Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Immigration Tribulation

The need for renewal of my three-year "child of a Japanese national" visa rolled around this month, and I had to trek down to immigration to do it up.

I made my weary way to the Tokyo Immigration office in Shinagawa on a Monday morning. After my hour and a half commute and twenty minute walk, I found the office... closed. It was a public holiday, but since I always have Mondays off, I had failed to notice. Blast.

I tried again the next day, various complicated and fussy documents in hand. I slogged across Tokyo and back to Tennozu Isle station, and found the office, mercifully, open. (If you're lucky enough to be a Yokohama resident, you can use the much-less-crowded Shin Yurigaoka branch. Same goes for residents for other prefectures: if it's possible to SKIP the Tokyo office, do it!)

I filled out my paperwork and took a number. 436. Only.... 221 people ahead of me. Like the DMV times a million, and with even more languages flying around. I took a seat and settled in for the long wait. Tip: bring LOTS to do. I finished a book, practiced kanji, wrote in my journal, text messaged, ate a snack and a had a coffee... and still had time on my hands.

After four hours of waiting, my number was finally called, ten minutes before closing time. I was asked by the clerk if I had a copy of my birth certificate.

When I initially applied for the visa three years ago, I did it at the Japanese Embassy in Seattle, and needed a whole slew of documents including a letter from my now passed grandpa and a copy of my birth certificate. This time, however, the necessary documents listed on the Ministry of Justice's website clearly does NOT require a birth certificate for a renewal, or "Permission for Extending Period of Stay". Since I didn't have one around, I didn't bring it along. I said no, and she made me fill out a family tree. (In Spanish. Though I have a U.S. passport and was applying as a child of a Japanese National. Eh?)

Anyway, they took my application and made me fill out a notification postcard with my address. At that time, I told the clerk that I was planning on going to the states in a few weeks and asked if it was okay, even if they hadn't finished processing my application. My boyfriend had done just that, and since he had an "application pending" stamp in his passport, the immigration officials at the airport had given him no trouble at all. But the clerk was firm. "Your reentry permit expires in two days. You cannot leave the country. If you leave the country before your application is approved, it will be canceled." Yikes.

A little dejected but relieved to be finished with the process, I traipsed my ass home. Though the clerk had reprimanded me, I was determined to go to the States anyway, even if they cancelled my application. There was no way I was going to forfeit an $800 nonrefundable ticket. And I doubted that they would cancel my application, based on I's past experience.

On Friday, I received a letter from the office requested a copy of my birth certificate. I had found this list of necessary documents over at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs' website. Which is not linked to the MOJ's website, at least not in any way that's obvious from the English page. And it's for an initial application. And why would you go and look for another list once you've found one on a government website? Get your shit together, people.

Anyway, I managed to find a copy of my birth certificate and mail it off by Saturday. The following Wednesday, I received my notification postcard telling me that my permission was granted! I was pleasantly surprised at how fast my application was processed. Friday morning, I once again made my way to Shinagawa for my permission stamp and my multiple reeentry stamp. It took only about an hour and 10,000 yen this time. On Sunday, I flew to the U.S. without getting my application cancelled and visa revoked. Phew.

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