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Choosing Sides: An In-depth Look at Japanese Nationality Laws

Legal systems vary globally in their protocols for conferring nationality. Some nations, including the United States, Brazil, and Peru, grant citizenship by birthright, while others, like China and South Korea, award nationality based on the principle of lineage or descent.

This article will succinctly outline the necessary procedures in Japan for individuals with dual nationality, encompassing both Japanese and a foreign citizenship.

Choosing Sides: An In-depth Look at Japanese Nationality LawsPhoto by ConvertKit on Unsplash

Two scenarios are paramount here. The first pertains to individuals who are granted dual nationality and, according to Japanese law, can maintain both nationalities until a certain age. The second scenario involves those who elect to acquire foreign nationality while living abroad.

Individuals who opt to acquire foreign nationality are considered foreign nationals, a subject of contention for some. The prohibition against holding dual nationality and involuntary nationality deprivation were discussed in a previous article.

Acquiring a foreign nationality
Per the Nationality Law (Article 13), one must submit a notification of renunciation of Japanese nationality upon acquiring a foreign nationality (国籍法13条・国籍離脱届). An individual acquiring a foreign nationality, as per foreign laws and regulations, is regarded as having lost Japanese nationality at that time (Nationality Law, Article 11, Paragraph 2). Consequently, a notification of loss of nationality must be submitted (Family Registration Law, Article 103 / 戸籍法103条・国籍喪失届).

Choosing Japanese nationality
According to Article 14, paragraph 2 of the Nationality Law, a declaration of choosing Japanese nationality and renouncing foreign nationality (hereafter “selection declaration”) must be made. In line with the Family Registration Law, a notification of loss of foreign nationality and a notification of selection of nationality (as per family register, Article 104-2) must be submitted upon losing a foreign nationality and selecting Japanese nationality (戸籍法104条の2・国籍選択届).

Renouncing Japanese citizenship
Consider a scenario where a 20-year-old individual with dual nationalities, from an international marriage, elects to maintain their foreign nationality, hence renouncing their Japanese nationality. They then become a foreigner. If they leave Japan within 60 days of renouncing Japanese nationality, applying for a status of residence isn’t required. However, if the stay extends beyond 60 days, they must apply for permission to obtain foreign residence status within 30 days of renouncing Japanese nationality.

A common misconception is that individuals with dual nationalities can apply for a permanent residence permit immediately after renouncing Japanese nationality. However, the application for a permanent residence permit is only permissible after their residence status in Japan has been approved and they’ve resided in Japan for at least one year.

For former Japanese citizens or those with Japanese parents seeking naturalization, the process, while less strict, requires substantial documentation and time to reacquire Japanese nationality.

In Japan, where dual citizenship is prohibited, the decision to retain Japanese nationality or select another varies case by case.

Disclaimer: While utmost care has been taken to ensure the accuracy of the information in this article at the time of publication, it is not intended to serve as legal advice as each individual situation will vary. Should you require further advice or wish to delve deeper into the topics discussed, please reach out to the author.

Text by: Masayo Boston (Certified Administrative Procedure Legal Specialist), June 2023
Legal Associates Office Boston (Fukuoka City)
Click here to contact by email

Fukuoka Prefecture
Published: Jun 15, 2023 / Last Updated: Jun 15, 2023

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