To: Refugee applicants(designated visa holders for refugee application) in Japan:
This post is long but it is important information for you. And if someone around you are thinking about refugee application, please share this post with him/her. Like everyday, my office receives more than 5 inquiries by message or phone like: Can I change visa status to any other?
Our reply is almost always like: Refugee applicants cannot change visa status to any other except marriage.
Q. But my friend got business manager visa. He was refugee applicant before.
A. Refugee application guideline changed in January 2018. Before 2018, it was possible.
Q. But I came to Japan in 2017 and applied for refugee.
A. Even if you applied for refugee before January 2018, if you apply something now, procedure is according to the current rule.
Q. I asked Immigration if I could apply changing visa status and they said you could.
A. Immigration’s answer for almost all questions is "you could." But you could apply doesn’t mean your application would be approved.
If a tourist visits Immigration counter and asks if I could apply PR, their answer is same: "You could apply."
Q. Several persons from my community got working visa from refugee applicant status recently. What you are explaining is incorrect.
A. Let me explain logically.
The reason why Immigration doesn’t approve refugee applicants’ changing visa status application is not because they are refugee applicant but because the their status before refugee application is not acceptable.
If your visa was tourist visa, they say tourist visa cannot be changed to any other visa without unavoidable situation. Once I tried to support application with explanation that refugee application should be counted as unavoidable situation. But immigration didn’t accept it.
If you used to have working/student visa before refugee application, immigration says you couldn’t extend your visa and then applied refugee. In such case, immigration considers your residing situation in the past is not proper and that’s why your changing visa status cannot be accepted.
Once I supported one refugee applicant’s changing visa status application. He used to have working visa but he left the working place because it was horrible condition and then applied refugee. But immigration didn’t approve his application because of the reason above.
Before, I received one message from ex-refugee applicant. He said he could get a working visa. I didn’t have a chance to ask him in detail. So there might be someone who could change visa status. But it is very exceptional case. And personally, I want to know how he(they) could get it.
Q. Can I attend SSW, Tokuteiginou (SSW) test?
And can I change to SSW visa?
A. You can take the test. But passing the test doesn’t mean you could get SSW visa. For applying for SSW visa, you need to pass a Japanese language test and get a job offer from a good company.
And, if there are some agency saying that you could apply for SSWV, they are using same logic as Immigration. You could apply but it doesn’t mean you could get a new visa status.
Q. If I get married a Japanese (or foreign resident who has proper visa), can I change visa status to spouse visa?
A. Getting married doesn’t mean getting a visa. As I told you above, marriage is only way you could change visa status. But never ever think about marriage for visa. Do not choose your partner because she/he could give you a visa.
Immigration’s examination for spouse visa application is very severe. They don’t allow imitation marriage.
As I repeatedly say, if you are persecuted in your country politically, religiously or ethnically and your life is in danger, it is your right to apply for refugee. But if not and using refugee application just for staying Japan longer, what you are doing is using refugee application wrongly/badly. After such wrong application, there would be no benefit/merit. No changing visa status, no work permit and just wasting your time and money.
At last, if you could change visa status from refugee applicant to working/ business visa after January 2018. Please send a message to my office and share your experience. I need to do more research to get correct/exact situation.
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