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Tuesday, Dec. 2, 2003

LIFELINES

Green cards, tenant rights and sewing


Immigration worry

Dear Lifelines; My wife and I are returning in January from the U.S.; I am a U.S. citizen and she is Japanese. We had lived in Japan together for 7 years prior to my 2 year U.S. assignment. (I am a regular employee of the Japan branch office.)

My wife has been a green card holder for two years now.

Questions: How often must she return to the U.S. to maintain her current status? I have heard she must return within 6 months. Just how does a U.S. re-entry permit work and is it difficult to get or even necessary? -- Mike

Dear Tokyo Mike; The American Chamber of Commerce in Japan holds regular meetings designed to help residents with this kind of query.

You can check on the next one and other similar events held regularly in the "Living in Japan" series on pension, tax, employment and other topics at (03) 3433-5381 (the ACCJ Office) or online at www.accj.or.jp

According to U.S. Immigration Regulations, a Legal Permanent Resident (LPR or green card holder) who remains outside of the United States for one year or more is considered to have effectively abandoned his or her resident status in the U.S.

Simply re-entering the U.S. every six months or so, green card in hand, could raise red flags among Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services (BCIS) officers, who may then ask the entering LPR to prove that they are maintaining their residence in the U.S. on a "full-time basis."

If, as in your wife's case, she plans on remaining outside of the U.S. for more than one year, she should definitely apply for a re-entry permit. A re-entry permit (form I-127) is valid from the date of issue and allows an LPR to remain outside of the U.S. for up to two years without being considered as having abandoned their resident status.

Your wife must apply for the re-entry permit before departing the U.S. After approval, BCIS can send the permit to the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo where you can then pick it up. You can download the application form (I-131) from the BCIS Web site at uscis. gov

Send the form to the address indicated and don 't forget to include the $110 filing fee.

Please call (03) 5354-4033 with any additional questions. The U.S. Embassy has a really good Web site that is kept up to date at www.tokyoacs.com

House rights

Dear Lifelines; I wonder where I stand. I have lived in the same house here for nearly forty years: I have no contract and paid no key money -- I merely paid one month's rent and moved in.

I've put considerable money into the place to keep it livable. I have plenty of parking space -- all part of the very reasonable rent. Since I have lived in this place so long, used so much of my own money to keep it in good shape, and have been an excellent tenant, does that give me any rights? I have no problems, just wondering about this kind of case. -- Richard

Wow! Forty years in the same house in Japan? We checked with the guys who know these things -- the "fudosan" and, unfortunately, if you are just paying monthly rent you have no special rights.

However, if the owner asks you to leave, since you have been there for a long time they will have to pay you a significant amount in "moving out fees," but otherwise there is no special benefits to you. Often, though, in these cases an owner is open to selling the place.

For more information, call (03) 3585-0026 and talk to Mr. Yamaguchi in Japanese.

A reader asks . . .

Could you tell me where in Tokyo I can buy foreign sewing patterns? The sizes of the Japanese patterns just do not fit properly. -- Marijke

Ken Joseph Jr. directs The Japan Helpline at www.jhelp.com or 0570 000 911 Send your queries, questions, problems and posers, to: lifelines@japantimes.co.jp


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