May 21: Time to extend visa/zairyu (foreign resident) card – form is simple and the quick/cheap photo booths everywhere make process extra handy / dropping off tomorrow morn when Okayama immigration office is least busy (and most likely to be most clean). #japanlife
May 28: (delayed) Rocked immigration office for Zairyu card extension (hopefully 3 years) so hit up a secret import corner at mall right at opening time – alas best peanut butter stash a no-go but espresso & gelato break kinda making up for it #outsidethewall
Details: We were first ones at the immigration office at 9:05 this morning, they did temperature check, various signins etc.… The form we filled out was *somehow* not the right one and we filled out another one on the spot, handed in passports, current residence (zairyu) card, photos etc. etc. and five minutes later were on our way with a stamped receipt inside the passport. We addressed a postcard on site which they will mail when it’s time for us to come back to do the next step, at which point we need to buy a special excise stamp for ¥4000. Hoping this will be issued for three years.
Then, stopped at a photo booth for yet another set of instant photos for a “my number“ card for government services of different kinds. Is a slightly different sized photo (of course) but got it snapped, cut out, glued onto the application and into the mailbox with the prepaid envelope. All this life administration stuff! Hooray!
Japan can be intimidating, even for seasoned travellers. You arrive to massive sticker shock, tiny octopi in soup, and 30 kinds of hot canned coffee (which all taste moreorless the same) in ubiquitous vending machines.
Japan is a long country with 80% mountains – covering several climates, from frosty Hokkaido in the north, to tropical Kyushu giving adventurous folks much opportunity to head to the outer provinces for exploration of the heady scenery of this varied archipelago. With some planning, politeness and persistence, combined with a little zen, you can find big adventures.
Indeed, it is easy to get lost in the big cities of Tokyo and Osaka – crowded with skyscrapers and twisted alleys, piled high with screaming neon clubs pumping techno, reggae or karaoke and shops piled with futuristic technological gadgets that won’t make it to North America for another decade – but, far away from the expensive hotels and talking toilets of the huge Pacific metropolis, you may find yourself soaking in alpine hot springs on a starry night, drinking sake with strangers crammed into a mountain hut after a backcountry dinner of rice, seaweed, miso and green tea.
Best to fly to Kansai (KIX) Osaka airport. This schmancy modern airport is located on a human-made island in the middle of the bay and includes 2 hotels, like 100+ restaurants, post office, an airplane viewing platform and importantly, a train station. The hotels (the full-service Nikko Hotel & business-single-pod-style First Cabin) are super useful if you arrive exhausted from the long flight (usually about 14 hours from N.A. west coast). A short trip from the airport’s island by shuttle bus brings you to loads of other hotels. This airport village also has loads of shopping for buying treats on your way home. Of course, the are other airports, specifically Tokyo (massive international hub Narita NRT or sometimes Haneda HND which is usually used for domestic flights) and the new Centrail/Chubu/Nagoya (NGO) airport. While you might save a few dollars on the flight, you’ll have a longer (more expensive) train journey to reach Okayama which is the destination for the shindig.
Fly direct to Okayama (OKJ) via the charmingly convenient and cute Momotaro Airport. If you fly to Haneda or Narita (Tokyo) mentioned above, you can transfer and fly right here. Sometimes this requires an airport shuttle between Narita (mostly international) and Haneda (more domestic). There is a bus service from Momotaro to downtown Okayama too. Note: there is a huge service difference for the long-haul flights from North America. My personal experience is to fly an Asian-based airline, i.e.: Japan (ANA *fave, JAL), Korean (Korean or Asiana), Taiwan (EVA), HK (Cathay Pacific) or Singapore if coming from YVR, SFO, LAX, etc. If coming from other Asian destinations, well you are usually all good. I have experienced much less enjoyment from US-based airlines and China mainland airlines often have low prices but check the reviews and adjust against your comfort levels.
When folks come to visit here in glorious North Vancouver, they often opine, “gosh i wish we could live in Canada” to which i say, if you have something to bring to the table, then you can. While many/most applicants retain a lawyer for this task, if you are diligent, patient and a good form filler outer, then you can do it yourself. There are many details to tend to, so stay alert!
Bear in mind, i am not a barrister but i do have some first-hand practical experience with these immigration matters – regardless, i’m pleased to run my mouth on this but admonish you to seek elsewhere for further opinions since i am just riffing here and might miss something.
