How can I become a Japanese citizen if I have foreign nationality? Is it possible to obtain Japanese nationality? What are my options for dual nationality? Look no further, we have painstakingly put together all you need to know about becoming a Japanese Citizen. Read up to learn more. Check out our post on How to Get Dual Citizenship – it will help you understand the several ways you can go about this, not just for Japan, but for multiple countries. The first thing you must take to heart on your journey to becoming a Japanese citizen is this: Immigration processes and obtaining citizenship in Japan is completely different from most other countries. If the situation may be likened to sports, the Immigration process and citizenship are a game of soccer in most countries and ping-pong in Japan. What we are trying to tell you is that you would have to adjust to a lot of different requirements if you must gain that golden Japanese citizenship. Now that we’ve addressed that, let us get right into the business of how to become a Japanese citizen and gain Japanese nationality.

First Things First

The first thing you must do is get to Japan. To get to Japan, you must have a valid visa allowing you to stay in the country as a worker, in other words, you must have a visa that permits you to work in Japan. These kinds of visas are of different categories, each granting you a different duration of stay. The short term visas are valid for six months to a year while the longer ones are valid for up to five years. All such visas may be extended on request.

Second Things Second; Languages

After getting your work visa, the next thing you might want to consider on your way to becoming a Japanese citizen is the Japanese language. In Japan, English is a second language, and a poorly developed one at that. It would be easier for you if you could achieve a decent command of the spoken language at the very least. There are five levels of speech in the Japanese language ranging from N1 to N5. N5 being the simplest level while N1, the most complex of the levels. N5 and N4 will take you through the basics of the Japanese language, while N3 will take you through the Japanese terms and phrases used in everyday situations but to a certain degree. N2 is a more complex version of N3 and N1 will imbibe within you the ability to understand, read and speak Japanese in a wide variety of circumstances. The language is an incredibly important part of your journey towards becoming a Japanese citizen, as you will need the language skill during your interviews. Gaining Japanese nationality might be time-consuming, but, if you like most people are not able to comprehend the language, your best bet will be hiring a company that offers professional translation, localization, and interpretation services.

Understanding the Process

For individuals who were born in Japan or have a Japanese parent, it’s a simple task. But for citizens of other countries who fall into neither of the aforementioned categories, it is a much longer process gaining Japanese nationality. According to the justice ministry, this process should take six to twelve months. But you must be ready to spend longer as situations may be peculiar. There are twelve criteria that you must satisfy before you can be granted Japanese nationality and Japanese citizenship. Some are pretty easy while some others will take some sacrifice on your part. Below is a list of the twelve steps clearly explained. [Real Quick: If what you’re looking for is expanding to Japan with your business, this guide to Doing Business in Japan will be a better read for you!]

Maintain a Domicile in Japan for Five Years

This is one of the hardest steps to fulfill. Before your Japanese nationality application can be taken seriously, you must have spent a minimum of five years in Japan. Although there are alternate ways around this step, they usually fall in the category of the aforementioned two.

You Must be 20 or Older

In other countries, the minimum age requirement for an application for citizenship or permanent residency falls within 18 to 21 years. In Japan, you must be at least twenty years of age before you can be eligible to apply for Japanese nationality or citizenship.

Prove Your Character

You will be required to submit an official criminal records check. There is no need for submitting if you have a criminal record that is negative. If you have a history of criminal activity, you might as well just forget about citizenship. You’ll also have to prove that you are able to financially support yourself. By this, we do not mean that you must be made of money or have an expensive boat or yacht. It just simply means that you should at the very least be able to support yourself in Japan financially. You should have skills that can get you a job to ensure your personal upkeep.

Relinquish Other Citizenship

Remember when we told you about giving up something to get something else? Well, when seeking Japanese nationality, this is where that becomes real. You cannot have dual citizenship or dual nationality as a Japanese. You have to forgo one citizenship to get the other. The Japanese culture cherishes total samurai-like loyalty, hence, you are expected to exhibit that by giving up your current citizenship, as the Japanese government tries to avoid any clash of interests whatsoever.

Take a Pre-Qualification Interview

During the next phase, you will be invited to undergo a pre-qualification test to gain Japanese nationality. You would have to contact the ministry of justice to undergo the test which is usually set up remotely (by phone or in person. This interview would be to ensure that you have satisfied all or most of the requirements.

Participate in a Second Interview

In this second interview, you would be schooled about the different items you would need to provide to prove your eligibility for citizenship. There is really no established list of requirements. But just be sure to have most of your documents intact. Some of these documents include your birth certificate among a host of many other important certificates. You would also have to read a guide book that describes the naturalization requirements. This book will be written in Japanese and if you haven’t learned the language at this point, this could deter your application process. Luckily, we could make it easy for you. All you have to do is apply for our translation services, and we would be glad to help you. When you are done with this, you can then contact the official in charge to schedule another meeting.

