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Thursday, July 11, 2002


Permanent status and foreign driving licences in Japan

Reader AEB from Kyushu writes: "I am single, have lived here in Japan for almost 10 years, and have a stable job. I hope to apply for permanent residency. I heard that you must have lived here for 10 years consecutively, or be married to a Japanese national.

"The immigration office said that because I had a year away in my home country the 'year count' so to speak would start again. Is there a 10 year minimum law?"

Well, simply put there are two categories for Permanent Resident -- one is for those married to a Japanese. If you are married to a Japanese you may qualify in five years or even less depending on your situation.

The other category is the difficulty here. The "10 years" means "10 years continuously." In other words, when you leave the country be sure to have a re-entry permit and be sure to return while it is still valid.

Unfortunately, when you left the country to go to school, you let your stay lapse, so the count starts from the time you returned after that.

When we are here too long, we get used to complaining about everything, but in fact the various government agencies are people you can approach. If you notice, your re-entry, which used to be only for one year is now up to three years and lasts the limit of your visa.

This change in the re-entry permit came from the international community, who approached Justice Ministry officials about this discrepancy where the re-entry period was only one year and did not match the period of stay.

They promptly took it back to "the office," worked on it and last year that suggestion became law.

Two people you can talk to about these issues are Mr. Inomoto at 03-3582-7482 and Mr. Nakai at 03-5282-7654.

* * * * *

"I have lived in Tokyo for about 15 years but still keep my U.S. State Driver's License up to date. I have a 3-year renewable work visa. I obtained an International Driver's License when I was last in California and would like to use it in Japan.

"Is it legal for me to drive in Japan with an International Driver's License?"

We checked with the Drivers License Center. For the International Drivers License you can use it up to one year in Japan. When you settle down you need to get a Japanese license.

To change your license, first, you have to have the basics, your out of country drivers license, a translation of this license into Japanese done either by your embassy or the Japanese equivalent of the Automobile Association, the JAF.

They have an office near Tokyo Tower in Minato Ward as well as offices throughout Japan, and you can reach them at 03-3578-1471 or online at www.jaf.org

The charge to translate your drivers license is 3,000 yen. They also provide the "Rules of the Road" pamphlets so you can brush up for your test in English, Chinese, Korean, Farsi, Korean and Portuguese.

Next, you need of course your alien registration card, your passport and two pictures, which you can take at the center office. Then you take all this to the Unten Menkyo Shikenjo, or Drivers License Center, offices of which are located throughout Japan. You can check for your local one at 03-3581-0141 or online at www.npa.go.jp

From here, depending on your country, you have to take a test. Twenty countries have special agreements with Japan -- essentially the EU Countries plus Australia, New Zealand, Switzerland -- so you do not need to take a test.

Remaining country nationals have to take a test, basically about Japanese road signs.

* * * * *

"I feel a need to see a psychiatrist for some behavioral problems so please can you let me know any good psychiatrist who is a native English speaker? I live in Tokyo."

There are many good English-speaking psychiatrists in Tokyo and, for that matter, throughout Japan. Jim McRae at 03-3983-0582, who works with an organization called AICPO, or the Association of International Care Provider Organizations, and has been in Japan for many years, is one.

An organization that has been working to organize all the psychiatrists and psychologists in Japan can be reached through Prem Takada at 03-3491-8144.

And now for some quickies.

Help with getting your computer set up and fixed at www.studiokk.com

Also, the Mori Building Company is to be commended for providing a building to house disaster supplies for the international community. They have donated a facility which stores water, blankets, canned and instant food and other items in central Tokyo, so when disaster strikes there will be a place to go and supplies. In addition, Tokyo Tower has provided parking space for a Disaster Relief Vehicle in their facility.

Someone trying to find an oasis in downtown Tokyo, near to everything but away from the hustle and bustle?

Try the Atago Jinja, the Shinto Shrine just above Kamiyacho Station on the Hibiya Line.

It is on top of a hill, an oasis of green, with a small pond and very cool during the hot summer.

You can call them, preferably in Japanese, although they speak a bit of English at 03-3431-0327. Priest Matsuoka and his family will take good care of you.

Can our kind readers please let us know of any similar places both in and outside of Tokyo?

E-mail: lifelines@japantimes.co.jp

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