Can I bring my adopted foreign child to Japan?

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If you wish to invite your foreign adopted child to live with you in Japan, the child will apply for ‘Spouse or Child of Japanese National(日本人の配偶者等)’, ‘Long Term Resident(定住者)’ or ‘Dependent(家族滞在)’ status, depending on the adoptive parent’s nationality, status of residence and type of adoption. Depending on the status of residence, it is assumed that the adopted child will be supported by the adoptive parents. In addition, not all adopted children can apply for these statuses of residence, so if they do not apply, a work or student visa should be considered.
This part explains which residence statuses apply to adopted children according to the nationality and residence status of their adoptive parents.

What is an adopted child?

Adoption is a system that creates a legal parent-child relationship between adoptive parents and their adopted child.
In other words, it is a system that allows a child to become a legal parent-child relationship even if he or she is not the biological child. In Japan, there are two patterns of adoption: ‘regular adoption(普通養子縁組)’ and ‘special adoption(特別養子縁組)’.

What is a regular adoption?

An regular adoption is an adoption in which the biological parent-child relationship continues after the adoption.
The adoptive parents must be at least 20 years of age and the adoption is concluded by agreement between the adoptive parents and the adopted child him/herself and notification to the municipal office. If the adopted child is under 15 years of age, the legal representative of the adopted child (the person with parental authority) agrees to the adoption on behalf of the adopted child him/herself.
However, family court permission is required to adopt a minor. If the adopted child is a child or grandchild of your spouse (wife/husband) or your own grandchildren, family court permission is not required. In addition, if the person adopting the minor has a spouse (wife/husband), the adoption is to be carried out together with the spouse.

Since this is a legal parent-child relationship, the adopted child’s surname will be the same as that of the adoptive parent if the child is Japanese, and the adopted child will become the adoptive parent’s heir if the adoptive parent dies. In addition, the adoption of a minor has the effect of creating rights and obligations, such as the adoptive parents having parental authority over the adopted child.

What is special adoption?

A special adoption is an adoption in which the relationship between biological parent and child is terminated by the adoption.
As a rule, the adopted child must be under 15 years of age, the adoptive parent must be a person with a spouse and the adoption must be carried out jointly by the couple. With regard to age, one adoptive parent must be at least 25 years old and the other at least 20 years old.

The consent of the birth parents is basically required for a special adoption. After a six-month period of custody, if it is confirmed that there are no problems, the family court will finally allow the special adoption to take place.
Special adoption establishes a parent-child relationship between the adopted child and the adoptive parents (just like a real parent-child relationship). As mentioned above, in a ‘special adoption’ the adopted child is treated like a biological child, and there is a difference in the status of residence (visa) that the child can obtain between ‘regular adoption’ and ‘special adoption’.

The same applies to both ‘regular adoption’ and ‘special adoption’: if the adoption is between Japanese nationals, it is governed by Japanese law, but if there are foreign nationals involved, it is governed by foreign law as well as Japanese law.

▶Reference:Ministry of Justice ‘Learn about adoption’

Explanation by nationality and status of residence of adoptive parents.

The status of residence (visa) that an adopted child can obtain depends on the nationality and status of residence of the adoptive parents.

Case 1: Where the adoptive parent is Japanese

If the adoptive parents are Japanese, the status of residence that can be obtained depends on the type of adoption and the age of the child. If the adoptive parents are Japanese, they can apply for ‘Spouse or Child of Japanese National’ or ‘Long Term Resident’ status.

In the case of special adoptions, ‘Spouse or Child of Japanese National’

If a ‘special adoption’ has taken place, the child is treated in the same way as a biological child and can apply for Spouse or Child of Japanese National.
The conditions for being granted ‘Spouse or Child of Japanese National’ status are that it can be confirmed that a special adoption has taken place and that a parent-child relationship exists, and that a stable life in Japan can be expected.

In the case of ‘regular adoption’, ‘Spouse or Child of Japanese National’ cannot be applied for, so another status of residence should be considered.

‘Long Term Resident’ in the case of an adopted child under six years of age.

If an adopted child under regular adoption is under six years of age, he/she can apply for ‘Long Term Resident’ status.
The key to applying for ‘Long Term Resident’ status is that the adopted child must be living with the support of the adoptive parent(s).

