a number of ways to get this, but going directly through the FBI takes the longest (14-16 weeks). In the interest of time, we used a third party FBI-approved channeler. I went to myFBIreport.com because they were the first site that had a fingerprinting location in Hawaii, Signing Hawaii. Fairly straight-forward. You contact the fingerprinter, go to their office (she was running this business out of her home) and have your fingerprints taken. We paid $74.95, and received our background checks in 24 hours.

If you’re better at timing than us, and you request this as soon as you start your process, you can process directly through the FBI for only $18. This document also needs to be dated within 3 months of your application.

Employment Things and Bank Statements

Because I wanted to continue working for my current job, I needed to prove that I was being paid enough to cover my living expenses. The company I work for wrote a letter of employment, which needed to include:

  • Name
  • Last four digits of SSN
  • Date of Birth
  • Gender
  • Employer Name
  • Employment Dates
  • Current Job Title
  • Type of Employment (Part or Full Time)
  • Current Salary
  • Job Description
  • Contact information for HR

For Ryan, because he was thinking of working for a Japanese company, we included copies of conversations he’s had with recruiters.

We also included our savings account statement to show that we’d have enough to cover the initial moving costs associated with rentals in Japan – usually around 4-5 months of rent (ie: key money, agent fees, guarantor fees, security deposits).

Our lawyer did not have a set amount in terms of what we needed in our savings, but we based our living expenses on having a place in Tachikawa (we included printouts of the apartments we were considering based on Internet searches), which is significantly less expensive than Central Tokyo. The general rule of thumb was similar to qualifying for an apartment – you need to make 3x the assumed rent.

Explanations / Petition Letters

Our lawyer also wrote a letter of reason, which included why we wanted to live in Japan, etc. We wrote these in English and she translated it into Japanese. On our submitted documents, both English and Japanese were included.

Why we wanted to live in Japan

This was the honest truth – we were both of Japanese ancestry, both interested in learning more about our own culture and experiencing it first hand. I think if you want to move, you’ll have a good reason and you’ll be excited about it. Having a compelling reason is important – mostly because it’s what will get you through the stress and anxiety of the entire application process!

Explained our current financial situation / how we planned to support ourselves when we moved

This is where you can get detailed about what you do for work (if you plan to work remotely as we did). Ryan included his educational background as well as previous work experience. Don’t be humble here, you need to prove that you can be an asset to their economy.

The type of apartment we were interested in

This was mostly to show how much research we were putting into this move and how serious we were. We sent apartment listings from English sites (apartments.gaijinpot.com) and included descriptions of what we were looking for (ie: 2LDK, minimum 40 square meters with a monthly payment of less than 100,000 yen in Tachikawa).

Level of Japanese language

If you’re applying for a longer term (3 or 5 years), you’ll need to prove you can speak the language by passing the JLPT test (I believe N1 was required for 5 years). If not, you can just write about how you’re learning and what tools you plan to use. This also shows them that you’re serious about the move.

History with your guarantor

While the guarantor form does not legally obligate your guarantor to take care of you in any way, it is a requirement for both the CoE and visa application. When applying for your CoE, you should include photos and a brief history of how you know the person that will be your guarantor. We had the hardest time with this, as the guarantor needed to either be a Japanese National or Permanent Resident and most of our friends were on shorter Visas.

Spousal Visa Requirements

If you’re married and your spouse is using your ancestry to apply for a visa, you’ll also need to include your marriage certificate, info about how you met and photos together (wedding photos, especially). There’s also a questionnaire that’s interestingly only on the Japanese immigration site, and as far as I could find, only available in Japanese. I linked it in the list above. Our lawyer asked us questions and filled it out, but if there’s interest, I can go through and make a table on how to fill out based on our filled out version. Comment if it’s something you’d like to see.

That’s it!

