How do I apply for my permanent visa? What should I do if I'm in a traffic accident in Japan?

Dear GLocals,
I have been working in Japan as a company employee with a work visa for eight years. I like Japan, and would like to stay here in the long run. So I am wondering if I could apply for a permanent residency visa at this point. At the same time I got an offer from a venture company which brings me an opportunity to try a new career. I would like to take this offer. Is there anything I should think about?
James, Nishi-ku

Let’s address your first point. In principle, permanent residency is an option for those who have stayed in Japan for more than 10 years consecutively.
To be eligible a person must have had a work visa or a spouse visa which was granted via marriage to a Japanese national or permanent resident.  Technically eight years is an insufficient amount of time to apply for permanent residency, however sometimes an exception is made. For example if you have a special skill or educational degree you may want to submit a request. One such case is a person who had obtained a Ph.D. from a Japanese University and continued to work for a research institute.  Another example is one applicant who was working as a business person, but had worked as  a medical doctor in their home country.
When considering if you qualify as having a “special skill” you should start by referencing the “Points-based System for Highly Skilled Foreign Professionals”. If a person is qualified as a “highly skilled professional”, five years of consecutive work experience in Japan in the field is sufficient to apply for permanent residency.

Therefore, if a person has some special skills or experience, even if they do not qualify as a “highly skilled professional”, it is worth applying as long as you can produce a convincing and strong case.  If you do not possess any particular skills or experience, it is better to wait till ten years have passed.

Dear GLocals,
I have a question about a recent traffic accident. I was riding my bike and a car suddenly hit my real wheel as I was crossing an intersection. Fortunately, I wasn’t injured but my rear wheel had to be replaced and the lady’s car (a Mercedes Benz) got scraped. I have bicycle insurance but it only covers accidents with pedestrians and other bicycles NOT cars. The problem I am having is that I do not have an insurance company to talk to her insurance company. Her insurance company says that I am partially at fault in the accident so I need to cover 30% of what she spent to fix her car (about ¥30,000). The accident was not my fault at all so I am angry that they want me to pay. I don’t know what to do. Could you give me some advice?
Carter – Motoyama

I am sorry to hear this. As if the accident weren’t bad enough, now you are having trouble dealing with a Japanese insurance company. Undoubtably the insurance company is not going to side with you and you can be sure that the terms will not be favorable if you have to deal with them directly. I suggest that you consult the Center For Traffic Dispute Settlement (交通事故紛争処理センター). This is an ADR (Alternative Dispute Resolution) agency, an arbitrator which provides fair, neutral and prompt support for victims of traffic accidents. They offer free legal consultations with lawyers. If you wish to settle the issue they can arrange a meeting with the insurance company and a lawyer as a mediator. The insurance company must come and attend the meeting when they get called from the center.

In most cases you won’t get as good a deal as you would if you took the matter to court but you get a better and fairer deal than the insurance companies will offer you directly. It is much easier and faster than bringing it to a court case and not to mention it is free. Lawyers give fair advice but if you are not happy with what they suggest, you don’t have to accept the settlement. You can still take the matter to court if you wish.  Reservation is essential. Japanese only.

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