Reader W has been residing happily in this country for 35 years with his Japanese wife. As an American civilian worker on a U.S. military base, he is currently here under SOFA (the Status of Forces Agreement between Japan and the U.S.), which means he is exempt from the usual passport and visa issues that apply to foreign residents. However, with plans for retirement on the horizon and a wife who is some years older, he is wondering what will happen if she predeceases him. He writes:

"I'm anticipating eventually getting a spousal visa once I finally stop working on base. My wife is nine years older than I am and thus my question: Although I don't wish to think about it too much, she might die before I do, and therefore I wonder what my status would be? Can I maintain the spousal visa, or could I then qualify for another type of visa? I do wish to remain in Japan for the rest of my life because I'd have to start all over again if I were to move back to the USA."

When his SOFA status comes to an end upon retirement, W should visit his local immigration office within 30 days and apply for a change of status. As the spouse of a Japanese national, he should have no problem getting a three-year spouse visa. Eventually, however, he will want to try and get permanent residence, which would allow him to stay in Japan indefinitely, regardless of his marital status.