If you made it this far and you’re not slamming your head into a table, congrats! Haha. Here are links to the other parts of our story, if you’re ready for more:

  1. Our Story and Situation
  2. All the Required Documents for an Ancestry Visa in Japan (this post)
  3. Application Process and Timing
  4. Bonus: Actually moving to Japan

 

2 Comments on Getting our Long-Term Resident Visa (Ancestry Visa) for Japan – The Documents (Part 2)

Getting our Long-Term Resident Visa (Ancestry Visa) for Japan – Our Story (Part 1)

While not impossible, getting the Long-Term Resident Visa (定住者 – Teijyuusha) isn’t easy. To qualify for this visa with ancestry, you need to be (at most) third-generation Japanese. You also need to fly to Japan to apply for your Certificate of Eligibility and be ready for some hard work and anxiety!

TL;DRWhile not impossible, getting the Long-Term Resident Visa (定住者 – Teijyuusha) isn’t easy. To qualify for this visa with ancestry, you need to be (at most) third-generation Japanese. You also need to fly to Japan to apply for your Certificate of Eligibility and be ready for some hard work and anxiety!

Disclaimer: We hired a lawyer to help us with this process, so I’m just outlining everything she had us do. I’m assuming it was all required but honestly have no idea. At the end of the day – we got our Visa, and for us, that was the most important thing.

JET, Student Visas and Feeling Lost

Our background: since we started dating 9 years ago, we’ve always talked about living in Japan. After finally spending nearly a month there for our honeymoon, we decided to make this happen. Of course, these things are easier said than done. At first, I considered quitting my job and applying for the JET programme – but as a teacher, I wouldn’t be able to get Ryan a Spousal Visa, and if I’m being honest – I had zero desire to be a teacher.

Next, I looked into a Student Visa. Basically, you take Japanese classes and get a Visa to live there and have the ability to work part-time. I actually started the application process since we could both technically go on this Visa, take classes part-time and work remotely. The biggest hold up here? Cost. Most schools were around $7,000 per person, per year – and that just didn’t make sense for us.

I looked at USAjobs.gov and randomly applied for jobs at bases in Japan – jobs that I was definitely not qualified for. When I didn’t hear back from any of them, I honestly wasn’t too surprised. I also used LinkedIn to apply for various jobs in Japan – most listed fluent Japanese as a requirement, but I applied anyway. Crickets. So many crickets.

The Elusive Long-Term Resident Visa

Finally, I found a small note on the immigration website referring to a Long-Term Resident Visa by way of ancestry (literally one sentence). I did some google searches and while I found sites that included a list of documents, there weren’t instructions on locating said documents. Looked at Reddit’s moving to Japan sub, but still no detailed info on how to get a Long-Term Resident Visa based on ancestry from someone that’s actually gone through the process. From here I sort of just sat on the few ideas I had and secretly hoped that Ryan would get a job and I could ride on his coattails.

Two years went by and I realized waiting for Ryan to get a job wouldn’t work and that if we were going to go, we’d have to figure out this Long-Term Resident Visa thing. So I decided to get serious. With zero information, I started an accountability group with a few coworkers that were also chasing big dreams (Grad School and moving to the Mainland – shoutout Nicole and Elliot for keeping me on my toes) and I spent tons of late nights researching.

To make things more complicated, our employment situation was pretty unique. Both Ryan and I wanted to continue working remotely for our current companies in Hawaii. It took literally a YEAR for us to go from research to having that elusive Visa in hand, but we made it!

Long-Term Resident Visa - Yodobashi New Years Sales

Ah Japan, there you are.

Before we dive in: Disclaimer

I’m not a lawyer. All of the info provided is based 100% on our experience. When we started on this journey, we knew nothing and couldn’t find any detailed info anywhere, so we thought it’d be something helpful that we could share. Yes, we paid an immigration lawyer that was based in Japan to help us through this process. And yes, I think it was worth every penny.

Can you do it on your own? Maybe. I didn’t go to the immigration office (our lawyer said we didn’t need to go, and that it would likely take at least 4 hours), so I’m not sure what the language barrier there would be like, but I imagine if you really needed to, with the help of google translate, it’s possible. We’ll know more after we go in to apply to renew our Visa in February!