Participate in the Application Meeting(s)

Well, it ought to be just one meeting, but it is not uncommon to attend two or three meetings when applying for Japanese nationality. This meeting is to cross-check all the details of your application. If any item is missing or incomplete, you must complete them. You may also need to add new materials to the list. Now you have submitted all necessary documents. Now you just wait while the ministry goes through your documents. They do this to verify the authenticity of your application. The ministry can also visit you at home or at your workplace. They may also interview all personal referees and sponsors. Ensure you remain on good terms with your stated referees or employers.

Attend a Final Meeting

This is quite ceremonial. It is more like an oath-taking ceremony. This is where you pledge your undivided loyalty to the Japanese nation. And of course, show your appreciation of your new Japanese nationality. After this, you are a certified Japanese citizen. There you have it. All of the steps you need to know on how to become a Japanese citizen. Go give it a try and best of luck. Feel free to contact us if you need any explanations or guidelines. Naturalization is the next step if you’re intending to stay in Japan for the rest of your life. There are many things you should know before taking this big step. The very first being what naturalization actually is, the criteria, process, advantages/disadvantages, and other factors depending on your nationality. Table of Contents

  1. Introduction to Naturalization
  2. Becoming a Japanese Citizen
  3. Frequently Asked Questions About Japanese Citizenship
  4. Takeaway

Introduction to Naturalization

What is naturalization?

The dictionary meaning of naturalization is the process or act of a foreigner being admitted as a citizen of a country. In Japan, naturalization is allowed under the Nationality Law that was first implemented in 1950. Naturalization is covered under Articles 4 to 10 of the legislation. Approval to naturalize is to be obtained from the Minister of Justice. The application procedure can take a significant amount of time, partly due to the amount of paperwork to be completed. Thus, planning in advance is highly recommended. Messing up the paperwork would cause significant delays and a lot of stress, so immaculate preparation is key.

※ The Ministry of Justice, "The Nationality Law"

Why should I become a Japanese Citizen?

If you’re reading this article, you’re probably thinking of naturalizing to become a Japanese citizen. It’s a big decision that should not be taken lightly, consider your reasons as well as the perks of being a Japanese:

  1. No more VISA renewals (and accompanying stress)
  2. Can get the World’s Best Passport with Visa waiver to 192 countries, as ranked by Henley Passport Index for the year 2021
  3. Right to vote
  4. Career freedom, no more bound by Visa type and foreigner restricted industries
  5. Free to enter and leave Japan, no staying out of Japan limit unlike Permanent Resident
  6. Can work in public / government sector
  7. Easier to find accommodation, get loans, credit cards, etc. — things that hold more value in long term stay
  8. Not necessary to carry around Resident Card anymore
  9. No more double-taxation (if applicable)
※ Henley & Partners, “The Henley Passport Index: Global Passport Ranking”

What am I giving up to become a Japanese citizen?

For one, Japan doesn’t recognize dual citizenship, so you will have to give up your current citizenship. Despite there being several lawsuits trying to overturn this non-dual citizenship law, they have not been successful as Japan remains steadfast against dual citizenship. With the loss of your previous citizenship, you will need a VISA to return to your home country (if it is not a VISA-waiver country). Also keep in mind that relinquishing citizenship may be irrevocable in some countries, so check up on your country’s rules beforehand.

※ Reuters, "Japanese court rejects expatriates' bid to cling to citizenship"  ※ Investment Migration Insider, "On Japanese Citizenship and Naturalization Policies and How They May Change" ※ Japan Times, "Tokyo court backs ban on Japanese holding dual nationality"

Writer’s Pick

Becoming a Japanese Citizen

Now that you know what the benefits and consequences of naturalization are, let’s look into how to become Japanese.

Criteria for Naturalization

The conditions for naturalization are clearly stated in Article 5 of the Nationality Law as follows:

  1. Domicile: At least 5 years consecutive stay in Japan with valid residence status
  2. Conduct: Good manner and conduct
  3. Legal Capacity: Over 20 years old with legal capacity in home country
  4. No Dual Citizenship: Willingness to relinquish nationality
  5. Self Sustainable: Personally, or through another (spouse, family), financially secure and capable to survive in Japan
  6. No Trouble: Not involved, participated, advocated against the Japanese government and constitution.
  7. Japanese Proficiency: Intermediate level. Know Hiragana, Katakana, simple Kanji and can hold up in conversation.

