Marriage between foreigners. What happens to the visa if they divorce in Japan?


Foreigners residing as “Spouse or Child of a Permanent Resident”(「永住者の配偶者等」) or “Dependent” (「家族滞在」)must change their status of residence (visa) in order to continue living in Japan after divorce. Failure to do so within the allotted period may also result in the subsequent application being rejected, even if the “Spouse or Child of a Permanent Resident” or “Dependent” status still remains. On the other hand, for those who have lived in Japan for a long time, a visa called ‘Long Term Resident'(「定住者」) may be granted. This section explains the visa procedures for foreigners living in Japan who are divorced.

Procedure to be followed by foreign couples living in Japan in the event of divorce.

Foreign couples may or may not have to follow procedures related to their status of residence (visa) as a result of divorce. There are also two types of procedure to follow: notification of divorce and change of status of residence (visa).

Whether or not you need to go through Immigration Service Agency procedures as a result of your ‘divorce’ depends on your status of residence (visa).

The idea is that if the reason for obtaining a visa was marriage, you need to follow the procedure, but if you obtained a visa for other reasons, you do not need to report to the Immigration Service Agency about your divorce.

Family status, such as “Spouse or Child of a Permanent Resident”, “Spouse or Child of a Japanese National”(「日本人の配偶者等」), “Dependent”, etc.

Family statuses such as ‘Spouse or Child of a Permanent Resident’, ‘Spouse or Child of a Japanese National’, ‘Dependent’ (family based ‘Designated Activities’ similar to Dependent) require reporting and procedures to the Immigration Service Agency.
The necessary procedure is to file a ‘notification concerning spouse’ within 14 days of divorce, and to apply for permission to change status of residence within a set period if you wish to continue your stay without returning home.

Work-related status, such as ‘Permanent Resident'(「永住者」), ‘Engineer/Specialist in Humanities/International Services'(「技術・人文知識・国際業務」), ‘Highly skilled professional'(「高度専門職」), etc.

‘Permanent residents’, including, for example, those who have married a ‘Japanese’ or ‘permanent resident’ and have become ‘permanent residents’ within a short period of time due to relaxed requirements, do not need to notify or change their visa.

If you have been in a work-related status, such as ‘Engineer/Specialist in Humanities/International Services’ or ‘Highly Skilled Professional’, you do not need to notify the authorities or change your visa.

Supplementary information: procedures for divorce itself.

In the case of marriages between foreigners, divorce proceedings are in principle based on the law of the home country. However, if the applicable law differs depending on the couple’s nationality or place of origin, divorce can also be granted under the laws of Japan, where the couple has their habitual residence.

If the couple’s relationship has actually broken down (e.g. they are separated), it does not follow that they can continue to stay as ‘spouse or child of a permanent resident’, ‘spouse or child of a Japanese national’ or ‘dependent’ simply because they have not yet gone through ‘divorce proceedings’ in their home country. All of these statuses are based on the premise of ‘living together’, so if a couple has broken up and are living separately, it is advisable to consider changing their status of residence immediately.

There are two procedures at the Immigration Service Agency that are carried out as a result of a ‘divorce’.

There are two procedures to be undertaken at the Immigration Service Agency as a result of a ‘divorce’: ‘notification of divorce’ and ‘change of status of residence (visa)’.

Submit a ‘notification of spouse'(「配偶者に関する届出」) within two weeks of divorce.

If you divorce or bereave your spouse (wife/husband), you must submit a ‘notification of spouse’ to Immigration Service Agency within 14 days of the divorce or bereavement. If 14 days have passed, it is not too late to submit the notification now. If you are planning to change your status of residence in order to continue living in Japan after your divorce, not submitting this notification will have a negative impact on your application. Make sure you submit it.

▶Immigration Service Agency:「Notification of spouse

Change of status of residence also required within a set time limit

The ‘spouse of a permanent resident’, ‘spouse of a Japanese national’ and ‘Dependent’ (family-based ‘Designated Activities’「特定活動」 similar to Dependent) are all statuses of residence (visas) based on the premise of living together as a couple or as a family.
For this reason, the basic rule is that in the event of divorce, a divorcee must change to another status of residence (visa) within a set period of time or leave Japan.

The set period is, in principle, up to six months for ‘Spouse or Child of a Permanent Resident’ and ‘Spouse or Child of a Japanese National’, and up to three months for ‘Dependent’ (and family-based ‘Designated Activities’ similar to Dependent).

It is rare to be summoned by Immigration Service Agency for even one day past three months in the case of ‘Dependent’ or six months in the case of ‘Spouse or Child of a Permanent Resident’.
However, if the procedure to change the status of residence is carried out beyond that period, in many cases the Immigration Service Agency will ask the reason or this may have a negative impact on your application.

However, there is no need to change status of residence if a person remarries in Japan, or if a person residing under the status of ‘spouse or child of a permanent resident’ remarries a ‘permanent resident’. Details will be explained later.

Status of residence (visa) after divorce, which should I change to?

If you are divorced, you cannot stay in Japan as it is, so a change of status of residence (visa) is considered. Consider a work visa if you have found a job, a family visa if you have remarried, or a Long Term Resident visa if there are circumstances that require you to remain in Japan.

If you are (or will be) employed, a work visa

If you are employed, or if you are not employed and considering employment to earn a living, consider a work-based residence status.

