Remember that time I was going to the immigration office in Tokyo on a weekly basis to try and get my visa status sorted? It lasted quite a while, and featured lots of vagueness.
This morning I phoned the immigration bureau in Tokyo. They have an English homepage which advertises their helpline – operators can speak all number of languages including English, Chinese, Korea, French etc.
The lady answered in Japanese. I told her that I had a query about obtaining a spouse visa – could I please talk with someone who spoke English in the visa department.
“I’m sorry, we don’t have anyone who speaks English in this office…”
I was put through to (if I’m not mistaken) Mr. Tanaka, winner of the Gold Medal for Fast Talking (Japanese Category) in the 1984 Olympics. I asked my question, with him saying “hai” (yes) three times a second.
“Is it possible for me to enter Japan on a tourist visa and then exchange that for a spouse visa after arrival?”
As soon as I had reached my full stop, he rattled off the most astonishing volley of high-speed sentences you’ve every heard. I tried hard not to laugh.
Still, I did manage to catch the overall meaning. Basically, legally it is possible, but he couldn’t say for sure one way or the other whether it would be granted.
I then mailed *Twinkle* with the phone number, could she give it a go? She did, and a few minutes later got back to me.
“They said that it’s not illegal, but they can’t say one way or the other whether it would be allowed in this situation”.
I see a pattern forming.
Next stop was the Japanese Embassy in the UK. I’ve never been too keen on contacting them as they tend to be very formal and never really tell you any more than what”s written on the homepage. But today, something magical happened. I was put through to the nicest, most helpful and human member of embassy staff you could ever hope to meet. He didn’t fob me off with official responses, but explained what the reality of the situation was. He then offered me his personal email address and direct line. I started to wonder whether I really had called the Japanese embassy…
The situation is basically this: it depends entirely on the immigration officials on duty at the time that I land at Narita airport, and those officials on duty when I go to the Immigration department in Tokyo. It depends on whether they choose to ask me questions, and if they do, what those questions are. The thing is, if I was to say that the purpose of my visit was to be with my Japanese wife (as she will be by then) they can refuse me entry on a tourist visa. The other option is that I lie, and say that I’m going for a short visit. However, when I get to the immigration department they could then ask what I had given as my reason for coming to Japan, and if they see a discrepancy they could refuse my application for a Spouse visa, and ask me to leave.
I was told that it’s likely that I’d get away with it, but that it was a risk, and therefore the embassy could not recommend I try.
So, if I wasn’t to do the tourist > spouse visa thing, I would be left with two options:
1) find a job before going to Japan and enter on a work visa (an employer is needed to act as a sponsor in order to get the visa). It would take until late August to process.
2) wait for *Twinkle* to return to Japan, where she could register our marriage at our local ward office, and then send all the documents necessary for me to apply for a Spouse Visa. This two can take up to two months.
And there was me thinking that it was going to be easy! I should have known better – this is Japanese immigration after all!