Work Visa Renewal
Last time I posted, I had just gotten my first work visa. As I mentioned there, it's common to have a term of 1 year to start with. Now, when I was about to go get an extension, everyone I talked to said the 1-3-5 year term progression had been relaxed, and that it was a certainty that I could go straight from 1 to 5.
Well, it wasn't.
Another 1-year extension later, my advice to new people is to stick to asking for a 3-year when your 1-year is expiring, unless your employer is doing it for you and is confident they can get you the full 5. I'd say more about this if the immigration bureau gave you any insight into their visa term decisions; since they don't, that's all I've got. Be careful about taking advice from people who aren't immigration professionals, because they have not been in your exact position (no one has), and can't possibly predict what immigration will do.
So that was a pretty serious let-down. But oh well. Since then, I moved to a slightly larger company; while they will handle my next renewal for me at no cost if I want, I'm opting to try for a better visa.
Points-based Preferential Immigration Treatment for Highly Skilled Foreign Professionals
The much-vaunted (by a government that was very proud of itself at the time) Points-based Preferential Immigration Treatment for Highly Skilled Foreign Professionals has attracted... fairly few applicants, which is understandable if you look at the requirements.
It turns out, though, that based on my education, work history, and newly increased salary, I just barely qualify (70 points are necessary; 70 is exactly what I can manage). And my company agreed to pay for half of the fee their preferred immigration services provider charges for the application, which made it just barely reasonable enough to stomach.
Prove Yourself Worthy
Now, it's not nearly as simple as filling out the points form, turning it in, and saying "hey, take me at your word!" They quite reasonably don't. Unfortunately, this being Japan, they expect something rather Japanese in order to prove your work history: Certificates of Employment.
Apparently it's normal for Japanese employers to provide these to former employees, and they include the dates of employment, job title, and job description. Which is all well and good, but if you can't get that (say, your former employers are foreign, from a place that customarily does absolutely nothing like this), you're screwed.
Fortunately for me, my previous employers were on good terms, and agreed to this odd request, though gathering ten years' worth of these letters really sucked.
Aside from that, the requirements are easy, since they're current: Your employer provides proof of employment, which includes proof of your salary (otherwise you provide a copy of your current work contract), and you provide a copy of your diploma, if you're claiming points for schooling. That likely covers it for most people, though there are other ways you can earn points. See the above links if you're curious.
The Waiting Game, part 457
Having submitted my documents, I'm waiting for the agency to draft an application, at which point I'll sign that, give them my passport and residence card (so I don't have to go to the immigration bureau; if you do this, make sure to have them give you an azukarishou [お預かり証], which will tell the authorities that your identification is unavailable should you find yourself talking to a police officer), and wait to see what happens.
One of the perks of actually getting this visa status is significantly reduced wait times when you need to deal with immigration in the future. Check out the other benefits, it's a pretty sweet deal if you qualify.