I was granted a new three year extension of my visa yesterday. That may sound simple news to you and in the end it was fairly straightforward but it wasn’t always that way. In fact there was a time when I was in danger of actually being given a new one following a decision last year by the Japanese government to link visa’s to health insurance.
It was reported that all foreigners had to enrol on the national health insurance scheme and backpay a couple of years in order to stay in the country. Needless to say that this went un-noticed among the Japanese population and caused uproar among the foreign community saying that, while its fair enough for us to have to have insurance, it is a violation of human rights to be told what insurance scheme you must take out in order to get a visa.
After a flood of enquiries my company eventually sent round a fax last year saying to not panic and change insurance to the national one from the private one which they organise for us. It should be said that the reason many foreigners in Japan have private insurance is because of the extra benefits which come with it such as being insured when going overseas.
Late last year I heard that the immigration office had said that health insurance would not be a sole reason for denying someone a visa which was music to our ears but it still didn’t seem too official. I heard elsewhere that the decision to tie-in insurance to Visa status was a move by the governemt to get rid of some of the other Asian nationalities living in Japan and not paying taxes and whatnot. I have nothing to support that theory but there could be something in it.
Anyway, with my Visa up for renewal at the end of April and the new rule coming into play from April 1st I wanted to get the application under way A.S.A.P. which I was able to do just over two weeks ago when I signed a new contract and made the long ‘pain in the ar*e’ trip to Tokyo Regional Immigration Bureau in Shinagawa to get the ball rolling. Before that I also had to go to my local City Hall to pay 600 yen for two pieces of official paper which stated that I had paid my yearly residents tax. Finally I returned to Shinagawa yesterday and coughed up 10,000 yen for the ‘extension of stay’ and ‘multiple re-entry stamps and was relieved to put the whole saga behind me.