Things to know before you start

Start NOW. This process can take a LONG time. We started requesting documents in August 2017 and we didn’t get the green light to go until March 2018. This is mostly true if you have to deal with the Department of State. They are notoriously slow and frustratingly vague about timing (I finally received all documents from them in May 2018).

Originals of everything. You’ll need copies of your passport and ID, but all other ancestry documents must be originals. If you would like to keep your originals, make sure you make a copy of them to include in your application. The originals are required as part of your application, but if you flag them, they’ll be returned once the agent confirms their authenticity.

Timing is everything. Your Koseki Tohon (family registry from Japan) and your background check need to be dated within three months of your application. We screwed up on the former, as we were waiting for other documents to arrive and ended up having our lawyer re-request. If you’re going to hire a lawyer, have them request this. If not, make this the last document you request. None of the other documents we had needed to be issued in the last three months.

Make friends in Japan! One of the hardest requirements for us was to find a guarantor that was a Japanese national or permanent resident. They have to provide their Certificate of Residence for Japan and info regarding their work as well as PHOTOS together to prove your relationship. Of course, since this visa is based on ancestry, having relatives would make this easy, but unfortunately for us, we didn’t have this option.

Save your money! Not only is the move going to be pricey, but (based on what our lawyer told us) the process of applying for the Certificate of Eligibility (“CoE”) requires that you are physically in Japan when you apply. Not to mention, if you decide to go the lawyer route, that’ll be a pretty penny as well. Our lawyer’s fees were just around $3,000, with half charged upfront and half after we received the CoE.

How we got our Long-Term Resident Visa

It’s been a LONG journey, but one we’re finally getting around to sharing! Especially now that we’re here, and settled into life in Japan! Because this journey was epic, I’m breaking this post up into several parts.

  1. Our Story and Situation (this post)
  2. All the Required Documents for a Long-Term Resident Visa based on Ancestry in Japan
  3. Application Process and Timing
  4. Bonus: Actually moving to Japan
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2018 in Review / 2019 Planning

The biggest win of 2018? We moved to Japan! Next year’s main focus in a word: consistency. I also (of course) have a super lofty, long and ridiculous list for 2019, and I’m totally determined to accomplish most of it! 

TL;DRThe biggest win of 2018? We moved to Japan! Next year’s main focus in a word: consistency. I also (of course) have a super lofty, long and ridiculous list for 2019, and I’m totally determined to accomplish some most of it! 

2018 was…

A little crazy. I started the year off with some pretty lofty goals but actually ended up accomplishing more than I thought I would.

  • Move to Japan (Will link the post to how we got our Visa once it’s up!)
  • Travel five times (Kona 2x, Seattle, Alaska Cruise, Hawaii 2x after we moved)
  • Start a meetup group
  • Conversational fluency in Japanese (I’m counting this one since I can hold basic convos at language exchanges now. Lol.)
  • Pass the JLPT 3 in December – decided to push this to the summer exam.
  • Read one book a month – Only read five books, I started off really strong, but after we moved to Japan, basically only read Japanese textbooks. 😅
  • Put together a portfolio – Did not do this at all and actually forgot about this. Whoops!
  • Open Etsy store – Remembered this, but didn’t have the energy to tackle it.

I also dedicated a large chunk of time to Instagram (that snack blog is going to be the death of me, but I also kind of love it).

2018 in Review / 2019 Planning - Japanese Update

Update on Learning Japanese

So all those things I was doing in September? I’m still doing them, but it’s a SLOW process.

  • I’ve nixed Wanikani in favor of Anki, but haven’t been great at keeping up with my daily review cards.
  • I upped my language exchanges – I have four virtual partners that I chat with weekly on skype and 1 IRL (she lives near me) + my friend and I started a meetup group. So we have weekly meetups for 2 hours.
  • I’ve been bad with subs on shows and have been watching with English subs.
  • I haven’t read a news article on NHK in ages either (planning to get back on this!).
  • Slacking hardcore lately on writing practice while I focus on reading and vocab.

