Nova visas; seeking U.S. citizenship

Reader SB was working for Nova and his visa runs out next fall.

“I would like to stay in Japan and have been teaching a number of private as well as company classes. However, I think it will be difficult to get any of these companies to support me for a visa. Is there any way I can do it myself?”

The answer is: Yes, you can!

As you know, thousands of Nova teachers lost their jobs following the collapse of the Nova conversation school chain in October 2007. Prior to that it was the largest employer of foreigners in Japan, with 4,000 non-Japanese on its staff. Its collapse was one of the largest postwar bankruptcies in Japan.

Some of the teachers were taken in by G.communication, which bought some of Nova’s branches and the brand name. Many others left Japan altogether.

Once your “Nova visa” runs out, if you can demonstrate that you have enough private classes to support what is considered a basic living standard in Japan — upwards of ¥250,000 — you can generally qualify for “self-sponsorship.”

What you will have to do is provide bank details and student records to confirm the number of students you are teaching and the income they provide.

Based on this, together with information on the number of years you have been in Japan, your teaching experience, education level and other factors, you should qualify.

The main concern is whether you can demonstrate that you in fact have the income to make a living, but bearing in mind the situation with Nova and the large number of teachers who found themselves suddenly unemployed, you will generally find immigration bureaus are sympathetic, providing you can prove that you have the students, are being paid and are paying taxes.

You can make this application by preparing the paperwork and taking it to your local immigration office. The Ministry of Justice has the information you need at, or you can call them on (03) 3580-4111.

However, we recommend you have an immigration expert do it for you, as they are experienced and can help you not only in preparing the paperwork but in turning it in and obtaining your visa. Longtime Lifelines visa consultant Mr. Nakai at Nakai Immigration Services is well worth checking out. His Web site is at, or you can call (03) 6402-7654 or contact him by e-mail via If you are outside of Tokyo, Mr. Nakai will refer you to the closest gyosei shoshi (notary public) to you that specializes in immigration services.

How about our readers? Former Nova teachers, let us know how things are going. Any advice for fellow teachers? (K.J.)

Path to citizenship

TP, whose father was with the U.S. military, was born in the Ryukyu islands when they were U.S. territory.

“Unfortunately my father died in the Vietnam War when I was a child, and in all the confusion I never received U.S. citizenship. I have letters, pictures and other information from my father, but despite putting in an application nearly two years ago for a passport to the U.S. Embassy, and requesting help numerous times with all the supporting materials, I have not received a reply.”

We contacted the embassy as well as a number of immigration experts. Simply put, TP, there are a couple of hurdles you have to overcome.

First, the direct relationship between you and your father has to be established. This is usually done with documents that prove or indicate a relationship, such as a birth certificate, school records, military records, and even letters and pictures.

If the paperwork you have turned in to support of your claim is not considered adequate, the next step is for you and a relative to submit to DNA testing. If the link is confirmed, this will be a huge help in the process.

The last resort is to have a private bill passed on your behalf by your congressman.

We have met in Washington with Reps. Michael Honda and Dana Rohrabacher, and with Sens. John McCain and Joseph Lieberman, to discuss your claim.

If your application at the U.S. Embassy is turned down and you cannot get a DNA match, they will assist you in passing a private bill to restore your citizenship, a procedure that is routinely used by representatives in the U.S. Congress to address concerns such as yours, TP. (K.J.)

Angela Jeffs is a freelance writer and writing guide ( Ken Joseph directs the Japan Helpline at and (0570) 000-911. Send queries, problems and posers to

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