All about the residence cards (ZAIRYU CARD)

What is a residence card?

Residence cards are issued to foreigners who have lived in Japan for more than three months.

Specifically, this applies to working holiday visa holders, foreign students and technical interns, foreigners working on a work visa (technical, humanities, international services, etc.) and foreigners married to Japanese nationals.

Residence cards are not issued for short-term stays of three months (90 days) or less.
Temporary visitor visas apply to tourist visas, visits to acquaintances, visits to relatives, short-term business, etc.

Where are residence cards issued?

There are two patterns of when foreigners receive their residence cards when they first arrive in Japan.

– Receive the residence card at the airport.
– Receive a residence card by post at a later date.

Residence cards are issued at the airport if you use one of the following seven airports when you arrive in Japan.

  • New Chitose Airport
  • Narita Airport
  • Haneda Airport
  • Chubu International Airport
  • Kansai Airport
  • Hiroshima Airport
  • Fukuoka Airport

If you were not issued a residence card at the airport on the same day, or if you entered Japan by ship, you must go to the local municipal office of your place of residence within 14 days of entering Japan to register your residence, and the card will be mailed to you a few days later.
In this case, until a residence card is issued, a notation to this effect will be made in the passport, which will temporarily replace the residence card.

A residence card enables you to register as a resident in Japan, and once you are registered as a resident, you can use various services, such as the following

What you can do with a residence card

  • Resident registration
  • Enrol in health insurance
  • Open a bank account
  • You can sign up for a mobile phone contract.

Foreigners in Japan for a short stay of less than 90 days (e.g. for tourism) are not issued with a residence card and cannot join the health insurance system.
Therefore, when receiving medical treatment in Japan, the full cost of the treatment is to be paid.

What does the residence card contain?

The following information will be written on the front: photo, name, nationality, date of birth, address, current status of residence and period of stay.
*If you are under 16 years of age, your photograph will not appear on the front.

The reverse side will contain the new address in case of a change of address, as well as information for those with a visa that does not permit them to work (e.g. study abroad, family stay) who have obtained a work permit (permission to engage in activity other than that permitted under the status of residence).


What to do if your residence card is stolen or lost?

If your residence card is lost or stolen, immediately submit a lost property report to the police station.

Then, within two weeks from the day you learn of the loss, go to the nearest immigration office to complete the reissue procedure.
As you are legally obliged to have your residence card with you at all times, you could be fined up to 200,000 yen in the worst case scenario if you leave it lost.

If your residence card is damaged or defaced, you should also go to the nearest immigration office and apply for reissuance.

If it is slightly damaged, it is OK, but if it is damaged in such a way that your name cannot be identified, you will need to have it re-issued.  There is no fee for re-issuance.

Notation of name on residence cards

If you are from a country with a kanji name (e.g. South Korea or China) and wish to include kanji notation, you can have your name in kanji notation by submitting a ‘Kanji Notation Application’.
Only kanji recognised by the Japanese Ministry of Justice can be used, so in the case of Chinese, the name may be converted to kanji registered in Japan.

Residence cards must be renewed before their expiry date.

If your period of stay expires, you will overstay, so you must apply for a visa renewal or change to a different visa before the expiry date of your period of stay.

You can apply for renewal three months before the expiry of your period of stay. You cannot apply for renewal at any time, but only three months before the expiry of your period of stay.

You should remember to go to the nearest immigration office to renew your visa before the expiry date, as you will not be informed of the expiry date every time it is approaching.

If you want to change from your current visa to another visa, apply for a change as soon as possible after the reason for the change arises.

There is a grace period of three months for a work visa and six months for a spouse visa after the reason for the change has occurred, but you should apply as soon as possible.

In addition, if there is a change in the details on your visa, such as your place of residence, you must report the change within 14 days, so do not forget to do this.