Changing your visa type/status in Japan
This post is a work in progress. I'll be updating it as and when I get more details on my application and visa status.
So, this week I took the plunge. I finally applied to change from a Working Holiday Visa to a work visa proper. Applying for things always makes me a bit nervous.
Any tips or 'good to know for next time' things I get out of this will be added to this post.
Step 1: work for really nice people
Chances are your Japanese boss and company know exactly what paperwork you'll need.
How proactive and helpful they are at sorting it out is another matter.
I've got a decent amount of time left on the visa I have. I'm legally allowed to work, and I have plenty of work to do. And my coworkers are busy people who have other stuff to deal with. If there were things to wait for, I wasn't so concerned.
My assumption was that I'd be going to immigration maybe next month, or the one after.
What actually happened is that my boss called a meeting, handed me everything (stamped, stapled and in the right order), pointed to where I had to write things in myself, and said "Go there tomorrow morning."
That gesture made the whole thing feel much less stressful.
Step 1b: check everything 5 times
Having most things already filled in didn't stop me reading them over and over. And over.
I'm glad I did. There was nothing wrong with my paperwork. But you have to read everything to find every gap. There are lots of sections you can only fill in personally. Don't miss any.
Oh, also - the photo guidance says to write your name on the back on the picture. I'd glued mine, ready to stick on the application, before I remembered. Don't be like me. Don't wreck a decent pen by trying to write in wet glue.
Step 2: time your visit to Immigration well
The trip out to your nearest Immigration centre will not be fun.
I knew mine opened at 9am. So, massive pile of documents in hand, I set out to arrive exactly then. Made it to the application desk for 9.05am.
There were people ahead of me, but not many. I didn't have to hang around to get my paperwork checked, or to hand over the application proper.
Walked - calmly, didn't even panic run - back out to the train station, and I was at my desk by 10am. Boss's reaction? "Damn, that was pretty fast."
Again, I think I'm lucky here because my company gave me that leeway. Had I been told to take the afternoon off instead, I would've been in there much longer.
If you live in a more 'rural' prefecture in Japan, it might take you a while to get to Immigration. Prep for your journey just as much as your application.
And! Don't assume you can go on the weekend. NONE of Japan's regional Immigration centres are open on a Saturday or Sunday. None. Not even in the Tokyo area. They're not open on national holidays, either.
Step 3: sit and wait
When you hand the paperwork in, you write your address on a postcard. Once your visa's been approved or denied - or if they need more documents - immigration sends you the card. All you have to do is carry on with your life as normal until it arrives.
This can take anywhere from 2-4 weeks.
My postcard arrived almost 2 weeks to the day. No rejection letter. No warning stickers. Just a date stamp, and a circle around 'buy revenue stamps'. It looked like everything went perfectly.
I spoke to a few people about this, and 2 weeks is lightning fast. Be prepared to wait the full 4.
Step 4: brave immigration again
So I took another morning off, and I went to get my visa.
Revenue stamps used to be hard to get. They're how you 'pay' for the visa. Old advice was to find time to visit a post office and get them. On my first immigration visit, I noticed there was a shop inside the building. I expect most all of the branches should have one.
Changing your Japanese visa type costs 4,000 yen (March 2017). Don't go there without cash.
The queue for collecting visas/permissions was longer than the one for applying. And it moved at about 1/4 of the speed. Some people around me were better prepared - they had books. Take a book, or something. I couldn't get wi-fi.
You're asked whether everything on the new visa card is accurate. DO NOT LEAVE without making sure that it is. I've got no idea what happens if you don't. But you have to have your card and passport with you at all times, and (I imagine) if they don't match that'd be bad.
And that's it. Until your visa runs out and you have to go renew it again. The renewal process is a little different to changing visa types, I'll probably cover that next time.
Still not 100% sure how it all works? Feel free to tweet me.