One of the key interests for any government in setting up a visa based immigration program is to limit the number of jobs that foreigners are allowed to occupy, thereby protecting the local workforce as much as possible. To enforce these protectionist policies, many countries, including Japan, require employers to check whether their foreign job applicants have legal status to work before hiring them.
When a foreigner arrives in Japan with a long-term visa, a residence card can be issued at the airport. The card is linked to the type of visa that the foreigner holds and specifically lists the scope of the visa and type of work that the foreigner may engage in legally (for example “Specialist in Humanities/International Services” or “Professor”).
Foreigners living in Japan have a legal obligation to carry their residence card or passport with them at all times. Residence cards will usually be required for a foreigner to apply for a cell phone, open a bank account or find an apartment. Failure to carry your residence card can result in a fine of up to 200,000.
When a foreign national leaves Japan with the intent to come back, they are allowed to keep their residence card during their trip overseas. However, the residence card needs to be returned when the foreign national decides to stop living in Japan. Usually the residence card will be taken by the customs agent upon the foreign national’s departure from a Japanese airport.