So way more real-life usage, but way less studying grammar and building fundamentals. I’ll need to work on those if I want to pass the N3 in July. I’m actually considering taking the N2, but it’ll be a game-time decision when the sign-up date comes around.

2019 in a word

While I’ll always have a pretty long list of goals (knowing that I probably won’t accomplish most of them), I’m approaching 2019 a bit differently. I want to focus everything around a theme – consistency. Mostly because I’m incredibly inconsistent. I start things I don’t finish (*cough cough* 12 week year) and usually, my motivation resembles fire – burns super hot, then reduces itself to a pile of ash. Ha. So this year, before I even tackle my long list, I want to remember that my main focus is to be more like water – flowing consistently toward an end goal. For that to happen, I’ll need to seriously break down a lot of my lofty and ridiculous goals into tasks that can be tackled daily/weekly/monthly or…consistently. 😜

Okay, now the list

These prompts are pulled from my Ink+Volt planner – which I LOVED for about half the year in 2018. After we moved, I became 100% remote and my workflow changed significantly. In that change, my paper planner sort of fell to the wayside.

Things I want to leave behind in 2019
I’m so torn on this. Part of me feels like I should leave behind fiction, but the other part of me knows how much I LOVE it. Haha. Instead, I’ll leave behind my guilt for it. I don’t want to feel bad for enjoying some good ole’ young adult fiction (my fave genre, obviously) or a webtoon – so long as it’s not interfering with my actual life goals. Cue installing creepy apps to log time spent!

What are the things you want to learn this year? Books you want to read? How will you improve yourself in the year ahead?
This one is easy. I want to learn more Japanese, focused design (take actual classes) and product marketing / building a brand. Doing a book club with the coworkers to hold myself accountable to reading, even if it’s only 4 books in total.

In terms of improving myself, I want to focus more on taking care of my physical body, since I haven’t rolled out my yoga mat in MONTHS and haven’t gone jogging since October. Thank you, Japan for your tiny portion sizes and epic amounts of walking, since I managed not to gain weight, even in winter hibernation. That being said – we have plans to do Kumano Kodo, Mt. Fuji and the Yamathon next year, so I need to start focusing on fitness if I want to survive!

What would it look like if this year went perfectly? What would you have/be/do? 
I’ll have passed the JLPT N2 and be able to read our mail. I’d also be able to talk to people well enough to find us a place where we can have a pet! We’ll have traveled through more of Japan and Southeast Asia. We’ll blog weekly. Like a new post every Sunday weekly.

My 19 for 2019 – in no particular order

  1. Travel at least 5x (Any travel outside of Tokyo counts as travel!)
  2. Pass JLPT N3 in July
  3. Pass JLPT N2 in December
  4. Be able to write my Instagram posts in Japanese (without using google)
  5. Read 12 books
  6. Take 4 design related classes
  7. Blog weekly
  8. Do yoga at least once a week
  9. Create “Facts of Life” book
  10. Keep up with personal Tumblr
  11. 2019 digital scrapbook
  12. 2018 digital scrapbook
  13. Learn 1,825 new kanji (5 new kanji a day)
  14. Keep up with logging my spending (I didn’t do this for half the year in 2018)
  15. Learn to draw (so I can justify an iPad Pro / Pencil next year haha)
  16. Write every day
  17. Finish super morbid “in case of” file
  18. Relationship retrospectives
  19. Create a portfolio

Welp. If you read to the end, congrats! You win…a year of my unending gratitude and adoration…and maybe some snacks when I come through Hawaii again next summer?! Haha. Happy New Year!

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Our First Summer in Japan

Summer in Japan! A quick roundup of all the festivals, events and other cool things we did during our first summer in Japan!

