So. There’s this process you have to go through if you want to live in a dangerous, foreign land. Or, more specifically, if you want to be the dangerous foreigner in a rather nice place. The process is known as “Getting Your Visa!” Feel free to gasp in awe.
At the moment, I find myself dealing with one of the many and varied sub-processes, known as “Renewing Your Visa!” while simultaneously navigating the treacherous, lengthy procedures called “Changing the Status of Your Visa!”
As most of you, my loyal and dedicated readership, may know, I am ‘Merican, yet I live in Japan. When I first came to Japan, it was as a gainfully employeed foreigner, with a back-up/support system that would prevent, and/or be responsible for, any aberrant behaviour on my part. Thus, the government was fine with granting me a visa to live and work in Japan. There was a minimum of fuss involved – I had only to go to the consulate in Los Angelos (at the time I did not live in California, but, you know, whatever) and get a form stamped and I would be able to enter Japan.
Notice I said nothing about leaving Japan.
Ok, that may be a bit misleading. Once one has his or her entry permit and visa, one must apply for a re-entry permit if one wishes to leave Japan, and then go back to Japan. You know, like if you wanted to go on vacation or visit your family or something. But, again, whatever. This also is a relatively painless procedure, as it involves a minimum of paperwork, just a lot of walking and paying for official stamps at the 7-11. (I kid you not.)
Up until now, those, and the renewal of my working visa three years ago were the full and complete extent to which I had had to deal with the beauacracy in charge of visas. Relatively simple, with a minimum of paperwork, but lots of patience and footwork required.
This week, I decided that, rather than just renew my visa, since I am now married to a Japanese national, I would apply for a spousal visa, which would be permanent and would not need to be renewed every three years.
The man at the counter was very nice, patient, and polite. It was the three inch thick stack of paperwork that was not so kind.
But, in all honesty, I must admit I was prepared for a certain amount of paperwork. My wife and I sat down to begin assembling all the necessary documents, which involved only four e-mails and three trips to various city offices. Nothing really. Most of the forms have been filled out and once we have collected the final few pieces, there should not be any problems with the application.
The thing that caught us both off guard was the highly personal nature of some of the forms. They want two snapshots of us, preferably taken on vacation, and a complete timeline of our dating history.
Upon reflection, we realised that this was probably meant to detour quickie marriages designed to get someone a visa, but it was still a bit of a shock. Especially as we had to sit down together and put dates to our (somewhat) distant past. There were several comments between the two of us like “Didn’t we go to Kyoto the year before we went to Jamaica?” or “When did we go to Nagasaki? Do we still have receipts?” It took us the better part of an hour to fill in the five and a half year long timeline, in both English and Japanese and left us both feeling a little nostalgic.
So now, we are just sifting through the photos trying to find ones where neiter of us look two drunk, or are acting weird, or are doing anything else too off-kilter. This also is engendering lots of nostalgia among us, although it is also prompting a lot of comments like “Man, we were so young.” and “When did I get soooo fat?”
Oh well, only 473 more pieces of paper to shuffle through after this set and then, sometime early next month, I might well be ready to apply for this dangerous foreigner to be allowed to stay in this rather pleasant place.
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