This page provides a general overview and advice about getting married in Japan. The information is from a single JET’s experience. Your circumstances and situation may vary so be sure to check with the appropriate authorities to confirm all the documents/information you will need and what the procedures and rules are.
Registering your Marriage
To be legally married in Japan the marriage must be registered with your local city hall. Simply having a ceremony, while that might be more meaningful to you, does not constitute a legal marriage in Japan. The requirements for registering your marriage will vary from municipality to municipality, but typically they should follow the same basic procedures. First, visit your local city hall and ask about the process for registering your marriage, either between you and your Japanese or Non-Japanese partner. Make sure they know you want to register a marriage involving at least one non-Japanese partner. They should provide you with a form to fill out. You will need a separate document with this, which is an “Affidavit of Competency to Marry” also known as a “Certificate of No Impedance to Marriage”. Basically, this document certifies that you are legally able to get married according to Japanese law. Visit the web site of your country’s embassy in Japan to find the document. It is a short document that is filled out in both English and Japanese. It must then be notarized by your country’s embassy or consulate staff. Some countries allow you to mail the forms (with your passport probably) to get notarized, while others may require you to visit the embassy or consulate in person. Americans go to the U.S. Consulate in Osaka and get the document notarized. It should be a very easy process. You call, make an appointment with the consulate, show up on the day and hand in my documents, pay a small fee, and after a little waiting you are asked to swear that the contents were true. You will also be asked that this marriage is consensual to ensure that you are not being coerced into marriage. The process will be done once they sign and stamp the documents. The notarized document and the registration form and will be submitted that at the local city hall, and I you are considered married.
If your partner is a Japanese citizen then once you are married you are entitled to apply for a spousal visa. If you are going to be staying in Japan beyond the period of your JET visa then a spousal visa can be advantageous to have. Besides, of course, allowing for your legal stay in Japan it will also allow for you to obtain paid work without restriction. A spousal visa can be issued for 1 or 3 year increments and can be renewed. The process of obtaining the spousal visa is not by itself complicated, but there is a great deal of paperwork so be sure to allow yourself enough time to compile and check all required documents.
If you are on your JET visa you will need to apply for a “Change of Status of Residence” for that visa. The new status of residence will be “Spouse or Child of a Japanese National”. Here is a basic overview of the “Change of Status of Residence” process:
Essentially, the process works as follows: First, you collect and fill out the necessary documents and take them to your regional immigration office (Kobe or Himeji) and submit them for review. You will then wait for a period of time (in my case, it was about 1 or 2 weeks) while everything is verified. If everything checks out then you will get a postcard from the immigration office saying you can come get your visa. You then return to the regional immigration office, pay a 4000 yen fee, and your new visa is then stamped into your passport.
You may see the documents you need to collect for the visa application here:
Provide the following documents:
The application itself
Documentation from City Hall confirming your marriage (what you registered previously)
Copy of my gaijin card
Documentation confirming my employment (I got it from my BOE)
Copy of my most recent yearly income statement (you get one every year)
A rather lengthy and somewhat probing questionnaire (all in Japanese) about the nature of the marriage, relationship, family history, etc.
Pictures (of us as a couple, at the wedding ceremony, etc.)
Letter of guarantee (signed by my spouse)
Here is the actual application:
An example of one filled out can be seen here
Here is the questionnaire about the marriage that needs to be completed:
That is the basic process. Allow lots of time for preparing the documents and ensuring you have everything you need. Write legibly on all documents. The whole process – registering, applying for the visa, and getting the visa – will take about 3 trips to far away locations (1 to the local consulate and 2 to the immigration office) so be sure you have the nenkyu to burn. If you take the time to do things carefully you should have no problems. Good luck!