You are expected to have a certain level of Japanese proficiency which is also important for the interview part of the application. Even if you do not fulfill all the conditions above, subject to approval, you can still be approved for citizenship in the case of any one of the following:

  1. Long Term: 10 years consecutive stay in Japan
  2. Japanese Roots:
    • Birth parent is/was Japanese national or born in Japan + 3 years consecutive stay; or
    • Japan born + 3 years consecutive stay
  3. Marriage: 3 years marriage to Japanese citizen + 1 year consecutive stay

Other exceptions are stipulated in the statute, but as always subject to approval.

※ The Ministry of Justice, "The Nationality Law"

Procedure for Naturalization

Without further ado, let’s look into the steps to naturalize:

  1. Initial Consultation: A personal visit to the Legal Affairs Bureau on eligibility and any other questions you have.
  2. Documents: The tedious part where you secure a lot of documents from various places.
  3. Apply: Fill and submit application forms. Don’t forget the documents.
  4. Wait: Assessment of your application and documents.
  5. Interview: This will be done a few months after application, and most importantly conducted in Japanese.
  6. Results: Receive notice whether approved or denied. Get a certificate of naturalization if approved, if denied you can apply again.
  7. No Delay:
    • Visit your ward office 区役所 to update your status within one month
    • Return your resident card to immigration
    • Get your own family registry
  8. Final Touches: Update everything else on official documents like driving license
※ 2021 Tokyo Intercultural Portal Site, "Entry to Japan, residence, naturalization"

Essential Documents

What documents are required? Here’s a checklist for you:

  • Application Form with applicant photo attached
  • Document Stating Family Information — Name, Age, Address, Occupation, Relationship
    • Family Register
    • Marriage Certificate
    • Birth Certificate
  • resume
    • Proof of Academic Qualifications
    • Proof of Certifications
  • Letter of Reason for Naturalization (Preferably handwritten)
  • Proof of Livelihood Capabilities / Financial Stability
    • Household Statement of Income
    • Rental Agreement
    • Bank Account Statement, or bank book 通帳 if available
    • Proof of Income, like Salary Slips Pay slip or Working Certificate
  • Proof of Tax Payments
    • Tax return tax return
    • ! Be careful of delinquent tax!
  • Proof of Residence
    • Residence Certificate from Ward Office
  • Proof of Nationality
    • Passport
    • Birth Certificate
  • Resident Card

This checklist is a case by case basis as every applicant’s situation is different. Your nationality, academic background, career history, whether you’ve moved houses recently, running your own business, holding any investments, whether you’re married or single, will affect what is required. One example is if you are applying for citizenship together with your spouse. Along with your spouse’s own set of documents, you will also need to elaborate on your relationship. Dating and marriage photos will help with your application. Note that any non-Japanese documents will require translation.

※ Ministry of Justice, “Nationality Q&A” Q.11

Frequently Asked Questions About Japanese Citizenship

Does Japan recognize dual citizenship?

We’ve covered this above, but let’s go into more detail. There has been intense debate (and lawsuits) on whether Japan should accept dual citizenship, and for now, the answer is no. The reasoning behind this stance is the difficulty in dealing with taxation matters and security issues, which is understandable. Even so, there seems to be around 900,000 dual citizenship holders in Japan, who have fallen through the cracks, as the government has no way of checking whether you have given up one or the other.

※ Reuters, "Japanese court rejects expatriates' bid to cling to citizenship" ※ Investment Migration Insider, "On Japanese Citizenship and Naturalization Policies and How They May Change" ※ Japan Times, "Tokyo court backs ban on Japanese holding dual nationality"

What is the Japan Citizenship Test?

There is no test or quiz like in some other countries, as the “Japan Citizenship Test” (not called this) is more of an interview session. This will be conducted in Japanese after you have passed the document assessment. There may be multiple interview sessions, and depending on the officer you interview with, you may be asked to write or read some Japanese.

What level of Japanese do I need?

Elementary level Japanese at the very least. Know your Hiragana and Katakana well, including being able to read and write simple Japanese. Also become familiar with everyday Kanji. In terms of JLPT, this would be around N3 or N2.

How long does it take?

Around 6 months to 1 year from application.


We hope this article helps you understand what it takes to become a citizen of Japan. The process may be tedious and time consuming but it is worth doing if you plan to spend the rest of your life here. If you’re planning to retire to your own home country at the end of the day, we suggest really weighing the pros and cons of a Permanent Resident or Citizenship status. Last but not least, there are specialist lawyers called Administrative Scriveners 行政書士 (Gyousei Syoshi) that can help you with the entire process including advisory, document and application preparation, and submission. Here’s an article about retiring in Japan that may come in handy:
Things to Know and Associated Costs of Retiring in Japan

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