Before relocating to Dubai, I’ve lived in Japan for a good 10 years plus a couple of months. Initially, I never thought of staying there for long but so much can happen in ten years – I graduated from a Japanese university, met my lifetime partner, landed my first job, had a baby, etc. I came to love the place and decided I take the next big step: living there permanently with minimum hassle, if possible.
You can apply for permanent residence in Japan if you have lived there for 10 years consecutively, or 5 years with a work permit. You can also qualify for permanent resident status if you’ve been married to a Japanese national for 3+ years.
I had a student visa for 4.5 years, 3 years work permit and decided to apply for naturalization instead of permanent residence. Permanent resident status would require renewals every 1-3 years, it has perks close to being a Japanese citizen without becoming a Japanese citizen.
A “PR” holder will retain his/her original citizenship and passport. Naturalization means you obtain Japanese citizenship and passport.
The difference between permanent residence and naturalization can be summed up like this:
Permanent residency and other visas give you permission to be in Japan. Being a Japanese national gives you the right to be in Japan.
In Japan, dual citizenship is not allowed so I need to give up my original citizenship. But it wasn’t a difficult decision: it was the best for my family in terms of travel convenience, for example. Japan passport holders get entry to most countries without a obtaining a visa.
Our children would get instant citizenship because one of their parents is a native Japanese. Japan only honors Jus sanguinis – the right to a nationality or citizenship given because one has an ancestor (e.g. a parent) who has the nationality or citizenship of the state in question. Spouses of Japanese nationals can not adapt citizenship through marriage, contrary to what others assume. Spouses will only get PR but retain their original birth country passport.
That meant if all my family members have Japan passports and I don’t, we face the difficulty of applying for visas whenever we need to travel together (and we intend to do a lot of traveling in the near future). And I know how tough it is for a Philippine passport holder to apply for visas. I’ve been denied tourist visa to the US, twice before.
I readily signed the forms and submitted. The process for naturalization is tedious. I received my notice of approval (1.5 years after submitting my application) one spring day in 2004. I know I should feel lonely or something but I also know that naturalization only requires me to give up my previous (original) nationality. It does not ask me to give up my ethnicity or my culture or my heritage or my identity.