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Don’t bank on Japan’s lenders making it easy to relocate abroad

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Special To The Japan Times

For a country with a reputation for cutting-edge technology, Japan can be surprisingly behind the times. Many ATMs still only accept cards issued in Japan and some shut early, particularly outside of the bigger cities. Internet banking is another area where Japan can seem behind the curve.

This week’s column features a recent email from reader S.D., who wanted to share her experiences with internet banking upon leaving Japan on a temporary basis. This information may prove useful for residents facing a similar situation.

S.D. and her Japanese partner have moved overseas to help care for elderly relatives in her home country. At this point, they are unsure of their return date. S.D. writes:

We were unpleasantly surprised to find, literally at the last minute, that our respective banks — both major Japanese banks — won’t allow nonresidents of Japan to use internet banking. This includes those with citizenship and permanent residence, such as my husband and myself.

We were both going to continue receiving wages from Japan through freelance contracts, so we were relying on being able to transfer money through internet banking. We have an account at SMBC (Sumitomo Mitsubishi Banking Corp, which took over Citibank Japan’s retail banking business), and they will allow us to continue doing transactions through internet banking. However, we will not be able to set up any new accounts from overseas and, unfortunately, the firm I am working for will not deposit into that bank anyway.

Fortunately, S.D.’s client confirmed they could deposit to a Japan Post account, which allows internet banking with no residency issues.

Realizing that many Japanese move or are transferred overseas with indefinite return dates, the couple asked their banks what others do in such a case. They were told that most people simply move their juminhyō (record of current residential address) to their parents’ address. As S.D. points out, this is assuming that the parents are still alive, and that they live in Japan in the first place.

As an aside, S.D. notes another odd situation:

Although I was able to set up a foreign currency account here in my home country (so that we could transfer money in yen and then wait for a more favorable exchange rate before changing it), the bank in Japan will not allow internet transfers between a yen account in Japan and a yen account overseas. If we changed the money to the foreign currency in Japan and then sent it here as foreign currency, that’s OK.

Has anybody experienced similar issues or have other information or tips to share? If so, please contact Lifelines.

Coping without a passport

To round out this week’s column, a question from D.B. about residence cards and passports:

I lost my passport while living in Japan under a permanent resident visa status. After I get a new passport at my embassy in Tokyo, do I have to do anything else or update my residence card? How will my permanent residence visa transfer over to my new passport?

In a nutshell, once he has his new passport, D.B. doesn’t have to do anything in regard to his residence card (zairyū kādo), which no longer includes your passport number or details of when and where the document was issued.

Since the new residence cards for foreign nationals were introduced in 2012, passports also no longer contain visa stamps. Information that used to be shown in the passport, such as status of residence and period of stay, is now recorded on the residence card.

For this reason, you must always take the residence card with you when traveling in and out of Japan. Even if you lose your passport while overseas, you can still enter Japan with your existing visa status if you have a valid residence card.

Send your comments and questions to lifelines@japantimes.co.jp.