Saturday, March 4, 2017

Gaijin Story #8 - Registering Newborn Child in Japan (for Foreign Students)

Having a child in Japan is definitely one of the most unique and memorable life experience ever. While the living is complicated enough, cultural and regulation differences, as well as the language barrier could be really challenging for foreigners, especially students, to conceive and raise children in Japan. One thing that could bring anxiety is probably the registration procedure for children being born in the country. Complicated paper works and the penalty (for anybody who fail the rules) may sound scary, but as long as you stick with it and prepare the necessary documents, everything should be OK. 

I'm a foreign student and my son was born in Kashiwa last February, and this time, I would like to share my experience about how to register your newborn child in Japan.

Basically, there are three things you should do after your child was born:      

1. Registering Your Newborn Child to City Ward

This is the very first step you should ever do. Why? Because he/she only has 14-days since the birth for being registered to the city ward. More than that, there will be troubles. How bad? There could be penalty, complicated paper works or even a visit by police to your home. So, do it as soon as possible after your child is discharged from the hospital.

Some documents you should prepare (bold ones are the most important):
  • Birth certificate (出生証明書: Shusseishoumeisho) and Birth registration (出生届: Shusshoutodoke). For my case, these two documents are printed in one paper, and should be handed by the hospital where your child was born. Shusseishoumeisho will be filled by hospital with birth data of your child (date, time, weight, height etc.), while Shusshoutodoke should be filled by you when you register your child to city ward. These are extremely important documents and you will need them again for obtaining visa for your child. Therefore, make sure you receive it from the hospital.
  • Mother and child health handbook (母子健康手帳: Boshikenkoutechou or simply, boshitechou). You should be familiar with this book, as it's been used since the pregnancy.
  • Residence cards (Zairyu) of  the representative parent.
  • National Health Insurance card (国民健康保険:Kokuminkenkouhoken) of the househead (father) for making child's NHI card.
  • Your university student ID.
  • Passports of both parents. You will need them for registering child support system from city ward (you could receive 15,000 Yen/month subsidy for raising your child).
  • Your bank book or cash card. Needed for child support system registration and expenses reimbursement (if you need it). 
  • Hospital receipts for birth expenses, in case you didn't use direct payment system and want the money reimbursed. Otherwise, you can omit this.
Birth certificate (right side) and birth registration (left side) from hospital
Visit the city ward with the documents and register your child. Asked for help from the city ward staff if you need it. During the registration, make sure you also apply to get these following documents:
  • Acceptance certificate (受理証明書: Jurishoumeishou). This document is a prove that your child has been registered at city ward. You'll need this document for applying your child's visa (and register him/her at your national embassy in Japan). It will costs 350 yen for 1 copy of jurishoumeishou. Apply at least 2 copies of it for future uses.
  • Residence record (住民票: Juuminhyou). You should be also familiar with this one, because it's a very important document for opening bank account and registering for NHI. This time, you'll need the updated Juuminhyou for registering NHI and applying visa for your child. The cost will be 300 yen for 1 copy of juuminhyou. Apply at least 2 copies of it for future uses.
  • Copy of Birth certificate and birth registration. The original documents will be kept by city ward, thus don't forget to get the copies to apply your child visa.
Jurishoumeisho, the acceptance ceritificate.
After the registration is completed, you should have those three kinds of documents above. The city ward staff should return the boshitechou to you with stamp of city major on the first page, acknowledging the registration of your child.

After you finished registering your child, don't forget to do these next important things at the city ward:
  • Apply for NHI for you child. You'll need your NHI card and Juuminhyou as mentioned above. You could also ask for reimbursement for hospital expenses if you need to.
  • Apply for Child support/subsidy system by the city ward. As mentioned above you could get 15,000 yen/month support from the city. For my case, the paper works need bank account information (bank book/cash card) and passport/visa from both parents. So make sure you prepared these documents.
  • Apply for immunization and medical support to have free (primary) immunization and free medication for your child.
Basically, after child registration at city ward is finished, and the next important step is applying visa for your child at the immigration bureau office closest to your city to obtain residence status for your child, and you must do this no more than 30 days after the birth. Some documents you obtained at city ward will be used for the visa application. 

2. Applying Child's Visa at Japan Immigration Bureau

This is the next mandatory step you MUST do after registering your child to city ward and you MUST do this no more than 30 days after the birth. Otherwise, your child will be considered as an "overstayer" or even an illegal resident which could lead to deportation from Japan. Scary it may sound, the visa application process is in fact not so complicated, as long as you prepare the necessary documents. It's not necessary to have your child passport for the visa application.

What I will write here is the process I took to get my son's visa at Regional Immigration Bureau in Shinagawa, Tokyo. There might be few differences with other immigration offices, but overall the process should be similar.

