Shortly after the March 11 disasters, Hans left Japan without a re-entry permit. He came back on a tourist visa and is wondering if he can easily regain his previous visa status:

“I am a German national and have been married to my Japanese wife for six years. We moved ‘permanently’ to Japan in September 2008. I received my latest spousal visa extension on Nov. 4, 2009, valid for three years.

“However, on March 17 I left Japan because of the Fukushima nuclear crisis. Due to the circumstances, I left without a re-entry permit. As a result, I re-entered Japan in June with a 90-day visitor’s visa.

“Is there a way, because of the circumstances, to reacquire my previous visa status from before March 11? If not, should I apply for another three-year spousal visa, and is there a way that the application from last time, which should still be in the computers, can be reused, or do we have to restart the whole process from scratch with all that insane paperwork?

“In your previous article (“Bye-bye to the gaijin card, welcome to the Juki Net in ’12,” July 12) you wrote, ‘Under the new law, medium- to long-term residents with a valid passport and residence card will no longer need to apply for a re-entry permit if they leave and return to Japan within one year.’ This probably does not yet apply in my case?

“Also, will my spousal visa be extended to five instead of three years from July 2012?”

In response to your first question, we contacted Immigration and the answer is “no.” If you left Japan without a re-entry permit, despite the circumstances surrounding March 11, you will need to apply for a new visa. The only partial exceptions to this rule include international students and foreign trainees or technical interns. These individuals must also reapply for a new visa, but their visa applications will be expedited.

You will need to go through the same process as before with new paperwork, regardless of the information Immigration may already have on file for you (though hopefully it will take them less time to process your application this time around).

As far as the new immigration law is concerned, you are correct: The changes will not go into effect until summer 2012, so they do not yet apply in your case.

Finally, three years will be the maximum you can receive when you apply for your spousal visa this year (though it’s not guaranteed you will be granted the full three years). Even if it were possible to get the five-year extension now, the same situation applies: It is ultimately up to the discretion of immigration officials to decide the extension period of your visa.

For more specific questions regarding your situation, it would be best to contact your nearest immigration office.

Also in response to the July 12 column, Doug asks: “Do you know how the changes mentioned for re-entry visas will affect people with permanent residency?”

The immigration changes will apply to permanent residents in the same way they apply to medium- and long-term residents without permanent residency. So, a permanent resident will be allowed to leave for up to one year without a re-entry permit. If they plan to be out of Japan longer than a year, they would need to consult Immigration directly and apply for a re-entry permit.

For more information, please refer to www.immi-moj.go.jp/english/newimmiact/newimmiact_english.html and www.immi-moj.go.jp/newimmiact/pdf/leaflet_english.pdf

Ashley Thompson writes survival tips and unique how-tos about living in Japan at www.survivingnjapan.com. Send all your questions to lifelines@japantimes.co.jp

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