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Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2003

LIFELINES

Pension posers, recycling visas, and a re-entry tip-off


New year, new faces

Happy New Year from Tokyo. Congratulations to two new leaders in the community; Mr. Lance Lee, the new president of The American Chamber of Commerce in Japan, and Mr. Larry Blagg, the new president of The Tokyo American Club. They don't come any better. We wish them the best. Also, a big "otsukaresama" to Don Kanak and Dr. Fred Harris -- Fred after 21 years serving on the board at The Tokyo American Club.

Pension poser

Dear Lifelines; I have worked in Japan for just over 8 years and am 48 at the moment. I will probably remain in Japan for several more years, but I think it's unlikely that I will still be here by the time I reach retirement age. My company deducts from my monthly salary the maximum monthly contribution. I understand that a few years ago the Japanese government generously introduced a change under which foreigners leaving Japan could receive a partial refund of their contributions up to a maximum amount of (I think) around 600,000 yen. Is there anything I can do to ensure that I do eventually receive a pension from the Japanese government or must I regard my contributions to the scheme as being little more than money down the drain? -- Alex

Dear Retiring Alex: In your case there are two things you can do. This is straight from the Ministry of Health and Labor. First, as you mentioned, there is a very special exemption that, in response to a large number of protests from the international community a few years back, they instituted. You can receive up to 600,000 yen (maximum) of the money back you put into the system. In your case you would receive the full 600,000 yen.

As for receiving the Japanese pension, you are required to pay into the system for 25 years to receive a pension, but if you complete that total of 25 years, they will give you a pension based on the years you paid into the Japan system, even if you are living outside of Japan.

For example, in your case you have paid for 8 years. If you go back to your home country and pay for an additional 17 years for a total of 25, the Japanese pension system will pay you a monthly pension based on your 8 years of payment.

The best thing to do is to go to your local city or town hall and have a nice, long talk with them. Tell them what you really want to do and miracles can happen -- if you tell them you want ultimately to retire in Japan, the eight years may mysteriously become longer in their records. It does happen.

For more information, check out: www.mhlw.go.jp or call 03-5253-1111. Also, The American Chamber of Commerce in Japan has regular seminars on this and other issues. Give them a call at 03-3433-5381 or see: www.accj.or.jp

Visa recycling

I left Japan a year ago after teaching English there. I got a re-entry permit in case I changed my mind and wanted to go back to Japan. The work visa is for 3 years, expiring in 2004. Is it possible to enter Japan using this visa, even though I'm not working in Japan or for the company that is noted on my alien registration card. I also contacted my ward office regarding paying tax whilst not in Japan. They wrote me a letter saying that if I didn't enter Japan after 1.5 years of leaving, the tax didn't have to be paid. -- Tanya from Australia

Dear Tanya -- Your question is a bit tricky as there are quite a few variables. First, technically when you finished your job, your visa expired. At the same time, the visa in your passport and your alien registration is still good.

The first thing to do would be to contact the company that sponsored you and tell them your situation and let them know you would like to return to Japan and ask them if you can use the visa they sponsored until you can change it over to your new company.

Unless they strenuously object (which is unlikely) you should have no problem returning on the papers you have currently. Once you get your new job, you can let them know that you're changing the visa, and there should be no problem.

As concerns your tax, of course you do not have to pay tax when you are not in Japan.

A word of wisdom for Japan that will stand you in good stead. Don't ask too many questions and don't volunteer any more information than you have too. Japanese authorities don't like to complicate things any more than you do.

For specific help as regards your visa, contact Mr. Inomto at 03-3582-7482, or e-mail: inomoto-I@gyosei.or.jp; alternatively contact Mr. Nakai at 03-5282-7654. He has a Web site at www.tokyovisa.co.jp They should be able to help you if you have any specific problems.

Visa waivers

Dear Lifelines -- I read your column regarding visas in Japan. You are quite right that a "visa waiver" can generally not be changed into a visa. But, as you also write, general rules do not always apply.

I have been able to convert my 6-months visa waiver into a good working visa, without having to leave Japan. I even did it myself, without an immigration lawyer.

By the way, while writing about immigration rules: did you know that one can obtain a re-entry permit at the immigration office in Narita airport? BUT: this is an exception for emergencies -- they do it only one single time. Someone who has already a re-entry permit from the Narita office will be refused another one in Narita. And, of course, they will give only a single re-entry permit. -- Pat

Quickies

Need to move some things quick? Mike the Mover at 090-1217-4445 or 03-5932-7777 or e-mail: sidebyside_jp@hotmail.com can help.

A place to stay in Tokyo or office space? Check out www. mori. co. jp

An English-language church service in Tokyo -- Tokyo Union Church, Pastor Bruce Sloan at: pastor@gol.com can help.

And, for an English-speaking doctor in Tokyo, you could do worse than Dr. Fred Shane at 03-5549-9983 or e-mail: FIShaneMD@aol.com

Ken Joseph Jr. is director of The Japan Helpline ( www.jhelp.com ) Send your queries, questions, problems and posers, to: lifelines@japantimes.co.jp


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