Before applying visa, make sure to prepare these documents:      
  • Application form for permission to acquire status of residence in Japan. You could get the form on this link. Any other documents you need to submit also shown on that page (even though the description is quite ambiguous). It's better to fill this form before you visit the immigration office.
  • Your residence card (Zairyu), as the legal representative of your child.
  • Acceptance certificate (Jurishoumeisho) from city ward.
  • Registration record (Juuminhyou) from city ward.
  • Copy of birth certificate (Shusseishoumeisho) from city ward.
  • Copy of birth registration (Shusshotodoke) from city ward.
  • Copy of mother and child health hand book (boshitechou). Just copy the pages which state the birth of your child.
  • Copy of your marriage certificate.
  • Certificate of enrollment from your university. This document is a prove of your student status in Japan and it MUST be the most recent one. It should be issued in maximum 3 months before your visa application date.
  • Any documents which indicates your incomes. For scholarship awardee, you should prepare the most recent scholarship acceptance certificate, e.g. MEXT certificate etc.
What you should know during the visa application at immigration office:
  • It's obvious that immigration office is always crowded. Therefore, make a visit at your earliest convenience. At Shinagawa office, there are so many people even before the working hours started (at 9 AM) because the ticket number counter is already open, and the queue is ridiculously long. I came around 9:45 AM, got ticket number 302 and finally called to the counter at 4:10 PM!
  • Monday and Friday are usually the most crowded day.
  • If there are more than one immigration office near your city, visit the closest and smaller one. I live in Kashiwa, and I was applying CoE for my wife a year ago at Chiba immigration office. The queue was much shorter than Shinagawa, even though I visited the office around 1 PM.
  • The immigration office will send notice (postcard) to inform you that the application result has been finished. I got mine after 1 week. Return to the same immigration office after you received the post card, together with visa application receipt. Don't forget to bring your resident card and documents which prove your relationship with your child (ex. Juuminhyou and Jurishoumeishou).
  • It's also recommended that you come early to pick the result (in this case, your child's resident card). While the queue is not as long as the application one, it will still take time to wait for your number to be called.
Return to the immigration office after you received this post card in your mail box
Visa application receipt
Finally, resident card for your child

3. Making Passport for Your Child

This is the final step you should conduct after getting visa for your child. The regulations for passport application might be different for each embassy, thus I will not describe it in details here. Anyway, as other steps mentioned above, some documents should be prepared and you should check the specific information on your nation's embassy in Japan.

Some embassies (like mine) require the child to be presented for the passport application (taking photo and bio-metrics), thus you should better make a visit when your newborn child is strong enough to be brought outside. No need to rush on the passport, because as long as your child has visa, he/she should be considered legal to stay in Japan. Nevertheless, don't forget to apply for passport, especially if you plan to travel outside Japan with your child.    

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Gaijin Story #7 - Paying Electricity, Gas and Water Bill in Japan at Convenient Store

When I came and started living in Japan for the first time, one of my biggest worries is about how to do money transactions for daily living. As a foreigner, I imagined many troublesome things due to the language barrier. After living for almost one year though, I've finally realized that Japan has one of the most sophisticated online transaction systems in the world, which means, you have so many options for money transactions. You could pay almost everything by credit card, debit card, bank transfer, net bank and convenient store. And for this post, I would like to specifically share my experience for paying utilities bill at konbini (Japan pronunciation for convenient store), which is in my opinion, the most "friendly" option for foreigner.

Utilities such as electricity, gas and water are the most mandatory for houses in Japan. They are also interconnected with each other for specific purposes, for example, water heater is a must during winter and it needs water (of course), gas (for heating) and electricity (for power). So, you practically won't survive without all of them. Therefore, it's very important to pay the bills in time to avoid trouble with the utilities companies (they can stop the service if you're late).

For my case (3 members family), I usually pay around 3000-6000 Yen/month for electricity. The most expensive periods are usually in summer and winter, due to the extensive use of air conditioner and heater. For gas, I usually pay around 2000-6000 Yen/month. The most expensive period for gas is in winter, due to water heater (nobody wants to take a bath with freezing water). Finally, the water usually costs me 5000-7000 Yen/2 months, which means around 2500-3500 Yen/month. Water costs usually not fluctuated much as electricity and gas.

Electricity bill
Gas notice (Left) and Water bill (Right)
Gas bill
I live in Kashiwa and as other cities, the electricity and gas bills come to the mailbox once a month, while water bill comes once every two months. Sometimes, the company will send notice before the real bill comes. The notice may look similar with bill, but its purpose is just to inform you the upcoming amount of payment and you could not use it to pay utilities. Meanwhile, the "real" bills will have a specific bar code which could be use for utilities payment. So far, I have paid electricity bills at 7/11 and Familymart, but I suppose any konbinis (Sunkus, Lawson etc) will do so.

Konbini cashier display. Ask the cashier staff about utility payment, give the bills and push the button in the center to confirm bill payment.
Bill receipts. From left to right: water, gas and electricity.
For paying bills, just give the them to the cashier counter and they usually understand even if you don't talk about it. The cashier will ask you to press a specific button on the cashier machine for payment confirmation. After you pay, they will give you give one part of the bills as receipts with specific date and place stamp of the payment. That's all, very easy and convenient.