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Expats Retiring in Japan

Many expats are moving to Japan to work and to take advantage of the culture and economy this small country offers. It is well known as an ideal place for doing business but less so as the perfect place to retire, which is not easy to understand as Japan possesses one of the most beautiful countrysides in the world. The reason not more expats retire here is the difficulty to obtain permanent residency and the lack of a retirement visa available to foreigners.


Japan has a very high cost of living and it opens its doors to people who would like to invest or work in the country. Work visas are usually valid for one year only and are renewable only if the foreigner keeps his or her job or has a new one. As the majority of retirees are usually not willing to work any longer but want to enjoy their golden years the working visa is therefore out of question for them unless they want to teach part-time English or pursue any other work option.


A great number of expats living long-term in Japan have a Japanese spouse and have applied for a spousal visa. If you don’t have a Japanese spouse nor want to apply for a work visa you can apply for a visa, that is valid for one year. After three consecutive years on this renewable visa you can apply for a long stay visa which is valid for 3 years. After having lived for 6 years on this visa you can apply for a permanent residence status. Please be aware that this option takes time (at least 9 years) and you have to prove that you know the Japanese culture and language. Applicants have to pass several exams before receiving their permanent residency. All Japanese long-stay visas require a Certificate of Eligibility to be present along with the rest of the application. To qualify for the Certificate of Eligibility, you will need to provide documentation on your financial status, criminal convictions, and immigration history in Japan.


As for receiving pensions, Japan has 2 types of pension plans, the Employees’ Pension and the National Pension. Both are run by the government.


If you are a full-time employee, you and your family can apply for Employees’ Pension. Your company will automatically deduct the premiums from your salary each month. 50% of the premiums will be paid by your company.


Anyone over the age of 20 who is not employed by a company, such as students or freelancers are required to enroll in National Pension. You will need to apply at your local municipal office.


International social security agreements to avoid enrollment in the pension plans of 2 countries are in effect with Germany, the United Kingdom, South Korea, the United States, Belgium, France, Canada, Australia, Netherlands, Czech Republic, Spain, Ireland, Brazil, and Switzerland. Generally, nationals who are posted to Japan for fewer than 5 years will not be required to enroll with the Japanese pension plans.

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