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    September 27, 2021

    Permanent residency vs. citizenship (naturalization): Which is better for those who want to live in Japan forever?

    This section explains the differences between permanent residency and naturalization as procedures for semi-permanent residence in Japan.

    The most significant difference is whether or not you can obtain citizenship as a Japanese citizen.

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    Characteristics of Permanent Residency

    First of all, I would like to give you the details of “Permanent Residency” which many foreign residents consider as an option.

    What is Permanent Residency?

    Permanent residence is a status that allows you to continue living in Japan for an unlimited time.

    Foreign nationals need a status of residence (visa) to reside in Japan, but the maximum term of the status of residence is five years, after which you will need to reapply to continue living in Japan.

    Other statuses of residence have a fixed purpose, such as a work visa or a college student visa, and if you change your purpose (for example, to study in Japan and then go straight to work), you will need to obtain a new status of residence for the new destination.

    Permanent residency does not have this limitation.

    It can be said that permanent residence is the ultimate status of residence, with no restrictions on purpose or term of stay.

    How to obtain a permanent residence permit

    Permanent residency is processed at the Immigration Bureau, a Japanese government agency.

    The required documents include a photograph, certificate of residence, certificate of employment, copy of bankbook, residence card, and passport.

    Applications by proxy are also accepted.

    In principle, the applicant must have lived in Japan for at least 10 years.

    Advantages of Permanent Residency

    The advantage is that you can continue to live in Japan while retaining your original nationality.

    In addition, while naturalization is, in principle, carried out on a family basis, permanent residence can be applied for individually.

    Disadvantages of Permanent Residency

    The opposite of the merits of naturalization, which will be discussed later, is that permanent residence does not include suffrage.

    Also, it will be difficult to be employed as a public servant.

    Features of Naturalization (Citizenship)

    This article explains citizenship, which is another right to live in Japan semi-permanently, and naturalization, which is the procedure to obtain it.

    What is naturalization?

    Naturalization is the process of becoming a Japanese citizen.

    Permanent residency and status of residence are procedures that allow you to continue living in Japan as a foreigner, but naturalization allows you to obtain citizenship as a Japanese citizen and of course continue living in Japan.

    For administrative purposes, you will be treated in the same way as a Japanese citizen who has been in Japan since birth.

    How to Naturalize

    To apply for naturalization, the applicant himself/herself needs to go to the Ministry of Justice, a government agency, and submit the documents.

    The required documents include an application form, a letter of motivation (stating the reason why you want to naturalize), a resume, a copy of your residence certificate, and a certificate of tax payment.

    Those who have been living in Japan for more than five years are eligible.

    Advantages of naturalization (citizenship)

    Having Japanese citizenship gives you the right to participate in government.

    Specifically, this includes the right to vote in elections for members of the Diet (House of Councillors and House of Representatives), prefectural governorships, and municipal assemblies.

    In addition, most job openings in Japanese government offices require that the applicant be Japanese.

    If you want to work as a civil servant, you need to become a naturalized citizen, not a permanent resident.

    Disadvantages of naturalization (citizenship)

    In principle, you must renounce your original nationality.

    The Japanese government does not recognize dual citizenship.

    If having your original nationality gives you any advantages in terms of social security, taxes, etc., you will have to give it up when you naturalize.

    Permanent Residency vs. Citizenship

    Now that we have told you about the characteristics of each, let’s compare permanent residency and citizenship.

    Ease of acquisition

    As a general rule, permanent residence is granted for 10 years and naturalization for 5 years.

    However, many people find it easier to obtain permanent residence than naturalization.

    Naturalization is applied for by the applicant himself/herself, which is a hurdle for those who are not very good at Japanese.

    Permanent residency can be processed by a representative such as an administrative scrivener who knows the law and you well.

    Number of applications and permits

    The number of permanent residents has been increasing by 20,000 to 30,000 every year, and as of the end of 2019, there are 793,164 permanent residents.

    On the other hand, the number of people who acquire Japanese nationality through naturalization is around 1,000 every year, with the most recent number of 772 in 2020.

    Compared to those who become permanent residents, the number of those who become naturalized citizens is negligible.

    Permanent residency is recommended for the following people

    Permanent residency is recommended for people who may eventually return to their home country, or who do not want to lose their identity or citizenship in their original country.

    Naturalization (citizenship) is recommended for the following people

    Citizenship is recommended for people who have already decided to stay in Japan for the rest of their lives, people who want to work as public servants, and people who want to participate in politics in Japan.


    We have reported on the characteristics of permanent residency and naturalization as procedures that allow you to continue living in Japan indefinitely.

    The main difference between the two is whether or not you acquire Japanese citizenship.

    If you are convinced that you will spend your whole life in Japan and are willing to give up your original country’s nationality, I recommend naturalization; otherwise, I recommend permanent residence.

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