Reader AEB from Kyushu writes: "I am single, have lived here in Japan for almost 10 years, and have a stable job. I hope to apply for permanent residency. I heard that you must have lived here for 10 years consecutively, or be married to a Japanese national.

"The immigration office said that because I had a year away in my home country the 'year count' so to speak would start again. Is there a 10 year minimum law?"

Well, simply put there are two categories for Permanent Resident -- one is for those married to a Japanese. If you are married to a Japanese you may qualify in five years or even less depending on your situation.