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Getting a japanese visa with criminal record 2022/4/6 09:26
Hi all,

So I'm in a bit of a conundrum and I wonder if anybody possibly have any answers that can help me.

Quick background:
I used to live in japan, I studied there and lived there on and off with my girlfriend on tourist visas for over 6 years. I've been faschinated with the country since I was 7 years old and it has been my goal to live there for a long time. I speak japanese. At the moment I'm working on my university degree to be able to be eligible for a working visa.

The problem:
The problem is that in my time back in my home country, in the time after leaving japan last time, I've been caught and convicted for having smoked cannabis. I don't do it anymore but anyway, it is on my criminal record.

I know that they are super strict about narcotics in japan and that I'm technically not allowed to go there anymore. I also know that when flying there you get to fill out a small form where they ask you about criminal convictions before you can enter the country. From my research I realize that I can simply lie on this form and tick "No" as an answer and the japanese immigration will have no way of fact-checking my answer.

My concern however is rather the visa application in itself and also since I intend to settle down in Japan and live there for a long time, I will have to re-apply for new visas in the future and possibly also for a citizenship down the line. I'm worried and I wonder if I will have to supply the immigration office / embassy with my criminal records at some point? I would hate to have been living there for a few years and suddenly have to go back to my home country and start my life all over again. That would be even worse than not going at all.

So does anyone know if the japanese embassy or immigration will ask me to supply my criminal records at any point? Have I ruined my chances at living in japan?

Thank you for reading.
by JoshEve  

Re: Getting a japanese visa with criminal record 2022/4/6 12:19
Odd question to ask - but could the smoking cannabis charge be expunged in the US?
by mfedley rate this post as useful

Re: Getting a japanese visa with criminal record 2022/4/6 15:28
Things may have changed, but I have never had to present a police certificate or any other proof of a clean record to Japanese immigration authorities. It has been quite a few years since I have been to Japan in a non-tourist capacity though, so please don't take my word as gospel.

I'm worried and I wonder if I will have to supply the immigration office / embassy with my criminal records at some point? I would hate to have been living there for a few years and suddenly have to go back to my home country and start my life all over again.

The fact that you acknowledge this means that you've already come close to answering your own question: use your own best judgement.

Lying on the visa waiver form as a tourist is pretty minor, I'm sure lots of people do it, whatever. But the kind of long-term lie you are going to have to tell in order to live in Japan without immigration authorities knowing about your record is more serious and obviously if they ever do find out, you are going to be detained, deported, and never allowed back in.

Ultimately you're not just contending with the risk of being turned away at the border, it's the risk of basically having your entire life turned upside down at a point when you will presumably have a home, a job, a social life, and everything else invested in Japan. You're probably already aware of this so apologies if I'm stating the obvious, but it is important. If it sounds like too much risk than you are personally willing to take then there is your answer.

Unfortunately, while probably everyone who reads this will view your "crime" as minor, harmless, victimless, etc. Japan's immigration authorities are not likely to see it that way. While people with minor convictions can and do live in Japan legally, drugs are really the one thing they are zero tolerance on. If you got arrested 10+ years ago for theft, causing some kind of a disturbance, or some other relatively minor, non-violent crime then you might be okay disclosing it, especially if it is an older conviction. But if the police caught you smoking pot then you might as well be Manuel Noriega as far as Japan is concerned. It is really weird and unfortunate but that is just how they choose to do things.
by LIZ (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Getting a japanese visa with criminal record 2022/4/7 01:55
Well, if it helps, I recently applied for COE (HSP category) and got my visa and while there is the question about convictions I wasn’t asked to provide any proof of a clean record.
(While actually my company when I started working with them in the Netherlands did require it) (btw, no convictions in my past, just a stop sign I missed in Hokkaido and got caught by police. I reported that and there wasn’t an issue with it)

Now if you want to lie and live your life in fear of detection is a different question.

The proposal of a PP to look into the conviction getting erased might be a possibility. I guess you are from Switzerland, so maybe there is some time limit on how long convictions stay “on the book”.
by LikeBike rate this post as useful

Re: Getting a japanese visa with criminal record 2022/4/7 15:09
The law clearly says that foreigners with criminal records about drugs inside and outside Japan can't enter Japan.

第五条 次の各号のいずれかに該当する外国人は、本邦に上陸することができない。
五 麻薬、大麻、あへん、覚醒剤又は向精神薬の取締りに関する日本国又は日本国以外の国の法令に違反して刑に処せられたことのある者
https://elaws.e-gov.go.jp/document?lawid=326CO0000000319

So, those who have criminal records of drug abuse wouldn't be able to enter Japan, before applying COE.

by Tai (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Getting a japanese visa with criminal record 2022/4/7 17:12
Tai, you say "...before applying COE."

What do you mean by this? Is it possible to apply for a COE even with a criminal record of drug abuse?
by JoshEve rate this post as useful

Re: Getting a japanese visa with criminal record 2022/4/7 18:53
Before applying for a COE, know this...

It's basicly saying don't bother applying is you have drug convictions.
by h (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Getting a japanese visa with criminal record 2022/4/7 19:42
@ JoshEve
You can't enter Japan with a drug-related criminal record.
And you can't apply for COE without entering it.
by Tai (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Getting a japanese visa with criminal record 2022/4/8 03:35
Well, Paul McCartney did re-enter Japan.

But I think that one of the more typical problems that may happen is that if you come to Japan and accidentally get involved in an accident and the police start to question you, they would find out a lot of stuff. Or if someone who knows about your past gets in trouble and the police start to question that person, that person may spit it all out. And you can accidentally start a family, and then the family would be in trouble. People like Paul McCartney have people who would avoid all that for them.

My advice is to discuss it with a lawyer and have everything out in the open before you decide to come to Japan.
by Uco rate this post as useful

Re: Getting a japanese visa with criminal record 2022/4/8 07:24
Well, Paul McCartney did re-enter Japan.
And that was an extremely special case, and if I recall correctly, he was arrested and deported and banned for a long time before finally being allowed in. But, a 1/2 pound of dope is a lot.
by JapanCustomTours rate this post as useful

Re: Getting a japanese visa with criminal record 2022/4/8 07:36
Dont quote me on this. And you'll need to do your own research, ie ask embasy etc etc.

But you haven't told us what you conviction was. ie Community service, fine, jail time.

The reason I ask, is that community service and/or fine is sometimes deemed not serious. And you may be able to apply for a visa and need to plead your case in an interview throughout the process. If jail time, forget it.

This has/had come up before, and I cannot remember if it was drug related or not. Hence why I say do your own homework. Good luck.
by H (guest) rate this post as useful

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