I’m 2 for 3 with harboring illegal alien babies, guys. When we lived in Okayama, I was 25 and still of the mindset that, “Meh, things will work out, no matter what I do,” so when it came to deadlines for Madeleine’s official documents after birth, I saw the dates as more of a suggestion than a “Do It By This Date Or Serious Consequences.” We didn’t stress about her American documents (certificate of birth abroad, passport, and social security number… oh, and you know, citizenship) until after the March 11 disaster, when suddenly it seemed top priority to be able to return to America should the need arise. In my mind, you needed a passport before you could get a visa, so despite the 30 day limit, it was four months before I did anything about her visa. (Actually what I did is go to the prefectural office to try to get re-entry permits due to a trip to America. Turns out you can’t get a re-entry permit if you never had an entry permit to begin with! The officer forbade me to leave the premises while he made panicked calls to Hiroshima to figure out what to do with this absolutely clueless foreigner who didn’t speak a word of Japanese.)
So a couple weeks ago, I received a letter from the city telling me that I would no longer be receiving the city child allowance for Boston. (Every four months, parents/guardians receive a certain amount of money per child in their care.) I really depend on this allowance, so I dropped everything to try to translate why on earth we were going to lose 1/3 of it. “Period of stay has expired.” I rushed to grab the bag of residence cards, and sure enough, his had expired a month ago. We renewed the rest of the family last summer, but at that time Boston still had time left on his, so we didn’t see the point in spending money for his before we needed to. (I see the point now!)
Note: This is merely a recollection of our experience. We absolutely do not guarantee that your experience will be the same.
I jumped on the immigration website and found the Application for Extension of Period of Stay. Don’t do this. You will have spent forever filling it all out and they’ll tell you you need two different applications. (If you’re on time, this is the application you need.) For supporting documents, I printed a Letter of Guarantee and had Leslie sign it, as well as a letter from our supporting congregation (which we had blessedly saved from last summer when we updated our visas). I brought all of our official documents (birth certificates, marriage certificate, etc.) as well, but didn’t end up needing them. I don’t know if they needed the Letter of Guarantee (or if Leslie even qualifies as a guarantor) or letter from our employer, but after forgetting a passport last summer, I didn’t want to take any chances leaving anything behind.
We dropped Madeleine off at Ikko’s house early in the morning and took the 8:30 train from Matsudo to Shinagawa. From the station we took a taxi, which is nice, but also makes me a little sad to realize that we pay enough public transit fare now that we can actually justify using a taxi. We jumped into the reception line around 9:20, and it went surprisingly quickly. Tip: Don’t go on a Monday or Friday.
Reception filled out a short form declaring what we were there for and sent us over to a back corner desk whose sign boasted Business and Employment Inspection Department. It didn’t sound like what we needed, but apparently it was. We took a number and sat down to wait. Once we were called, we handed the man behind the desk our stack of papers and the sheet the receptionist had filled out. After some more clarification on the situation and some hemming and hawing, he handed us another piece of paper on which to explain why Boston’s period of stay had expired. (English was fine.) He asked us to wait while he did something else, and when he came back he handed back our stack of papers, explaining that we needed two different applications, plus payment for both applications. (We didn’t totally understand what he was telling us to do, and ended taking a lot longer because we went back and forth a couple times.)
What we were supposed to do is get and fill out two Applications for Change of Status of Residence, one for Short Term Stay and one for Dependent Residency, then pay the application fee for both. This is where they get you. I’d been marveling at how much easier it seemed to be to resolve Boston’s expired visa than it had been to renew ours the right way last summer and was starting to be tempted to go this route next time for convenience’s sake, but paying double brought it all back to even.
We finally got our packet in order (after I filled out like 8 different papers that we didn’t actually need… In the age of technology, it’s so easy to forget how long it’s been since you actually wrote something until your hand is cramping up after like 3 lines…) and returned it to the desk to await approval. Really, the process was very simple, and my only complaint is that there’s no play area for the children on the side of the building we were on. It’s a hard knock life, y’all. After a reasonable waiting time, they came out with Boston’s new Resident Card! We were told to take it to our city office to get our address printed on it and to get him back into the system, and we were done!
When it came to finishing up at the city office, I knew Leslie was too busy with work to do it, so it was up to me. I considered asking a friend to come and translate, but on my free afternoon, I was feeling a rare bit of confidence and decided to give it a try myself! (I think good weather had a lot to do with it. Tell me I’m not the only one who feels she can do anything if there’s a breeze in her hair!) City office is only a 5 minute drive from home, so it’s not like I’d be losing a whole lot of time if I totally failed. On my way over, I passed Ikko and told her where I was going, and on the spot she offered to keep Boston for me. Even better. It’s so much easier to switch my brain over to technical Japanese without a baby
screaming babbling in my ear.
I marched into the office, head held high, and immediately recognized that there was no way I’d be able to decipher which desk I was supposed to go to, so I made my way back to the front of the building to seek Information’s help. Desk number in hand, I marched for a second time into the office. I think this was the desk where I gave them the information they needed to print our address on the back of the card. I’m not totally sure, and the lady walked me through every line, telling me what to write. Paperwork in hand, I then presented myself to another desk, where I think they do the actual processing. (Much of my life here is just doing what people tell me to do, moment to moment.) At the processing desk, after more rote paperwork, they asked for proof of our relationship. Like a gigantic goofball, I hadn’t even thought to bring it with me. “We can process him as a roommate,” they helpfully supplied. “But you won’t get the child allowance.” That’s the whole reason I’m doing this, I thought. That and, you know, legality and such. “What time do you close?” I asked. “Five o’clock.” “I’ll be right back!” So I jetted home and got the papers that honestly, anyone should have thought to bring in the first place.
Once I had the papers in hand, it was a simple process of handing everything over and then just waiting. I watch sumo on the myriad televisions built into the wall, and about 20 minutes later, they handed me Boston’s official and completed Resident Card plus health insurance card. Legal! I inquired as to how to get the child allowance
because I am a classless socialist gaijin and was directed upstairs, where child and family services are handled.
Upstairs was just a matter of more paperwork after I explained the situation. The woman asked if Boston had lived with us the entire time, but other than that it was the same straightforward personal information I’d written three times already downstairs. “I’ll get the child allowance in June, right?” I asked
like the pauper I am. She answered with something that I think meant yes, but I wasn’t totally clear, and didn’t really want to be the foreigner obsessively fixated on money. (Well, I didn’t want to be recognized as one, anyway. I’m an accountant by trade, I can’t help it!)
Finally, with that paperwork complete, I was done! Boston was legal and back in the system! They informed me that I’d be receiving the extra little health insurance booklet for kids (which grants them free healthcare) in the mail, and other than that I was all set! Gaijin win from a gaijin fail!
As of this month: We did get the child allowance, but I’m thinking they subtracted the month that Boston wasn’t legally a resident. So yay/boo!