What is the difference between permanent residency and citizenship in Japan?

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When faced with the decision to acquire permanent residency or naturalize as a Japanese citizen, foreign nationals should first consider the benefits and disadvantages of each option.  While both options include the legal right to stay in Japan, citizenship also grants certain privileges that permanent residents do not enjoy.  However, becoming a Japanese citizen means giving up foreign citizenship which, for some, may outweigh the benefits that Japanese citizenship confers.

The main advantage of being a citizen rather than a permanent resident is that Japanese citizens have the right to vote, while permanent residents do not.  In addition to the ability to vote, citizens are allowed to run for and assume public office in Japan.  Citizens are also allowed to become public civil servants and hold jobs such as judge, prosecutor, public school teacher or soldier in the Self-Defense Force.  Finally, only citizens may serve as lay judges (“saiban-in”) in Japan’s version of jury trials.

It should also be noted that permanent residency, despite the name, can be taken away in certain situations such as when a permanent resident commits a serious crime.

If you have any questions about residence in Japan, please contact our office for a legal consultation.