Becoming Japanese: How To Obtain Citizenship In Japan A Complete Guide

Becoming a Japanese citizen is a long process, but is one that is worth the effort. Japan is a beautiful country overflowing with culture, delicious cuisine, fascinating places to explore, and a friendly and polite population. It’s no surprise how appealing Japan is for those wanting to gain citizenship.

What Can You Expect When Considering Becoming A Japanese Citizen

The overall process to become a Japanese citizen takes a lot of time, so patience is key. You cannot just decide you want to become a Japanese citizen and simply fill out paperwork.

Depending on your personal circumstances, there are also different processes in place to apply for citizenship.

There are also some circumstances in which there are shortcuts to becoming a citizen. In some rare instances, you may even be considered a Japanese citizen automatically.

Becoming A Citizen Of Japan As A Non-Japanese Person 

If you are not Japanese, in order to become a Japanese citizen, you will be expected to accept their naturalization process.

Naturalization is the process in place in Japan for someone who isn’t Japanese to become a citizen. Naturalization and citizenship, to a certain extent, are synonyms in this process. 

Renouncing Your Former Citizenship

If you are wanting to become a Japanese citizen, you are expected to commit fully. This means you will give up your citizenship to your country of origin.

There can be exceptions to this, but they are few and far between. You will have to prove that keeping your citizenship to your home country of origin on top of your Japanese citizenship is required for extraordinary circumstances. 

The reason you must renounce your former citizenship is that the Japanese government wants to prevent any type of conflict of interest that could be a result of someone having dual citizenship.

This decision will be made official as well, either by submitting proof that you are no longer opting to keep citizenship in your home country or by filling out a particular form renouncing your former citizenship. 

It’s a good note to keep in mind that the Japanese government isn’t necessarily strict when it comes to upkeep for this policy.

However, if you are asked to follow this procedure, you should do so in order to prevent getting denied Japanese citizenship. But there is a possibility you can get away with keeping both citizenships. 

Some of the reasons you may be able to maintain dual citizenship are: 

  • If you already had dual citizenship before 1985, when the Nationality Law was introduced that created the citizenship requirements
  • If you had dual citizenship when you were born. However, you are expected to pick one citizenship by age 22, though this rule is not necessarily enforced. 
  • If you are also a citizen of North Korea, as that type of citizenship is not recognized as valid in Japan 

Living In Japan Before Becoming A Citizen

You are expected to live in Japan for five years before you can consider becoming a citizen. You are expected to maintain what you consider to be a permanent home in Japan. It is expected that you live in a permanent home in Japan for five years consecutively. 

There are some ways to circumvent this requirement, but they are quite specific. For example, the five-year requirement for maintaining a dwelling in Japan can be cut down to three years if you are the child of someone who is a Japanese citizen.

The same is also true if you were born in Japan, one of your parents was also born in Japan, and you have lived in Japan for three years in a row. 

If neither of these has applied to you, you are also able to potentially get past the requirement if you had a physical home in Japan for ten years.

If you have maintained this home while leaving Japan for any reason, you’ll have to provide details of the dates where you left Japan. 

Age Requirements For Japanese Citizenship

If you are planning to move to Japan, you are also expected to be 20 years old at a minimum. This age could potentially change depending on where your country of origin is.

This is because you are expected to be the age of majority in your country. It’s best to consult with a legal expert if you aren’t sure whether or not you are the appropriate age to move to Japan. 

Paperwork And Documentation For Becoming A Japanese Citizenship

There will also be pieces of paperwork you will have to submit to the Japanese government on top of forms you will have to fill out. One of the most important documents you must provide is a criminal record check.

If you have a criminal record, it could impede your chances of being accepted as a citizen. That being said, it doesn’t necessarily mean you will be denied. Exceptions are made on a case-by-case basis. 

You are also expected to prove that you are able to support yourself financially while living in Japan. There are a number of ways you can meet this requirement.

The first would be proof that you have secured employment in Japan. You can expect that your workplace could get a visit just to verify that you actually have a job there. 

Alternatively, if you have a property that you are able to maintain with other financial means, that can be accepted. It could also be accepted if you have spousal support that is substantial enough to maintain a living while you’re living in Japan.  

The Pre-Qualification Interview

To become a Japanese citizen, you will also have to take part in a pre-qualification interview. This interview will be conducted by a Ministry of Justice official based in the locality you are planning on living in. It is up to you to schedule this interview. 

Ministry Of Justice Tokyo

The Ministry of Justice will go over all of the requirements for citizenship with you, in order to make sure you have completed the process properly. At this stage, you will be scheduled for another interview should you meet the necessary requirements. 

