Overstaying Your Visa in Japan Is an Incredibly Dumb Thing to Do

Okay, terrible confession time – I was an illegal human being for about ten days a few months ago. I had no idea and luckily I didn’t get stopped by any cops or anything.

I went to immigration to upgrade to the new foreigner card and the lady behind the counter’s eyes grew huge and she said, “You’ve overstayed!” and frantically whipped out a bunch of paperwork I had to do and return as soon as possible.

I spent the afternoon gathering the stuff I had to from the city and ward offices. I then filled out all of the necessary paperwork (they give you a temporary extension and then a new visa usually at the same time, so you have to fill out both documents).

One thing you have to fill out is the Why I Overstayed And I’m So Very Sorry And Will Never Do It Again document (not the real name, I think, but close). I wrote an apologetic and remorseful page about how much I dearly love this country and how I don’t want my family to be torn apart, etc. All true and sincere, by the way.

The next day I went back, submitted all papers, waited a very long half hour, and was given my new foreigner card.

So, everything was alright, but it was a sleepless and nerve-wracking 36-or-so hours. I didn’t know what was going to happen and, even worse, I read the internet…

That’s what you’re doing right now! You’re like me, quivering behind your computer monitor, small and highly concentrated turd nuggets knocking around in your drawers, envisioning your future, a homeless, toothless, hopeless loser sitting on a barstool somewhere telling somebody about how you got kicked out of Japan for missing a simple deadline.

Here’s what I read on the internet (and it’s all true):

  • They can arrest you on the spot.
  • They can kick you out of Japan for five years with no guarantee you’ll ever be let in the country again (do a little search, you’ll find a story from 2004 where a couple was kicked out for overstaying ONE DAY).
  • They can give you the extension and then make you wait in immigration limbo forever unable to work while you’re waiting.

So, yeah, if you’re unlucky or your chosen immigration officer is grumpy, there could be hell to pay. But here are some encouraging words:

  • In general, Japan is trying to get overstayers to come forward, which leads me to believe that they’re going easier on overstayers than in years past.
  • If you’ve been in Japan for years, paid Japanese taxes, participated in the national health system, have a family, have gainful employment, and have no criminal record, you should be alright. They told me that’s why they helped me stay.

So, quivering turd-nugget dropping overstayer: Get to immigration ASAP, apologize for your utter stupidity, fill out all necessary forms pronto, bow and scrape, and cry tears of gratitude when they stamp your visa.

And don’t miss the deadline again, dumbass…