Immigration deserves its reputation

Online, I see many people I know complain about the immigration offices (入国管理局) in Japan. Not immigration in the airport, but the offices residents go to for visa changes and renewal. Most of the time it’s people complaining about immigration in Tokyo.

Long lines, unhelpfulness, etc., were among the complaints I saw. Every time I’ve had to go since 2012 has been at the Kanagawa office. Dunno if I was always lucky, or if it’s just the office, but wait times typically have been between 5 minutes to 45 minutes. Then again, I’ve gone from 9 a.m. (opening time) to 10:45 a.m.

But recently, I learned to understand people’s frustrations. Why? Follow my tale of woe below.

When I came to Japan on Sept. 26, 2012, I had a student visa, or 留学 visa. It was set to expire on Dec. 26, 2013 (1 year and 3 months). Around Dec. 20 I received a job offer. I immediately began the visa change process.

My company said to submit documents at the immigration office in Chiba, because hey, that’s where the company is and where I’ll be living. Made sense to me! Not knowing what Chiba immigration was like, I woke up super early one morning, made a 2-hour (and 1,500 yen) trip to Chiba to be there by 8:50 a.m. I get in, submit documents, and as they clerk is looking over things, she informs me that because I’m still living in Yokohama (in Kanagawa) on that day, I need to submit documents to Kanagawa immigration. Fuck me.

I politely thank her for her time, grumble something to myself and take to the ‘net to complain about the trouble, then book it to Kanagawa immigration (another 2-hour trip and another 1,500 yen). I get there, submit the documents, and go home and nap.

It was really my only choice. However, that meant I had to continue going to Kanagawa, even after I had moved to Chiba, each time they needed information/documents from me… even though Chiba has its own immigration office.

When you live in Japan, you’re required to register with the local city or ward office that says, “Hey yo, I be living here. Give me national health insurance (国民健康保険) and stuff.” And when you move, you have to get a form from your current office to give to the city/ward office you’ll register with at your new address (if you’re moving to a new city/ward).

So at the time of submitting visa documents, I was still living in Kanagawa. The visa change process would take about a month, due to winter holidays. But I soon found out I would move to Chiba on Jan. 7. “Great, maybe I can finish this up in Chiba!” I thought to myself.

Haha.

I went to the city office of Yachiyo (in Chiba) around Jan. 15 or so. Did my registration, got my health insurance, etc. Then I received a letter in the mail from Kanagawa immigration asking for something. Made another 4-hour (and 3,000 yen) round trip. On this trip, I asked, “Can I please finish this process up in Chiba? It’s far and expensive for me. Please help me out.”

The clerk looked at me, went in the back for what I assume was a quick drink of coffee, came back and told me, “No, you have to do it here. Sorry.”

Then on Feb. 5 I received another notice from Kanagawa immigration asking for me to bring my documents, money and a few more items. I went on Feb. 6 (ANOTHER FUCKING 4-hour round trip and 3,000 yen!), and to my surprise, this was the last trip needed.

12-hours (plus another 1.5 for total waiting times) and 9,000 yen (plus 4,000 yen for visa processing) and I finally have it all sorted out.

But it does make me wonder… what if I had moved somewhere much further from Kanagawa, such as Osaka? Would I have been required to spend entire DAYS going back and forth?

Regardless, from now on, I do not need to go to Kanagawa immigration anymore. Woo!

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