The whole deal is all very nicely up on the Canadian gov’s site – appropriately called Immigrating to Canada – but since you are here … here are the status categories which allow you to move to (and work in) Canada legally, divvied up into a few buckets:
Refugee (Humanitarian) class – If you are, or will be, persecuted unjustly in your home country if not provided with sanctuary, you may apply for refugee status, some US military service evaders are currently grinding through the refugee system with minimal success – more luck if you are from Burma today or Darfur or other such debacle-laden land.
Family class – If you marry a Canadian (note: this includes common-law relationships and same-sex relationships), the Canadian partner can sponsor the other into Canada – this involves a stack of paperwork and may include a year or two before the non-Canuck can work legally in Canada and the sponsoring partner must commit to supporting their spouse for 3 years and not go on welfare. The CIC (Citizen Immigration Canada) will do extensive background checks, including addresses, family, criminal and health history checks. The Canadian must show ability to support the spouse and prove the validity of the relationship (save those holiday photos).
Note: As of Feb. 2004 (IIRC), you can apply from within Canada under a weird loophole known as a “sweetheart” clause in which they “pretend” your spouse entered legally and then applies within Canada rather than arriving as a landed immigrant and then applying from within Canada and being unable to leave Canada during this time. Minors (kids) get an application too and medical tests etc.
Investor/Entrepreneur/Self-employed – break em down:
1) entreprenuer – if you have $300K to invest in a business, you can come on in – buy yourself a Quizno’s franchise or start a business but you do hafta have money, experience and a plan with a reasonable chance of success so … your big crazy idea to build dinosaurs in Stanley Park is out cause that’s just insane and even suggesting should land you in the crowbar hotel (pardon my digression),
2) investor – if you have $800K, you can let the Canadian gov plays with half of it ($400K) for 5 years (interest not-paid) to boost Canada’s job market and allow some mid-level to bureaucrats to party on with your bread (just kidding) while you spend your other half eating fine meals and lolling about ;-)
3) self-employed – this is the “special” category for sports, arts, culture, entertainment – i.e. elite athletes, entertainers, performers, sculptors, announcers, writers plus and farm managers whom Canada needs/wants (dying family farms and all that) also some librarians – you gotta be noteworthy though but this is a great way if you can swing it
NAFTA Professional – this actually is the status i know least about but the one i come across the most since Computer Programmers are on the list of skills needed in Canada and, through the maligned North American Free Trade Agreement (Reagan and Mulroney), various professionals are afforded a fast track to come on up once they’ve been offered a job by a Canadian firm who will sponsor you to come to Canada (and thus you may sorta be stuck with them for a period of time). Lots of you more on this status than i, so fill me in.
Provincial Nominee – this is the wild card since each Canadian province can nominate and fast track anyone they want really based on strategic occupations needed – in BC, this un-met demand includes new media and IT along with construction and health, education and other professionals – really its about the economy, if you help build it, they want you but you gotta have your stuff together beyond “i can make webpages, can i come in now?”
Skilled Worker – and now to the best part, if you are a non-Canadian with professional skills and relevant experience, particularly in an in-demand job, you can likely immigrate – really, it’s that easy (note the US has no such program, only a lottery to get in, really, a lottery) and Canada is quite pragmatic and seeks out workers with skills in-demand in Canada (famously exotic dancers fall into this category from time to time)
The test inquires if you speak a second language (French really), finished college, worked in your chosen field for a period of time, have some skills etc. If you score 67 or better, you qualify to sponsor yourself to Canada (no spouse or employer needed) which means you have responsibilities to not fck up.
Did ya score get 67 or higher? If so, haul bum over to http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/immigrate/skilled/apply-how.asp and chose the simplified process (unless you are in one of the categories which requires the un-simple “regular” process like you are provincial nominee (this is another class which i know little about), you’ve been selected by Quebec (this francophone-heavy province seeks out French speakers specifically, again i know little more), or a few other odds and ends.
Tax and other crap
Once you’ve leapt across the border and are flipping the bird at Bush and his cronies back in the US, you’ll still need to be very aware of international tax laws (all US citizens abroad need to file US tax returns and myriad other details). Thus, i’ll direct you to David Ingram who is a bearded tax and immigration consultant – his rates aren’t trivial so subscribe to his old-school e-mailing list (in dire need of formatting) which discusses the mundanity and minutiae of international tax law. In brief, you gotta declare your worldwide income but it’s not all taxable.
Once you are in and off your double secret probation period, you can consider applying for permanent residence status (equivilent to a US green card) allowing you to do most anything but vote and hold top secret government jobs. Three years after that, you can start thinking about the Citizenship test too. Goodtimes eh!
Now show you are Canadian and turn the hockey game on, sing Oh Canada! and eat some perogies,