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Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2006

LIFELINES

Driving and social security


As everything get more convenient, things also, in other ways, become more difficult.

The "laid back" and "all providing" system in Japan has changed dramatically over the past five years under the Koizumi administration, which has dismantled and reduced many key provisions.

It is a time for the nonprofit world, churches and other groups to fill the void and return to how things used to be done in Japan -- when the community took care of itself.

Driver's license

SJ, who is Japanese, wants to drive in Japan with his international driver's license, which is based on an American license that he possesses.

He was studying abroad and just got his license weeks before coming back to Japan.

SJ wants to know if he has to be an American to drive with his U.S.-issued international license in Japan?

It used to be that you could simply bring a driver's license from another country and exchange it for a Japanese license once here.

Unfortunately, many Japanese traveled abroad to get non-Japanese licenses in order to save on the exorbitant fees charged in Japan and the rules were made much stricter as a result.

Now, in order to drive with an International Driver's License, you must be able to prove that you have had the license for at least three months in the country in which it was issued and that you are not a long-term resident in Japan.

While the law on how long you can use an international license in Japan is a little unclear, a number of cases have happened where foreign residents using an international license for an extended period have been caught and fined.

The law was changed in June 2002 and can be viewed through www.keishicho.metro.tokyo.jp/foreign/submenu.htm

If you are living in Japan for over three months, you must get a Japanese license.

For a limited number of countries, you can exchange your license if you take some basic tests. For exact information on this, see www.jaf.or.jp/e/switch.htm

On this site, you'll also find an application for Japanese licenses.

Social security

Terri is wondering about the Japan-U.S. Social Security Agreement and how he can find out how many "nenkin" points he has accumulated in Japan.

He also asks how these points are calculated into the U.S. system and if there are any people who have successfully counted Japanese "nenkin" payments toward Social Security payments.

As of Oct. 1, 2005, an agreement has been in place between the U.S. and Japan covering Social Security.

This agreement lets some people avoid paying into the Japanese insurance system and puts their money into the Social Security System in the U.S. instead.

The agreement is essentially there to cater to ex-pats working for American companies in Japan and is quite complicated.

For information from the Japanese side, Terri can contact his local city office. For the U.S. side, the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo's Web site has information and links.

Send your queries, questions, problems and posers to lifelines@japantimes.co.jp


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