What to Do if You Lose Your Residence Card in Japan

A residence card is an ID card issued to foreign residents of Japan by the Ministry of Justice. In Japanese, it’s called a zairyuu kaado. The card includes the holder’s name, address, visa status, and other information. The card must be carried at all times and must be presented to authorities upon request. A residence card is essential for those who wish to live and work in Japan on a long-term basis.

This blog will provide some guidance on what to do if you need when you lose your residence card and how to navigate interactions with the police and Immigration Bureau if necessary while in Japan.

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How to Apply for a Residence Card in Japan

In order to get a resident card in Japan, foreigners must first obtain a visa from a Japanese embassy or consulate. The type of visa required will depend on the purpose of their stay in Japan. For example, those who wish to work or study in Japan will need to apply for a different type of visa than those who are planning to visit as tourists. Once they have obtained the appropriate visa, foreigners can then apply for a resident card at their local city hall or prefectural office.

The cost of the application is about 4,000 yen, and applicants will need to submit various documents such as their passport, proof of address, and proof of study/work. Once their application has been approved, they will receive their resident card, which must be renewed every one to five years. They are various categories of residence cards, often related to the type of work a person does.

The Benefits of Having a Residence Card in Japan

The residence card gives you access to things like social welfare benefits, opening a bank account and renting your own apartment. 

For more information on apartment hunting, check out this article or this one from Coto Japanese Academy.

That said, losing such an essential form of identification as your residence card can be a stressful predicament. But not to worry! Many foreigners find themselves in that situation and the information below can help you.

What To Do If You’ve Lost your Residence Card

If you’ve lost your zairyuu card, you’re not alone. Accidents and life happen. Losing your residence card in Japan can be a bit of a headache, and the replacement process may seem daunting. But it’s not so bad.

One pro tip is that you should report your card as lost within 14 days of it missing. But before visiting a police station, you could try checking if it was found on a website like this.

This site is for the Tokyo Metropolitan area, but you could easily Google something like “lost and found [insert your area] police”, and you may find a similar site. If there is only a Japanese version of the site, try using the translate feature of browsers like Chrome or the open camera function of the Google Translate app and hold it over the site.

You may also find a phone number to call, but there might not be English-speaking support. In that case, you’ll need to visit a police station to file a report. Try to go to the station nearest where you think you lost the card.

How do I Check for My Lost Residence Card at a Japanese Police Station?

Fortunately, checking for a lost residence card at a Japanese police station is a fairly straightforward process. First, you’ll need to go to the nearest police station or the station closest to where you think you lost your card.

When you go to the police station, be sure to bring another form of ID with you if possible. You will need to fill out a one-page Lost Property Report (遺失届 or ishitsu todoke). You can download an English version here, fill it out beforehand, and bring it with you (you can print it out at a convenience store) to make the process easier.

Find reception (or any employee) and tell them you want to file a Lost Property Report. They should take you the right area of the station to do so. You will fill out the form and turn it in. That information will then be entered into their database to check for your card. If that station or police box (koban) doesn’t have the card, they can also broaden their search and check to see if your card was found by another police station. If it’s been found, they will direct you on where to go to pick it up. Yay!

If it’s not found, you should ask them for a form proving that you checked for your card at the police station. You could try explaining that you’re going to immigration, but that probably won’t be necessary. The form is the Lost Property Certificate, or 遺失出証明書 (ishitsu todokede shomeisho). I’ll explain why you’ll need it shortly.

For now, here is a simple point-and-say list you can reference at the police station:

すみません。あまり日本語が出来ないんです。
Sumimasen. Amari nihongo ga dekinaindesuga.
Excuse me. I can’t speak much Japanese.

英語を話せる方がいますか。
Eigo o hanaseru kata ga imasu ka?
Is there anyone here who can speak English?

これは遺失届です。
Kore wa ishitsu todoke desu.
Here is my lost property report. (If you filled it out beforehand.)

六本木で11月の11日ぐらいに在留カードを無くしてしまいました。
Roppongi de jyuuichi gatsu no jyuuichinichi gurai ni zairyuu kaado o nakushiteshimaimashita.
I lost my residence card in Roppongi around November 11th. 

遺失届を出したいです。
Ishitsu todoke o dashitai desu.
I would like to submit a lost property report.

フォームの記入を手伝ってもらえますか?
Foomu no kinyuu o tetsudatte moraemasuka?
Could you help me fill out the form?

