Sat, October 16, 2021


Japan mulls special residency status for foreigners who married same-sex Japanese overseas

The government is considering granting residency status to same-sex foreign spouses whose marriage to Japanese nationals has been recognized overseas, The Yomiuri Shimbun has learned.

The government is looking into granting the “designated activities” status of residence to foreign nationals upon their Japanese partner’s return to Japan, sources said. As the number of countries legalizing same-sex marriages is growing, there have been calls to improve Japan’s status system to accommodate them.

Under the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Law, foreign nationals of the opposite sex married to a Japanese citizen are allowed to reside in Japan with a spousal visa. But because same-sex marriages are currently not legal in Japan, even those whose marriage is recognized overseas are not eligible for status as a “spouse.” The partner needs to obtain other residency status, such as for certain employment.

Given that, the government intends to tweak the application of the law so that the “designated activities” status can be granted to such foreign nationals, as long as they can prove their marital relationship by presenting official overseas documents or other means.

However, this does not mean that Japan will recognize same-sex marriages from a legal standpoint.

The “designated activities” status is granted by the justice minister based on an individual examination of the content of the activities, such as for participants in working holiday programs.

In the case of same-sex couples who are both foreign nationals, if same-sex marriages are recognized in both of their countries and one of them has a working visa or other status allowing residency, the other can be granted designated activities status.

In 2013, the Justice Ministry issued a notification calling for efforts to allow same-sex foreign couples to lead stable lives in Japan in a manner similar to their home countries. According to the Immigration Services Agency, following the release of the official notice, designated activities status was granted in 93 cases through 2020.

The Justice Ministry said it has received requests to grant such status for same-sex couples comprised of Japanese and foreign nationals. There has even been a case in which such a couple sued the government after the foreign partner was not granted the residency status.

There are about 30 countries, mainly Western nations such as the United States and Britain, that recognize same-sex marriages as of May 2020, according to the Tokyo-based nonprofit organization EMA (Equal Marriage Alliance) Japan.

Published : May 18, 2021

By : The Japan News/ANN