Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The PR Challenge

I visited the new shiny Yokohama Immigration Office yesterday. A couple of months ago it moved from a fairly central location to somewhere out in the hinterland of the docks, presumably so that dodgy foreigners can be conveniently incarcerated and quickly shipped out without infecting the Japanese nation with their funny foreign ways. Conveniently, this new location happens to be a 15 minute bike ride from where I work. And incidentally, it is interesting to see a dock area which is still being actively used as a dock, rather than the mix of dereliction and yuppie apartments which seems to be the general situation in the UK. But I digress..

I was handing in my application for a permanent resident visa. There are two routes to PR: either marry a Japanese citizen/permanent resident and wait about 3 years, or live in Japan for 10 years. The first didn't really sound so attractive (even though you can divorce and keep the PR) and I've only been here for 8 years...however, there is a get-out clause for the 10y requirement, if the applicant is deemed to have made a sufficient "contribution to Japan" during their stay. The definition of "contribution" is a bit vague, but does not seem so stiff for scientists. 6(i) really does say that I have to have published one single solitary paper which has been cited twice by others, and the alternative 6(iii) requires "many" papers which by implication don't need to have been cited at all! The Govt also helpfully provides a list of guideline cases who have passed and failed, and it seems to me that I've got more in common with the former (eg #23, #27, #38) than the latter (#6). But that's for the bureaucrats to decide. The clerk who dealt with my application did suck his teeth and say how "muzukashii" (difficult) it was to bypass the 10y residency, and when such people say "difficult", it usually means "impossible". But I did get a nice letter of recommendation from one of Japan's most eminent climate scientists, which should be worth something.

When it all falls through I can just get another standard visa and reapply for PR in another 3 years. My current visa expires next year, so I've got to do something, and if this comes through I won't need to bother with it again for as long as I stay. There are other possible benefits, like the ability to freely change jobs and a possibility of improved pension benefits, although to be honest I think it's vanishingly improbable that either of these will actually come off. As much as anything, I'm interested to find out if the bureaucrats actually do think that my time here has been worthwhile. It would also be handy for the next time someone asks me when I'm going home. That happened not so long ago, when a f-o-a-f quite literally introduced themselves with "Hello, how lovely to meet you, I've heard so much about you, when are you going home". I wish I had had the presence of mind to reply with "I'm planning outlast you, you old bat". I once said something similar to a lab director who was threatening to sack me - and I was right then too :-)


Steve Bloom said...

Your other reader is mildly curious about what f-o-a-f means.

James Annan said...

Oh, my other other reader already asked, so maybe it's not as widely used as I thought: friend of a friend.

rocksea said...

come to Italy! You will forget everything about Japanese bureaucracy!!!

James Annan said...

Hi Rocksea,

Good to hear from you, and I hope you're enjoying yourself there. Funny that 10 years ago, we considered the Italians were a bit crazy and bureaucratic - how little we knew... :-)

rocksea said...

Italy is very relaxing. Bureaucracy actually poses "extremely" difficult situations here. I had initiated my joining here as a researcher before I finished my PhD. but Then it took 8 months for me to get the visa. After that, it took more than a year for my wife to get a family visa. Almost every other day I used to be at some office to get one of the numerous documents to satisfy the bureaucracy.

Now we are kind of settled and doesn't have a problem as such.

Give my regards to Jules.