入国管理局に持っていく遺失届出証明書が必要なのですが。
Nyuukoku kanrikyo ni motteiku ishitsu todokede shomeisho ga hitsuyou desu ga.
I need a Lost Property Certificate to take to immigration, please

Tips for Navigating Interactions with the Japanese Police

man in blue dress shirt and black pants carrying yellow plastic basin
  • Try to remain as humble and polite as possible. If the situation starts to feel tense or stressful, remain calm.
  • If you can’t communicate well in Japanese, do your best to prepare what you need to say before hand and write it down or type it out on your phone so you can easily show it. 
  • Don’t be afraid to emphasize that you can’t speak Japanese or understand what’s being requested of you. 
  • Assuming you have another form of ID and you report within 14 days of losing your card, not too much more should be requested of you than what’s written above.
  • If the process becomes stressful or in the rare case that you feel you are not being treated well by someone at the station, politely take your leave and try to return with a Japanese-speaker.
  • If you feel truly nervous about navigating this, try to enlist the help of someone who can speak Japanese before you go.
  • Remember that the police and other employees are there to help. In my experience, they will do everything in their means to resolve your issue.

Applying for a New Residence Card at Immigration

Before visiting immigration, you might be able to schedule an appointment online. This could significantly cut down your waiting time. But if time is not an issue or if you can’t schedule an appointment for any reason, just go to immigration on a day that you’re free. It has to be a weekday. Immigration usually opens at 9:00 am, and it’s recommended to go at the start of the day to give yourself a better chance of receiving your new card the same day and also to beat the heavier crowds later in the day.

In most cases, they will process your application and give you a new card within 2-3 hours. That was my experience. How convenient! But in some cases, they may not be able to process your re-issuance application the same day. You may have to receive your new card in the mail. This should not take longer than 2 weeks to arrive.

Make sure you confirm and are clear about when you’ll receive the new card. If you won’t be able to receive it the same day, inquire about a temporary document you could carry with you in lieu of your residence card.

Here is a simple point-and-say for your reference at immigration:

すみません。あまり日本語が出来ないんです。
Sumimasen. Amari nihongo ga dekinaindesuga.
Excuse me. I can’t speak much Japanese.

英語を話せる方がいますか。
Eigo o hanaseru kata ga imasu ka?
Is there anyone here who can speak English?

在留カードを。再発行を申請したいのです。
Zairyuu kaado wo nakushiteshimaimashita. Saihakkou wo shinsei shitaidesu.
I lost my residence card. I’d like to apply for a new one.

今日中にカードの再発行は可能ですか?
Kyo chuu ni kaado no saihakko wa kanou desuka?
Will the card be reissued today?

What Documents are Required to Replace Your Residence Card?

Generally speaking, you will need the following documents to apply for a residence card re-issuance at immigration:

  • Application form (one page; you can print it out at a convenience store)
  • Photo (if necessary, you can use the photo booths at immigration for a fee)
  • Lost Property Certificate (the document that you received from the police)
  • Another form of ID such as your passport

It’s not a convoluted process and there is no issuance fee. 

For more detailed information, check out this page.

Changes to Your Personal Information: How to Update Your Residence Card

It’s important to keep your personal information up to date, especially if you’ve moved houses or changed your contact details. Japan is pretty strict on how to go about the process. Within 14 days of moving, you’ll need to get a moving-out form (転出届 / tenshutsutodoke) from the municipal office of the area you’re moving away from. Then, you’ll need to take that form to the municipal office of your new area along with your residence card. They will update your address by printing it on the back of your residence card.

Conclusion

A residence card is arguably one of the most important items you need to bring everywhere with you in Japan. Sometimes, accidents happen, but you don’t have to panic. Theft is very unlikely to be the cause, and some people might pick it up and report it to the nearby police station or a lost and found center. Thankfully, Japan has a good system to help you find a lost residence card or reissue a new one.

What is a residence card and why is it important?

A residence card is an ID card issued to foreign residents of Japan by the Ministry of Justice. It certifies you are here legally. It allows you to do things like open a bank account, cellphone plan, rent an apartment and work.

How long do you have to report a lost residence card?

Generally, 14 days after you lose it.

If the police can't find your residence card, where do you have to go?

You have to apply for a new card at your regional immigration office.

Does is cost money to replace the residence card?

No.

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