Career Guide

Obtain Permission for Naturalization to Become a Japanese Citizen

Obtain Permission for Naturalization to Become a Japanese Citizen

A foreign non-Japanese person becoming Japanese nationality, is called naturalization. According to the Nationality Law, he or she must complete application procedure to obtain Permission for Naturalization from the Minister of Justice. As dual nationality is prohibited by Japan, naturalization requires the applicant to give up existing citizenship to be granted Japanese citizenship.

Although there are rules in place, strict rules to grant Permission for Naturalization are not imposed by Japanese government. The exact process depends not only on the applicant's nationality as international relations and agreements may be different between Japan and his or her home country but also the applicant's current living conditions in Japan. The application procedure is quite time-consuming taking from 1 year to several years in some cases, including complicated documents, tests and interviews. However, it may be a good news that about 99 percent of all applications for naturalization are approved.

Difference between naturalization and Permanent Residence

Permanent Residence, one kind of visa, also allow foreigners to live in Japan for a permanent period without the need to renew period of stay. However, the biggest difference between them is that a naturalized foreigner becomes a Japanese citizen while a permanent resident is still a foreigner with Non-Japanese nationality.

Being Japanese citizens means that they get the right to vote and participate in elections and can also become civil servants, including judge or prosecutor, or even join the Self-Defense Forces or the police. There are also many privileges in social insurance for Japanese citizens.

Besides, permanent residents can lose their status if they leave Japan for 3 years or longer. Each time they leave Japan on a trip or temporary return home, a re-entry procedure is required. While naturalized citizens are not restricted on the amount of time they can spend outside of Japan and don't need any re-entry procedure.

Additionally, naturalized citizens can travel with Japanese passports, which can be more convenient as many countries do not require visas for Japanese passports.

Who is eligible to apply for naturalization?

The conditions for naturalization are as follows. One thing to note is that the permission is disposed at the discretion of the Ministry of Justice. Even all the following conditions fulfilled still the application may be rejected, and even if some of the conditions are not met, a permission may also be granted.

・Maintain a domicile in Japan for at least 5 consecutive years;

・At least 20 years old;

・History of good behavior generally, and no past history of seditious behavior, punishment, violations, tax delinquency, etc;

・Sufficient financial capital or skills, either personally or within family, to support oneself in Japan;

・Willing to renounce foreign citizenship and hold only Japanese citizenship;

・Comply to Japanese Constitution, oneself, relatives and other familiar people are not involved in violent groups;

・Japanese language skills, though not stipulated by law, the applicant has to pass a test of third grade level and several interviews in Japanese during the application procedure.

The age and financial requirements may be waived, or the domicile requirements may be relaxed if the applicant satisfies any one of the following conditions.

・A child of a past Japanese citizen (excluding adopted children)

-Domicile requirements relaxed: maintain a domicile or residence in Japan for at least 3 years.

・Born in Japan

-Domicile requirements relaxed: maintain a domicile or residence in Japan for at least 3 years, or a parent born in Japan (excluding adoptive parents).

・Have a residence in Japan for 10 consecutive years or more

-Domicile requirements relaxed: residence instead of domicile.

・Spouse of a Japanese citizen

-Domicile requirements relaxed: maintain a domicile or residence in Japan for at least 3 years and maintain a domicile currently. Or keep marriage for at least 3 years and maintain a domicile currently.

-Age requirement waived.

・A child of a Japanese citizen (excluding adopted children)

-Domicile requirements relaxed: maintain a domicile in Japan currently.

-Age requirement waived.

-Financial requirements waived.

・Adoption of a Japanese citizen

-Domicile requirements relaxed: maintain a domicile in Japan for at least 1 year, and was in one's minority when adopted.

-Age requirement waived.

-Financial requirements waived.

・Someone who has lost Japanese nationality (excluding who has lost Japanese nationality after naturalization in Japan)

-Domicile requirements relaxed: maintain a domicile in Japan currently.

-Age requirement waived.

-Financial requirements waived.

・Born in Japan and has no nationality since birth

-Domicile requirements relaxed: maintain a residence in Japan for at least 3 years since birth.

-Age requirement waived.

-Financial requirements waived.

Application for Naturalization

The application has to be made in person to the Legal Affairs Bureau or Regional Legal Affairs Bureau with responsibility for the city where the applicant lives, while in a case that the applicant is under 15 years old, a legal representative such as a parent or guardian should make the application instead.

The typical procedure for naturalization application is:

1) Visit the Regional Legal Affairs Bureau to get a booklet with every needed document and process explained in Japanese;

2) Prepare and fill out all necessary documents, and submit all prepared documents to the Ministry of Justice;

3) The Ministry of Justice checks the submitted documents;

4) Interview and home/workplace visit will be scheduled a few months after submitting the documents;

5) Permission will be given by the Minister of Justice;

6) Notification will be posted in the official gazette and the permission will be effective as of the announcement day;

7) Procedure after naturalization such as returning alien resident card, changing the name on the bank account and driver's license, etc.

Costs of naturalization application

In principle, no handling fee is required when foreigners apply for naturalization by themselves. Considering the complicated documents, some people may ask a lawyer for consulting, in which case corresponding fee need to be paid for.

Necessary documents for naturalization application

The required documents vary from Regional Legal Affairs Bureaus. Basically, the following documents are required.

・Application form

・Description of the applicant's relatives

・Motivation for becoming a Japanese citizen (hand-written in Japanese by the applicant)


・Description of how the applicant makes living in Japan

・Description of the applicant's business (If oneself or family member is a business owner)

・Copy of resident card

・Documents that prove the applicant's nationality (birth certificate)

・Domestic family documents

・Documents to prove tax payment

・Documents to prove the applicant's income

・Documents to prove residence history

If a naturalization application rejected

Although the percentage of approval is very high, what if rejected? Principally, the applicant can appeal to the court about the rejection, or reapply again in no time, which may work little though. Unless some rare mistakes occur to the Minister of Justice, the rejection will not be overturned.

There must be not-being-told reason for the rejection. The applicant has to infer the reason from what was said or heard during the application procedures, and correct the problem in the daily living. The best choice may be to wait for some time to make sure the modified living conditions reflected and make the application again.

In addition, the inspection for a second naturalization application tends to be stricter out of the former rejection. It is highly recommended to make sure requirements fulfilled and obtain Permission for Naturalization at the first time of application.