If you are a salaried employee and receive a salary, the categories ‘Engineer/Specialist in Humanities/International Services'(「技術・人文知識・国際業務」), ‘Skilled Labor’ (「技能」)and ‘Specially Skilled Worker 1′(「特定技能1号」) apply, while if you start your own business, the category ‘Business Manager’ (「経営・管理」)and other statuses of residence (visa) apply. If you are a particularly outstanding person, you may be eligible to apply for “Highly Skilled Professional 1″(「高度専門職1号」) status. Each status of residence has different academic and professional background requirements and a different range of possible work activities. Below is an example of a commonly obtained work visa.

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If you remarry, select a family visa.

It is possible under the system to remarry within 6 months and change to another family visa.
In this case, the status of residence to apply for will depend on the nationality and status of residence of the remarried partner. For example, if your second marriage partner is Japanese, you will remain a “spouse or child of a Japanese national” and do not need to apply for a new status of residence until the next renewal of your visa. If you are married to a permanent resident, you will consider for “Spouse or Child of Permanent Resident”(「永住者の配偶者等」) status, and if you are married to someone with a work visa, you will consider for “Dependent“(「家族滞在」) or “Specially Designated Activities” (「特定活動」) status. In this case, there are a few points to note.

If you have other circumstances that require you to remain in Japan (Long Term Resident)

For example, if you have been married in Japan for a long time and have no family or job back in your home country and returning home would be disadvantageous, or if you have a Japanese biological child and have parental rights to raise the child in Japan, you may be able to apply for “Long Term Resident” status (“Divorce and Settling in Japan “, as it is called).
However, this “Long Term Resident” status can only be applied for by those who have unavoidable circumstances, and there are certain screening criteria, and not all divorced Japanese can obtain this status.

Apply for Long Term Resident.

If you have been married in Japan for a long time or want to raise your children in Japan, Long Term Resident status may be granted. This is a status of residence (visa) that requires thorough preparation for application.

When you can apply for Long Term Resident after divorce

‘Long Term Resident’ will only be granted in special circumstances. Therefore, it is not always possible to obtain permission if the following criteria are met, and there are cases where permission is granted even if the following criteria are not met. The application process is considerably more difficult, especially for those with a ‘Dependent’ status.

・If a certain period of time (generally 3 years or more *1) has passed since the marriage before the divorce, and the applicant has enough income and assets to live stably in Japan.
・Other special circumstances (e.g. raising a child in Japan who can only speak Japanese, or wanting to continue treatment in Japan).

※If the couple has been living separately for a long period of time, such as during divorce proceedings, it may not be determined that the marriage (married life) has continued for a certain period of time.

In addition, the website of the Immigration Service Agency lists cases of approval and disapproval from the “Spouse or Child of Japanese National” category. The information is a little out of date, but please check it.

▶Immigration Service Agency:「「日本人の配偶者等」又は「永住者の配偶者等」から「定住者」への在留資格変更許可が認められた事例及び認められなかった事例について

Procedures for Changing Status of Residence to “Long Term Resident”

“Long Term Resident” (divorced permanent resident) is applied for at the immigration office that has jurisdiction over the place of residence. Basically, the procedure is done by the applicant himself/herself, but you can also ask an administrative scrivener or lawyer who can act as an agent for the application.

When must the procedure be completed?

If you wish to change your visa status to a work visa after your divorce, you should apply for the visa as soon as you sign an employment contract. If you have remarried, you should apply after the marriage has been consummated. As explained before, if you get married again to a Japanese national, you do not need to apply for status of residence until the next renewal procedure (“notification of spouse” is required). Long Term Residents should apply as soon as they are ready, but in all cases the application should be made within six months of the divorce.

※Long Term Residents can only apply for permission to change their status of residence. Once you have returned your resident card, you cannot apply for a Certificate of Eligibility to re-enter Japan.

Required Documents

Long Term Residents, who are divorced, prepare the necessary documents according to their individual circumstances. The following are examples.

Required documents (example)
・Application for change of status of residence(在留資格変更許可申請書)
・A copy of the family register(戸籍謄本) of the Japanese child
・Certificate of Acceptance of Divorce Report(離婚証明受理証明書)
・Notice of Employment/Certificate of Employment(雇用条件通知書/在職証明書)
・A copy of a bankbook
・Taxation certificate(課税証明書)、Tax payment certificate(納税証明書)for resident tax
・Guarantor letter(身元保証書)
・Certificate of residence(住民票)
・Statement of Reasons(理由書)
・Residence card(在留カード)、passport (to be presented at the counter)

For the Statement of Reason, it is advisable to write a 2-page, A4-size letter explaining your situation, such as the reason why you must remain in Japan, and that you have enough income to live in Japan without any problems. The key is to write concisely without omitting any information that the immigration inspector may want to know.


The above explains the procedures and status of residence for foreign couples who have divorced.
Basically, for those whose reason for obtaining a status of residence was ‘marriage’, they will report the divorce to the Immigration Service Agency and either leave Japan within a set period or change to a different status of residence. Long Term Resident status may be granted in cases where the applicant has no plans to remarry and does not meet the requirements for a work visa, but has lived in Japan for a long time and has circumstances that prevent him or her from returning to his or her home country.

【Advice from an administrative scrivener】
If you are changing your status of residence after divorce, it is best to follow professional advice as much as possible in order to correctly determine what status you should change to and to proceed with the procedure in a way that will not result in a denial.
Especially when changing to “Long Term Resident” status, it is advisable to carefully prepare the documents to be attached and a statement of reasons, taking advice from someone familiar with visa matters as much as possible.




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