Created for expats living in Japan

Japan Residence Card (Zairyu Card) and Residence Management System

If you're moving to Japan, one thing you definitely need to be aware of is what's called the "Residency Management System". This is what the Immigration Bureau of Japan calls their system for tracking the residency of foreigners in Japan. 

Short Term Residents

If you are staying in Japan for less than 90 days, you will receive a stamp in your passport when you enter the country. That's it. It will look resemble the stamp in the picture below.

Mid to Long-term Residents

If you're going to be living here for any length of time, assuming you've properly arranged for your visa before coming to Japan, then the below information will apply to you.

The Residence Card (Zairyu Card)

Foreigners who come to Japan with visas allowing for a residency longer than 90 days, will receive a Residence Card (called Zairyu Card in Japanese) at the airport upon their arrival in Japan. The card contains basic personal information such as your name, your residency status, and your currently allowed period of stay.

While facial recognition automated gates may be available for use upon entry into Japan, please ensure that you always receive an entry stamp. For more details, refer to Further Use of Facial Recognition Automated Gates.

The card is embedded with an IC chip that contains all of this information. This makes access its information quick when interacting with official persons who are able to scan your card and confirm your residency status.

An additional thing to keep in mind is that your Residence Card will expire after 7 years if you are a permanent resident or when your current visa expires if you are a non-permanent resident.

Residential Registration

Once you finalize your living arrangements, you then need to report to the local administrative office (generally the ward office "Kuyakusho") and complete the "residential registration" within 14 days.

Once complete, your address will be added to your Residence Card and you will receive a "Certificate of Residence". If you bring family with you, be sure to bring proof of their relationship with you. Proof can either be a marriage or birth certificate, as required so you can register them as family/dependents.

Note: You can allow someone else to complete the residential registration on your behalf as long as you provide a written letter of proxy.

For more details about Address Registration and Changing Address, please refer to "How to register or change your address in Japan".

Leaving/Re-entering Japan

One of the benefits of this Residency Management System (as opposed to the older Alien Registration System) is that if you plan to leave and then re-enter Japan within one year after you depart, you are not required to apply for a re-entry permit.

The important thing is that you have to place a check mark on "Departure With Special Re-Entry Permission" on the Embarkation Card when you leave Japan at the airport.

In this way the immigration bureau can record your status as you will be back to Japan, otherwise you may be obliged to do all the procedures again to obtain a new VISA (even if you have a valid residence card), therefore this is something very important to remember if you plan to travel outside Japan and come back.

Please read further about The Re-Entry Permit System.

If you are planning to re-enter Japan after one year has elapsed from your departure date from Japan, then you will need to apply for a re-entry permit from the Ministry of Justice before you leave the country or your visa will expire automatically. You can get either a single re-entry or multiple re-entry permit that is valid until the end of your residency period (up to a maximum of 5 years). 

The Residence Card in Daily Life

The Residence Card serves as an ID card in daily life. You will be asked to produce a Residence Card that shows your current address on it in many situations during everyday life, such as when you buy a mobile phone or open a bank account. It is also likely to be requested in situations where you interact with officials such as immigration officials, police officers, postal employees, healthcare workers, etc.

It is necessary to carry your residence card at all times, and if requested by immigration officers, immigration security officers, police officers, etc., you are required to present it. If you do not carry your residence card, you may be subject to a fine of up to 200,000 yen. If you refuse to present it, you may face imprisonment for up to one year or a fine of up to 200,000 yen.

Those under the age of 16 are not required to carry a residence cards at all times as they are exempt from the clause that requires persons over the age of 16 to do so.

You should carry your Residence Card with you at all times.

Moving within Japan

When you move within Japan, you need to submit the change of address forms at your local ward/administrative offices within 14 days of the move. The specifics of what forms need to be submitted vary by location so please check with your local ward/administrative office for details. Below are the two most common types of forms that will need to be filled out when moving:

転出届 (tenshutsu-todoke)

"Notification of moving out" at the ward/administrative office for the old address you are moving from.

転入届 (tennyuu-todoke)

"Notification of moving in" at the ward/administrative office for the new address you are moving to.

This is an example form, taken from the English version of the change of address form from Minato Ward in Tokyo.

Sample Change Of Address Form

When you submit your change of address form(s), you will also fulfill the requirement for notifying the Ministry of Justice of your current address.


Forms, visas, and residence cards, there is certainly a lot of paperwork to be completed when moving to Japan. When you consider the immigration and residency management system for foreign nationals in Japan as of late, it can be a little disconcerting to think about moving here. In the midst of setting up your life in Japan, you want to make certain that there aren't any snags related to government paperwork that could hinder your transition. Therefore, we hope that these tips and guidelines have been helpful and will help to ease your transition to life in Japan. Best of luck!

>> Immigration Bureau's overview of the Residency Management System