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Tuesday, June 27, 2006


On dual citizenship, pensions

Dual citizenship

Reader S. doesn't recall ever reading anything in the Lifelines column on dual citizenship.

Several decades ago, about the time his wife became a naturalized U.S. citizen, he asked and was told that Japan did recognize dual citizenship. Later, in the 1980s or 1990s, Japan changed its dual citizenship laws but still honored existing dual citizenships.

What's the current situation, he wonders.

If S. has been in Japan for many years, he should know that there are many things that operate on a "don't-ask-don't-tell" basis. This is one of them.

The law regarding citizenship was changed in 1985 to disallow dual nationality. Before that the issue was simply ignored. Essentially, with the Plaza Accords, in which the yen rose dramatically for the first time, there were people wanting to move to Japan to work and become Japanese citizens. Previously this had not been an issue.

We checked with the Justice Department -- (03) 3580-4111 -- and the response was simply "Since 1985 dual citizenship is not allowed." In response to the question "Is there any penalty for having more than one citizenship?" the response was "no." When one applies for citizenship and the process is completed, the applicant is asked if he/she can speak and write Japanese. He or she is simply asked to write his or her name in Japanese and say a few words.

Furthermore, applicants are told to make sure and cancel their other passports but there is no system in place to confirm whether this has been done or not.

This type of system -- which is not unique to citizenship here -- functions so that there is always an "escape valve" for the elite. Passing a law that states that something is prohibited causes the general public to adhere to the letter of the law, while the "elite" understand and operate on the basis that law without penalty is de facto authorization.

Pension refund

Reader Penny has been paying into the Japanese pension program here for the past five years. She is considering going home for a month or two before taking up a new employment contract in Japan. She's wondering if, having returned and paid into the pension system for another few years, she can apply for another refund when she leaves again or is the Lump Sum Withdrawal payment Scheme a one-off offer.

Basically, the refund is a one-time only offer and only covers part of what you have paid into the program.

There are two kinds of pension -- the National Pension and the Employee Pension. The first is for those who are self-employed and the second for those working full-time in companies.

For those in the National Pension plan, according to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, "foreigners may receive a lump sum reimbursement for a percentage of what they have paid into the system."

For 2005, for example the payments can range from 40,740 yen to 244,440 yen depending on how long you have paid into the system. This cash can be applied for up to two years after leaving Japan.

For those in the Employee Scheme, according to the Tokyo Government, "the reimbursement can be received if the individual has paid into the system for a minimum of six months and returns to his or her home country without receiving a pension."

You can get details and an application form at your local city office or the Tokyo Social Insurance Bureau at (03) 5322-1615.

The reimbursement is usually done on the basis that you have left Japan for good, turned in your "gaijin card" and had your visa canceled. The money is then paid in to a bank account of your choosing a few months after you apply for the refund.

Ken Joseph Jr. directs The Japan Helpline at www.jhelp.com or (0570) 000-911

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