If a person who is married to a Japanese national and living under the status of residence (visa) of “Spouse or Child of Japanese National”(「日本人の配偶者等」) gets divorced, he/she must decide within 6 months from the date of divorce whether to change to another status of residence or return to home country. When changing status of residence (visa), consider a work visa if you have/are employed, or a family visa if you have remarried in the past 6 months. “Long Term Resident”(「定住者」) may be an option if you have been married in Japan for a long time or have children.
Do I need to change my visa status immediately after divorce even if my period of stay remains?
In the case of divorce, even if you have more than 6 months remaining on your period of stay, you can stay in Japan up to 6 months from the date of divorce without any problems. After 6 months, your status of residence will be revoked and you may be asked to return to your home country by the Immigration Service Agency. If you apply for a change of status of residence after 6 months, the examination may be unfavorable. It is advisable to complete the procedure as soon as possible.
Notify Immigration Service Agency within two weeks of divorce.
If you divorce or bereave your spouse (wife/husband), you must submit a ‘Notification of Spouse’ to the Immigration Service Agency within 14 days of the divorce or bereavement. If the 14 days have already passed, it is not too late to submit the notification now. If you wish to change your status of residence after divorce, failure to submit this notification will have a negative impact on the examination process. Make sure to submit it.
▶Immigration Service Agency：「Notification of spouse」
Change of status of residence (visa) required within 6 months of divorce
The status of residence “Spouse or Child of Japanese National” is a status of residence available to a spouse (wife or husband) married to a Japanese national. This means that if you divorce and are no longer a spouse, the basic rule is that you must change your status of residence (visa) within six months or leave Japan. In the case of “Spouse or Child of Japanese National”, even if the period of stay is still remaining, if the period of stay exceeds six months, it falls under “grounds for Cancellation of status of residence”. It is unlikely that you will be summoned to the Immigration Service Agency for even one day past the six-month period. However, if you change your status of residence after six months, in many cases the immigration authorities will ask you why, or it may have a negative impact on your application.
If I change my status of residence, what kind of visa should I change it to?
If you are divorced, you cannot stay in Japan as it is, so you should consider changing your status of residence (visa). Consider a Work visa if employed, a Dependent visa if remarried, or a Long Term Resident visa if there are circumstances that require them to remain in Japan.
If you are (or will be) employed, select 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.
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.
First, of course, a sham marriage solely for the purpose of residence is not recognized. Not only remarriages, but also applications for status of residence from marriages of two people who have been together for a short period of time tend to be scrutinized more strictly; in the case of a remarriage of less than 6 months, it is easier to be suspected of a sham marriage, so care should be taken. In addition, Japan has a waiting period for remarriage under the Civil Code (as of July 2023), which also applies to foreigners who marry in Japan. Please check carefully as a marriage visa is applied for after marriage.
Next, if the visa status you wish to change is ‘Dependent’, unlike ‘Spouse or Child of Japanese National’, there are restrictions on working because it is assumed that you will live within your partner’s dependent . If you obtain a ‘Permission to Engage in Activity other than that Permitted under the Status of Residence Previously Granted'(「資格外活動許可」), you will be able to work part-time up to 28 hours per week, but if you have been working full-time, it will be difficult to continue working as before.
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
To begin with, there are no announced screening criteria for this “Long Term Resident” (Divorced Settled Resident). 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.
*1: 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.
*2: The nationality of the biological child is not questioned, but the father or mother must have Japanese nationality at the time of birth.
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.
Divorced “Long Term Residents” (so-called “divorced Long Term Residents”) are required to prepare the necessary documents according to their individual circumstances. The following is an example.
|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
・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 is an explanation of the divorce of a foreigner who was married to a Japanese national. First of all, upon divorce, you must file a ” Notification of Spouse” with the Immigration Service Agency within 14 days.
After that, within 6 months, you must decide whether to change your status of residence (visa) to another visa, return to your own country, or decide on your future course of action, and then file the necessary procedures with the Immigration Service Agency. If you are divorced and have lived in Japan for a long time, or if you want to raise small children in Japan, you may be able to obtain a “Long Term Resident” status (visa). In any case, you need to carefully consider your situation.
【Advice from an administrative scrivener】
Although it is a trend, the examination process for changing the status of residence (visa) from “Spouse or Child of Japanese National” to another status of residence (visa) in the case of divorce, etc., is often more severe.
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.