TL;DR As temps dip into the 60’s, reflecting on some of the shenanigans we got ourselves into in our first Summer in Japan! These are smaller events that don’t really warrant an entire post, so we’ll do round-ups like this at the end of big seasons. To keep up with us in the moment, follow @frompineapples and @frompineapples.eats (all ze foods) on Insta! 

Summer in Japan – the season of Festivals!

At it’s peak, Summer temps were steadily in the high 90’s in Tokyo (and humidity hung around creating a sauna everywhere you went), so we honestly left the apartment as little as humanly possible.

That being said, we did manage to get out and check out some of the amazing Summer festivals that Japan is known for. We already posted about the Tanabata Festival (which was mildly disappointing), but we checked out a few others that were pretty amazing!

An hour of fireworks in Kita-Senju – Adachi Fireworks Festival

Summer in Japan - Adachi Fireworks

Epic. Fireworks for an hour straight along the river with yukata-clad people (like 600,000 of them, not even exaggerating). Thanks Maisha for coming with and letting me hang out at your place after to avoid the INSANE lineup for trains!

30,000 Lanterns at Yasukuni Shrine – Mitama Matsuri

Summer in Japan - Mitama Matsuri

Mid-July so it was a sweltering sauna, but still worth it! So pretty! Make sure you have an escape plan out of the area since restaurants around there were just as packed as food stalls and convenience stores.

Island Music Festival

No Hawaiian or local food, but lots of strong drinks! Haha. Which made for a lot of fun times, with great performances (to the crowd’s delight, Konishiki performed too!) even though headliner Fiji never showed. Lol.

Tachikawa Manpaku Food Festival

So. Much. Food. We utilized the divide-and-conquer strategy and ended up with a couple of donburi (raw meat and sashimi from Tsukiji), three types of curry pan, mochi-gyoza (this was delish), and a melon + ice cream + soda parfait and strawberry slushie thing. Everything was amaaaazing and we got there around 10:30am, so the lines weren’t bad at all! 500 yen entrance fee.

Other summer happenings

Truth be told, those were the only actual festivals we attended. Our summer was highlighted with a ton of exploring (check out our new walking series) and some smaller events and art shows.

Team Lab – Borderless

There’s been a ton of Internet buzz about this digital art show over in Odaiba – and for good reason. We did early bird tickets (2400 yen) and spent over three hours exploring the massive exhibit (you could easily spend more time in there, if you check out the tea house or play any of the interactive games / art projects). I posted a few pics on Instgram, but here’s a few more! It’s definitely worth checking out if you’re ever in town!

Art Aquarium – Night Aquarium

Less publicized, but still pretty amazing is the Nihonbashi’s Art Aquarium. Much smaller (literally one room and a hallway) and you can get through it in an hour then spend time exploring Nihonbashi!

Google’s “Cutest Haunted House”

For a week, Google had the “cutest haunted house” (it wasn’t scary at all and I’m the biggest scaredy-cat ever) in Omotesando. Directions and tickets were via the Japanese (!) google assistant and everything was in Japanese when we arrived, but all that studying is paying off! Haha. More pics on our Insta.

Capture the Flag and Dodgeball

Meetups! While I’ve been having fun at Dodgeball, I have to admit I LOVED glow in the dark Capture the Flag! We used glowsticks on both the flag and each team member and ran around Yoyogi Park for a couple of hours. Let it be known that I’m slow and super unintimidating, but I still had a blast. Also sprinting around in the dark is both dangerous and a crazy good workout (I’ve never hurt so much!).

Makerfaire

Makerfaire Japan! One of the striking differences was the insane amount of robotics projects – from robot soccer to robots playing instruments, there were a ton of interactive projects that let you control or play with them. Also a lot of very Japanese-ey things – I’ll let the photos speak for themselves. Lol. We had an amazing time – hoping to come up with some cool ideas and have a booth of our own next year!

That’s a wrap!

It’s been an amazing 6 months, but now that Fall is in full swing, I can’t wait to see the leaves change colors! I’ve honestly missed seasons – and more importantly, I’m happy the hot humid summer days are over with!

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