Naturalization ( to acquire Japanese Nationality )

1. Naturalization

A foreign national may acquire Japanese nationality by naturalization, based on the permission of the Minister of Justice. (The Nationality Law Art. 4)

The applicant must submit the application documents to Legal Affairs Bureau or District Legal Affairs Bureau. Here is the list of them ( in Japanese ) on the web of the Ministry of Justice.

After the filing of the application, it usually takes six months through over one year to get the permission if it is granted. When the Minister of Justice permits the naturalization, the Minister will notice it to the applicant and make an announcement by public notice in the Official Gazette.The naturalization comes into effect from the date of the public notice. (The Nationality Law Art.10)

The following table compares the differences among Naturalization, Permanent Resident and Long Term Resident. The Japanese nationality provides the merit such as right to vote and Japanese passport and lifts the burdens of Immigration Control Law and Alien Registration Law.

Long Term
keep a foreign nationality
Period of Stay
No Limit
3 years
or 1 year
No Limit
permission to work
No Limit
no need
no need
to vote
not available


2. Legal Conditions for Naturalization

Article 5 stipulates the conditions for Naturalization. But even though all of them are satisfied, it does not mean that the permission is automatically granted. Still the Minister of Justice has the authority to decide whether or not to grant the permission.
1) The person domiciled (lived) in Japan for five years or more consecutively.
2) The person is twenty years of age or more and of full legal capacity to act according to the law of his or her home country.
3) The person is of good conduct.
4) The person is able to secure a livelihood by one's own property or ability, or those of one's spouse or other relatives with whom one lives on common living expenses.
5) The person has no nationality, or the acquisition of Japanese nationality will result in the loss of foreign nationality.
6) The person has never plotted or advocated the overthrow of the Government of Japan.
7) The person can read and write Japanese (this is not the condition of the Nationality Law, but it is required virtually.)

Here are some notes on the above conditions:

Notes on the condition 1
"consecutively" is not "accumulatively." Therefore, if the person leaves Japan, then the period of stay must be accumulated again from 0 when they come back to Japan. However, if re-entry permission is granted, the consecutiveness will be kept. But even if re-entry permission is granted, when the stay outside of Japan is a long time such as two to three months or if he/she leaves Japan more than 100 days in a year in total, the consecutiveness may not be permitted.

Notes on the condition 2
As for "the law of his or her home country," there seems to be no country to stipulate full capacity to act beyond the age of 20.
And if the applicant is granted the permission of naturalization, his/her spouse or child may be exempted the condition 2. Please see "Simplified Naturalization" in detail.

Notes on the condition 3
The condition of "good conduct" covers criminal record, traffic law violation, traffic accident, nonpayment of tax and business licence violation.

Notes on the condition 7
The skill of reading and writing Japanese is said to be that of the third grader of an elementary school. The interview by the Bureau will be done in Japanese. And when the applicant is granted Japanese nationality, he/she may have the right to vote. Therefore, a certain level of Japanese skill is required.