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Tuesday, June 14, 2005

LIFELINES

What's the deal with leaving Japan?


Leaving Japan

DAVE WRITES: I am considering whether or not to return to my country after having worked in Japan for almost 10 years. I would like some information on what official procedures are necessary to end my stay here, particularly with respect to my visa, income taxes, pensions, and health insurance.

When I first came to Japan, I worked on the JET Programme for three years. During that time I paid into the Employees' Pension system through my employer.

Since then I have worked for several private companies but none of them have deducted any pension contributions from my pay.

Being a foreigner who would probably not collect a Japanese pension, I assumed that I was not liable for pension premiums. But recently I have done a bit of research, and it seems that technically I should have been paying premiums. This is a terrifying prospect, since I have not paid premiums for quite a few years.

When I leave Japan, will I be required to retroactively pay missed premiums? Even if the letter of the law says that I have to pay the premiums, in practical terms, is there any way of avoiding them?

I have worked hard to save money in Japan, and I would hate to have my savings eaten up by contributions to a system from which I will never collect.

Throughout my time in Japan I have been enrolled in the National Health Plan ("kokumin kenko hoken"), and have been paying my premiums. But since the premiums are calculated based on the previous year's income, assuming I leave Japan at the end of this fiscal year, will I be required to pay a year's premiums before I can exit the system?

I understand that I will have to pay income tax for this year. I have heard that the assessment is not normally available until the following June, and that I need to designate a Japanese person to pay the tax form. That seems a bit troublesome; is there any way to pre-pay the tax?

Finally, a question about my visa. I have a three-year visa, which I renewed recently. Is it possible to leave Japan with my gaijin card and visa intact, live in my country for a year or so, and then to return to Japan if I do not find a good job at home? Would such a tactic get me in trouble with immigration or with the tax authorities?

LET'S TAKE Dave's questions one by one.

First, in terms of your pension, while you are required to be enrolled in the system if you are a full-time worker at a company, it's highly unlikely that you would be asked to pay premiums before you leave Japan.

However, should you decide to return to Japan and want to enroll in the system, then you will be required to pay up to two years' worth of back premiums (irrespective of how long you've been outside the system).

Also, having been part of the system during the JET Programme, you may be entitled to receive those contributions you made back under the Lump Sum Withdrawal System.

You should ask your local City Hall for more information about this, or perhaps even call up your old Board of Education and see if they still have your records.

As to your second question, regarding health insurance, if you decide to leave you simply let your local city office know and stop paying from the last month you will be in Japan.

As to your visa, and returning to Japan, as long as you have a valid re-entry permit you can stay out of Japan for a maximum of three years -- though to return you must have a valid visa too.

Noisy

Don writes in to complain about noise pollution from the Roppongi Hills Arena. have any of our readers had problems with noise pollution from Roppongi Hills -- or anywhere else in Japan for that matter.

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


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