Become a Japanese Citizen

Japan is an ancient country with an exciting history. It is also a world leader in many avenues. Immigrants who wish to establish citizenship in Japan should know that the procedure can be time consuming -- up to a year or more. You will need to establish residence in Japan for five years before even beginning the formal application process. However, the percentage of applicants who are approved for citizenship is very high. About 90% of those who apply are granted Japanese citizenship.[1] There are also alternate methods to become a Japanese citizen for individuals who can show that they were born in Japan or that one or both of your parents was Japanese.


Acquiring Japanese Citizenship for Foreign Nationals

  1. Maintain a domicile in Japan for at least five consecutive years. Before you can apply for citizenship in Japan, you must maintain a domicile in the country for at least five consecutive years. You may be able to gain citizenship in Japan without meeting this requirement, if you can satisfy any one of the following conditions:[2]
    • You have maintained a domicile in Japan for three years or more and are the child of a Japanese national.
    • You were born in Japan and have resided or maintained a domicile in Japan for three consecutive years, and your father or mother was born in Japan.
    • You had a residence in Japan for ten consecutive years or more.
    • You will need to demonstrate not only the range of dates when you maintained a domicile or residence, but you also must provide all the dates when you left Japan and when you returned during the relevant period. You can do this with copies of passports, visas or other similar official documents.[1]
  2. Be at least 20 years old. You must meet this age minimum, and you must be able to show that you are of legal age to act according to the laws of your home country. In some countries this may be 18 years old, 21 years old, or some other minimum age. If you are not certain, you should check with an attorney in your home country.[2]
  3. Demonstrate that you are “of upright conduct.” You must submit to an official criminal records check. The result of that check must show that you have no criminal record.[3] Each case is examined individually, however, so some history of criminal activity may not prevent you from gaining Japanese citizenship.[4]
  4. Demonstrate that you are able to support yourself in Japan. The legal standard is that you must be able to "secure a livelihood" either through work or through property that you may own. If you are married, and your spouse provides the income for the family, this requirement is satisfied.[2]
    • If you are employed and report that place of employment as part of your application, immigration officials may visit your place of employment to confirm whatever information you report.[4]
  5. Relinquish any other citizenship. You must give up your citizenship in some other country before applying, or in conjunction with your application. Japan does not allow individuals to retain dual citizenship in order to avoid any potential conflict of interest that could arise.[2]
    • It is possible to obtain Japanese citizenship without giving up another country’s citizenship, if you can demonstrate exceptional circumstances that would justify doing so.
    • Individuals younger than 20 years old may maintain dual citizenship. Before reaching age 20, such individual shall make a choice to retain Japanese citizenship and relinquish the other, or relinquish Japanese citizenship.
  6. Participate in a prequalification interview. When you believe that you have established all or most of the requirements for Japanese citizenship, you should contact the Ministry of Justice of local district legal affairs bureau where you reside in Japan. The office of the Ministry will set up an interview. The initial interview, which may be conducted by telephone or in person, is to conduct a preliminary screening. The official will seek to establish that you have satisfied all or most of the citizenship requirements.[4]
    • If you satisfy the official that you are ready to proceed with your application, a second interview will be scheduled.
  7. Participate in a second interview. At the subsequent interview, you will learn the specific items that you will be expected to produce to prove your eligibility for citizenship. There is no established list of requirements. The officials will consider each applicant and each case separately and provide expectations. You can generally expect to need to produce the following types of documents:[4]
    • birth certificate
    • marriage certificate
    • passport
    • proof of international travel
    • evidence of employment
    • evidence of assets
    • proof of residency or domicile
    • proof of education (transcripts, diplomas)
    • proof of physical and mental condition
    • evidence of criminal history
  8. Watch a naturalization video. During the second interview meeting, you will be shown a video regarding the procedures and expectations for naturalization in Japan. This video will last approximately an hour.[4]
  9. Compile your evidence and study the guild book. When you leave the second interview, you will have a list of the specific documentation that you must provide and a guild book that describes the naturalization requirements. You need to study these materials and begin compiling the documentation. This may take a matter of months to complete. When you are ready, contact you case official and set up an application meeting.[4]
    • At the end of your prior meeting, you will have been provided with the name of a contact person and a case number for your application.
  10. Participate in one or more application meetings. When you believe you have satisfied all the requirements, contact your case officer and set up an application meeting. (Everything prior to this point has been pre-application work.) You will meet with one or more immigration officials, who will check every single detail about your application. If items are missing or incomplete, you will be sent to complete them. It is also possible that they may add new materials as deemed necessary.[4]
  11. Wait while your materials are checked. After your application is submitted, you will be sent home to wait. During this time, officials will be checking and verifying all the details of your application. This verification may consist of a visit to your home. Officials may also interview references you provide as personal contacts or employers.[4]
    • At any time during this process, you may be contacted to provide additional information on any topic.
    • This portion of the application process may take several months.
  12. Attend a final meeting. When everything appears to be satisfactory, you will be contacted for a final meeting. At the final meeting, you will sign required oaths, and your application will formally be accepted by the local Legal Affairs Bureau. The Legal Affairs Bureau will forward your completed application, along with your signed statements, to the Ministry of Justice. When the Ministry receives and approves those materials, your Japanese citizenship becomes final.[4]

Becoming a Japanese Citizen by Acknowledgment

  1. Meet the minimum requirements for citizenship. You can acquire Japanese nationality, if you have one Japanese parent but your parents are unmarried, as long as you meet the following criteria:[5]
    • You must be under 20 years of age.
    • You must not have previously been a Japanese national.
    • You must be legally acknowledged by one parent.
    • The acknowledging parent must have been a Japanese national at the time of your birth.
    • The acknowledging parent must be a Japanese national at the time of the acknowledgment.
  2. Report in person to the appropriate office. If you wish to claim Japanese citizenship, you must appear in person at the appropriate office of the Ministry of Justice. If you reside in Japan, then you should report to the district legal affairs bureau for the district where you are living. If you reside outside of Japan, then you can visit any Japanese embassy of consulate.[5]
    • You must report in person to claim citizenship. The only exception is for individuals who are under 15 years old. If you are under 15, then a legal guardian or other representative may appear on your behalf.
  3. Provide notification that you claim citizenship. You must make notification in writing at the appropriate office of the Ministry of Justice. The Ministry will provide the form you need. Complete and submit the form.[5]

Acquiring Japanese Citizenship by Birth

  1. Have one parent who is a Japanese citizen. If one of your parents was a Japanese citizen at the time that you were born, then you automatically obtain Japanese citizenship.[2]
  2. Have a Japanese father. According to Article 2(2) of the Japanese Nationality Law, if you are the child of a Japanese father, but your father died before your own birth, you immediately acquire Japanese citizenship.[2]
  3. Be born in Japan. If you were born in Japan, to unknown parents, you have the automatic right to Japanese citizenship. This will occur if the baby is abandoned, reported as abandoned, or turned over to a medical facility or police officer.[2]


  • Enjoy your time. If you don't already, learn Japanese during your five years, and get to know people around the area you live.
  • Don't get discouraged on the time requirements! If you really want to be a citizen of Japan, it will be worth it.


  • Be sure this is what you really want. Although the minimum residency time is five years, it can take about a year for the government to review your application.
  • If you are over the age of 20, you will be made to declare sole citizenship to the country of your choice. Be sure that you want this, as you will have to renounce your nation of origin's citizenship.
  • You must be completely truthful in any representations to gain Japanese citizenship. Any intentionally false statements may lead to imprisonment, fine, or both.

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