The Second Interview

The second interview will be where you show the Ministry of Justice all of the paperwork that is expected of you. You will be notified of what you need to provide to them. Some examples of documents that they may ask you for include: 

  • Passport
  • Marriage certificate (if applicable)
  • Birth certificate
  • Proof of assets 
  • Proof of employment
  • Proof of residency (this is related to where you are living in Japan)
  • Physical and mental health information

Before you are finished with the second interview, you will be shown a video regarding naturalization in Japan. This video will give you a lot of useful information regarding living in Japan.

It will also advise you of the protocols you are expected to follow in order to become a Japanese citizen. 

Once the second interview is complete, you will be provided with a list of any additional documentation you are expected to produce.

You will also be given a guidebook that will give you more details regarding the naturalization process. You should take the necessary time you need in order to study the information in the guidebook. 

The Application Meeting

Once you have successfully studied the guidebook and believe you have a good grasp of the information contained in the book, you will also want to ensure you have collected all documents that were asked of you.

You’ll then be ready to contact your case officer.

The case officer will help you set up another meeting. This case officer’s contact information will be given to you at the end of your second interview, and you will also be given a case number.

During this application meeting, there will be an immigration official present to look over everything in your pre-application.

This includes all of the documentation you were previously asked to submit. It’s possible that you’ll be asked to resubmit documents that are incomplete. It is also possible that you will be asked to provide additional information. 

The Waiting Period

Once you have satisfied anything required of you during this meeting, there may be a waiting period while the immigration officials verify everything you have given them.

They may also want to visit you at your residence. It’s also expected that they will contact any references you gave them, such as previous employers. There is no particular timeline in place for how long this process could take. 

The Final Meeting

When this process is complete, you will be contacted for a final meeting. If immigration officials are satisfied with all of the information they have collected from you and about you, they will go ahead and submit your application to the Ministry of Justice.

They will also send your signed oath, which you will sign at this final meeting, to the Ministry of Justice.

The Legal Affairs Bureau has to accept all of this information and your oath in order for it to be sent to the Ministry of Justice. At this point, when the Ministry of Justice accepts your application and all accompanying documents, you will be considered a citizen of Japan. 

Why You Might Want To Become A Japanese Citizen

There are various incentives for becoming a Japanese citizen instead of just living there for a certain amount of time. For one, you will be able to vote and participate in shaping your community at the governmental level. 

It will also be much easier for you to travel outside of Japan and be able to return with no issues. If you have to leave Japan for a long time and are only a permanent resident, you may have to apply for a new permit before you can return. 

Other Methods To Obtain Japanese Citizenship

If you were born in Japan but were not raised there, there is a different citizenship process in place for you to complete. If you were born in Japan but your parents are not identified, due to abandonment or some other reason, you can still claim citizenship. 

If you were not born in Japan, but one of your parents was, there is an alternative process you can complete to apply to become a Japanese citizen. There are some requirements you must meet as well if this is your situation.

 You are expected to meet the same age requirement of being at least 20 years old, and you must be legally acknowledged by a parent who was a Japanese national when you were born, as well as at the time they are legally acknowledging you. It is also expected that you were not a Japanese national at one point in time. 

In order to get your Japanese citizenship in this situation, you are required to notify the Japanese government that you are wanting to do so by acknowledgment.

If you are living in Japan at the time, you can go to the legal affairs bureau in your city. You can also go to the Ministry of Justice and complete some paperwork.

Ministry Of justice Official Website

Ministry Of Justice Japan

 If you’re not currently living in Japan, you can go to the Japanese embassy or consulate in your country. 

If you were born to a Japanese father, you are considered a Japanese citizen automatically if your father passed before you were born. If one of your parents was a citizen of Japan when you were born, you are also automatically considered a Japanese citizen. 

Japan Ministry Of Justice Immigration Official Website

What Type Of Chance You May Have To Become A Japanese Citizen 

If you take the time to follow all of the specific protocols in place to become a Japanese citizen, there is a good chance your application will be approved.

Japan tends to approve the majority of applications made to become a Japanese citizen, so long as all the requirements the government has set in place are followed. The acceptance rate is approximately 90% at this time. 

That being said, the requirements they expect you to meet are many. You are expected to be a person of good character, financially stable, and well-intentioned.

You must also be thorough and pay attention to detail to ensure you provide the government with everything they require of you in a timely manner.

How Difficult Is It To Obtain Japanese Citizenship

My fascination with Japan began several years back at a roadside bonsai stand while on vacation. I became more interested in the where and why's more than the trees themselves. My love of Bonsai led me to further research my interest in the gardens where they originated from and the places and people that surrounded those little trees. My curiosity was well rewarded upon visiting Saitama where the National Bonsai Museum was located and Omiya Village the bonsai mecca for lovers of this ancient art form. Exploring many towns and villages and even making my way to Japan's furthest southern prefecture of Okinawa. I hope to share my love of this wonderful and exotic place with all those who want to know more about Japan.