According to the Immigration Bureau, the Ministry of Justice and immigration lawyers, the new law will bring about a few major changes.
First of all, the alien registration card (soon to become the “residence card”) will no longer be issued at the local level. From July of next year, the Ministry of Justice will take over responsibility for the residence card.
After the law goes into effect, new arrivals with a valid medium- or long-term visa will receive a residence card at their port of entry. In cases where the port authorities do not have the means to do this — presumably at smaller air and sea ports rather than the main regional hubs — the card will be mailed to you.
Current medium- and long-term residents in Japan will receive the new card when they next apply for a visa extension from July 2012 (permanent residents must apply for the card by July 2015).
The new law will essentially combine the systems for Japanese and non-Japanese under the Juki Net system, a nationwide registry established in 2002 that includes basic information about all citizens. Very controversial, it has been the subject of numerous lawsuits filed by plaintiffs across the country over privacy concerns. The Supreme Court ruled in 2008 that the Juki Net does not infringe on the right to privacy guaranteed by the Constitution.
When the new law comes into force, non-Japanese will be put into this national system, which is why the residence card will be issued directly by the Immigration Bureau rather than local government.
Procedures for updating details on the residence card will also change when the new law goes into effect. Currently your local government office handles most personal information changes, but under the new law nearly all notifications will need to be made at your nearest immigration office.
For example, changes of name or nationality, employer or school information, and family relations (e.g., separation, divorce, death of spouse) will all be handled by the Immigration Bureau. Address registration and changes will still be handled by city hall.
Additionally, if your residence card is lost, damaged or stolen, rather than going to city hall, you will need to visit the immigration office for re-issuance. The time frame in which you have to do so, however, will remain the same: 14 days.
The new system will extend the maximum period of stay from three years to five.
Under the new law, medium-to-long-term residents with a valid passport and residence card will no longer need to apply for a re-entry permit if they leave and return to Japan within one year.
Additionally, the validity term of the re-entry permit for those who plan to be away for longer than 12 months will be extended from three to five years.
Items on the new residence card will no longer include the name of the householder, place of birth, passport number, occupation, and employer’s name and location.
To find more information on the upcoming changes (in English), visit www.immi-moj.go.jp/english/newimmiact/newimmiact_english.html and www.immi-moj.go.jp/newimmiact/pdf/leaflet_english.pdf