Friday, January 06, 2006

Visa Renewal

It was that time again, every 3 years I have to renew my spouse visa. Hopefully, this will be the last---or next to last---time as I am eligible to apply for permanent resident status. (No, I have no intention of trading in my American citizenship for Japanese citizenship. What would be the benefit? Rarely would I be considered a Japanese citizen by the majority of Japanese even if I did. "Japaneseness" to the Japanese is racial. Most even consider the Japanese to be a separate "race.")

It is always an adventure to renew a visa. Even though I live closer to the Tokyo immigration office, since I am a resident of Kanagawa, I have to go to the Yokohama office. Getting information in English on the internet about the required documents is almost impossible. You basically have to find out from other foreigners. I had forgotten what was needed, so after searching, I called and was given accurate information. I think they can transfer you to someone who speaks English if necessary. (Should you speak German, Frence, etc, you may have a problem. I don't know.)

Finding the building was another challenge. I could not find it on the map at the station which had nearly every building of importance listed in both Japanese and English. I could not recognize any kanji that I thought had anything to do with an immigration office. So I just walked in the general direction of where I thought it was. Finally, I reached a police box that I remembered from the first time, and I knew it was just across the street. There was no indication that this was the immigration office or any other kind of government office until I went inside. The only kanji that I could recognize was that for Yokohama. (I know about 450-500 kanji. There are over 2,000 used in Japan. Few foreigners learn them all because of the enormous amount of time required. I have heard it takes about 10 years.)

Once I found it and went to the 5th floor, it was pretty smooth going. I did have a few questions to ask, and I went to the information counter. I started in Japanese, but the woman switched to English quickly. She answered my questions---accurately, I believe---and I had everything completed and handed in within 30 minutes. Of course gathering the documents took much more time.

I was lucky yesterday that not many people were there. Now all I have to do is wait and see if I get a new visa. One never knows as things in Japan can often be based on the whims of the bureaucrat reviewing one's application. This is especially true for permanent resident applications where the requirements and standards are very vague.

But you really don't have to worry. If there is a problem, there are holding cells in each immigration center (so I have read) to relax in before you are thrown out of the country. If you are seeking refugee status, you will probably spend all your short and sweet visit to Japan there---if you even get past Narita.

No comments:

Post a Comment