The type of Long Term Resident for which an adopted child under six years of age can apply is Notification No. 7(告示7号). Another similar Long Term Resident typology, Notification No. 6(告示6号), allows for a stepchild of a spouse (wife/husband) to be invited. In the case of a spouse’s stepchild (child of the wife/husband’s previous spouse), the status of residence is conditional on the child being a minor (under 18 years of age) and unmarried and living with the support of his/her parents, in which case the establishment of an adoption is not a condition.

If the adopted child is over 6 years of age

If the adopted child is older than six years old, he/she cannot apply for ‘Long Term Resident’ status. Generally, ages 6 and above are likely to attend school in Japan, such as primary schools, so if they attend school, they should apply for a ‘student’ visa. If the child is not attending school and is old enough to find employment, a work visa is considered.

Case 2: Where the adoptive parent is a ‘Permanent Resident’ or ‘Long Term Resident’.

If the adoptive parent is a ‘Permanent Resident’ or a ‘Long Term Resident’ with a designated period of stay of one year or more, the same as when the adoptive parent is Japanese, the ‘Long Term Resident’ status is considered if the child is under six years old, or a different status if the child is older.

Long Term Resident’ in the case of an adopted child under six years of age.

If the adopted child is under six years of age, he or she can apply for ‘Long Term Resident’ status.
The key to applying for ‘Long Term Resident’ status is that the child must be living with the support of the adoptive parent(s).

The type of Long Term Resident for which an adopted child under six years of age can apply is Notification No. 7. Another similar Long Term Resident typology, Notification No. 6, allows for a stepchild of a spouse (wife/husband) to be invited.In the case of a spouse’s stepchild (child of the wife/husband’s previous spouse), the status of residence is conditional on the child being a minor (under 18 years of age) and unmarried and living with the support of his/her parents, in which case the establishment of an adoption is not a condition.

If the adopted child is over 6 years of age

If the adopted child is older than six years old, he/she cannot apply for ‘Long Term Resident’ status. Generally, ages 6 and above are likely to attend school in Japan, such as primary schools, so if they attend school, they should apply for a ‘student’ visa. If the child is not attending school and is old enough to find employment, a work visa is considered.

Case 3: Where the adoptive parent is on a work visa

If the adoptive parents have a work visa (e.g. ‘Engineer/Specialist in Humanities/International Services(技術・人文知識・国際業務)‘, Business Manager(経営・管理), Skilled Labor(技能), Instructor(教育), Professor(教授), Entertainer(興行), Highly Skilled Professional(高度専門職), Specified Skilled Worker 2(特定技能2号)’ etc.), the adopted child can apply for ‘Dependent’. In the case of ‘Dependent’, unlike ‘Spouse or Child of Japanese National’, it is possible to apply for ‘Regular Adoption’.

The key points for applying for ‘Dependent’ are that the applicant must live with the support of his or her adoptive parents and that the adoptive parents must have enough income to provide a stable living. In the case of Dependent, it is possible to apply at any age as long as the child is adopted, but in general the older the child is, the more difficult it is to apply. If you are old enough to be self-supporting and want to be independent, it may be better to consider a work visa.
Also, if the adoptive parents and the adopted child have been living separately and have not received support up until now, and are now going to receive support in Japan, it is necessary to explain why this makes sense. If you are suspected of using your position as an adopted child to migrate, you are more likely to be inadmissible.

Conclusion

The above explains whether a foreign child who has been adopted can obtain a status of residence (visa).
Depending on the nationality and status of residence of the adoptive parents and the type of adoption, the adopted child may be able to apply for ‘Spouse or Child of Japanese National’, ‘Long Term Resident’ or ‘Dependent’ status. Among these, there is an age limit for ‘Long Term Resident’. If the adopted child is older than six years, a student visa or work visa should be considered.

【Advice from administrative scrivener】

In the case of adopted children, the status of residence (visa) applied for depends on the circumstances. In the case of a stepchild of a spouse, there are cases where a status of residence can be obtained without adoption.
It depends on the situation of the adopted child as to which status of residence is best for his or her life in Japan. Please feel free to consult with us.

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