Japanese nationality law

Japanese nationality is a legal designation and set of rights granted to those people who have met the criteria for citizenship by parentage or by naturalization. Nationality is in the jurisdiction of the Minister of Justice and is generally governed by the Nationality Law of 1950.

Japanese Citizenship Act
Imperial Seal of Japan
Diet of Japan
An Act relating to Japanese citizenship
Enacted byGovernment of Japan
Status: Current legislation

Nationality by birth

Japan is a strict[1] jus sanguinis state as opposed to jus soli state, meaning that it attributes citizenship by blood and not by location of birth. In practice, it can be by parentage and not by descent.[2] Article 2 of the Nationality Act provides three situations in which a person can become a Japanese national at birth:[2]

  1. When either parent is a Japanese national at the time of birth. If born abroad and the child has a foreign nationality at birth, the child must be registered within three months of birth or otherwise will have to live in Japan before the age of 20 and notify the MOJ.
  2. When either parent[3] dies before the birth and is a Japanese national at the time of death (limited to fathers until 1985)
  3. When the person is born on Japanese soil and both parents are unknown or stateless

A system for acquiring nationality by birth after birth is also available. If an unmarried Japanese father and non-Japanese mother have a child, the parents later marry, and the Japanese father acknowledges paternity, the child can acquire Japanese nationality, so long as the child has not reached the age of 20. Japanese nationality law effective from 1985 has been that if the parents are not married at the time of birth and the father has not acknowledged paternity while the child was still in the womb, the child will not acquire Japanese nationality.[4][5] However, Japan's Supreme Court ruled in 2008 that denying nationality to children born out of wedlock to foreign mothers is unconstitutional.[5]

Following this, the conservative Liberal Democratic Party and others, claiming the possibility of false recognition of paternity, suggested mandatory DNA testing. This was rejected by the Democratic Party, and instead a bill was passed in 2009 allowing photographs of the father and child and scientific testing to be requested as evidence in cases of doubt.


Naturalization in Japan requires the applicant to give up their current citizenship(s) either before or shortly after, depending on the nationality, the naturalization takes place if the loss of nationality does not occur automatically. Although there are rules in place, Japanese government does not strictly impose rules for the naturalization process, as the exact process for each specific nationality depends on the Japan's international relations and agreements with the given country. Basic naturalization requirements also differ from person to person regardless of their nationality and depending on the applicant's current status in Japan. Unlike most other countries, the applicant does not have to have been a permanent resident to be eligible to apply for Japanese naturalization.[6]

The outlined criteria for naturalization are provided in Article 5 of the Nationality Act:[7]

  1. Continuous residence in Japan for 5 years
  2. At least 20 years old and otherwise legally competent
  3. History of good behavior generally, and no past history of seditious behavior
  4. Sufficient capital or skills, either personally or within family, to support oneself in Japan
  5. Stateless or willing to renounce foreign citizenship and swear allegiance to Japan

The Minister of Justice may waive the age and residence requirements if the applicant has a special relationship to Japan (for example, a Japanese parent).

The Nationality Act also provides that the Diet of Japan may confer Japanese nationality by special resolution to a person who has provided extraordinary service to Japan. However, this provision has never been invoked.

Those that naturalize must choose a legal name, like other Japanese, that consists of all or any mix of Japanese hiragana, katakana, and approved kanji. Sometimes applicants were given advice on Japanese names, but choosing a Japanese sounding/appearing name was never a requirement; there are examples through history of naturalized Japanese choosing legal names that did not appear ethnically Japanese. However, in 1983, the Ministry of Justice revised its manuals and application guides and examples to make it clear that using names of non-Japanese origin can be acceptable.

The application has to be made in person to the Ministry of Justice branch office with responsibility for the city where the applicant lives. A booklet will be given to the applicant at the first visit which explains every needed document and processes explained in Japanese.

The naturalization process has three stages.

  • First stage: Initial application in person and gathering needed documents; preparing and filling out all necessary forms in Japanese language with handwriting; and submitting all prepared documents to the Ministry of Justice in person. An application number is provided to the applicant for future correspondence with the case.
  • Second stage: The Ministry of Justice checks the submitted documents. Oral and written interview are scheduled a month or two after submitting the documents.
  • Third stage: Finalization. The Ministry of Justice sends all documents to Tokyo and the applicant is requested to inform any changes of address, telephone, work, marital status, etc. while application is being reviewed.

The booklet given at the beginning of the process lists every document that the applicant needs from their home country and their country's embassy in Japan. The applicant needs to be able to speak and express himself/herself in Japanese and be able to answer the interview questions in Japanese. The interviewer will ask questions about the form applicant filled and about why applicant wants to acquire Japanese citizenship. At the end, there may be a written test at an elementary school second grade level.

After the documents are sent to Tokyo for processing at the Ministry of Justice headquarters, it can take from 8 to 10 months (or longer depending on the applicant) from the first application. The applicant will be called by their interviewer about the decision once the interviewer gets the results from Tokyo.

Loss of citizenship

Loss of citizenship requires the approval of the Minister of Justice.

A Japanese national is assumed to have renounced their nationality upon naturalization in any foreign country.[6][8]

Under the revisions made to the Nationality Law in 1985, Articles 14 and 15 require any person who holds multiple citizenship to make a "declaration of choice" between the ages of 20 and 22, in which they choose to renounce either their Japanese nationality or their foreign citizenship(s). Failure to do so entitles the Minister of Justice to demand a declaration of choice at any time. If the required declaration is not made within one month, their Japanese nationality is automatically revoked. A renunciation of foreign citizenship made before Japanese officials may be considered by a foreign state as having no legal effect as is the case with, for example, United States citizenship.[9]

Japanese nationals who hold multiple citizenship by birth, and who do not wish to lose their Japanese citizenship, are required to declare their desire to retain Japanese citizenship by the age of 21. Part of fulfilling this requirement is to "make an effort" to renounce other citizenships once they have declared their intent to retain Japanese nationality. This may be difficult for some Japanese with foreign nationality, for example, Iranian nationals cannot renounce their Iranian nationality until age 25.[10]

A Japanese national does not lose his or her nationality in situations where citizenship is acquired involuntarily such as when a Japanese woman marries an Iranian national. In this case she automatically acquires Iranian citizenship[10] and is permitted to be an Iranian-Japanese dual national, since the acquisition of the Iranian citizenship was involuntary.

Though it is unknown whether it has ever happened, citizenship can also be lost if a person becomes a civil servant of a foreign government, should their role be felt to contradict what it means to be a citizen of Japan.

In November 2008, Liberal Democratic Party member Tarō Kōno submitted a proposal to allow offspring of mixed-nationality couples in which one parent is Japanese to have more than one nationality. The proposal also calls for foreigners to be allowed to obtain Japanese nationality without losing their original citizenship.[11]

Dual nationality

It is generally difficult to have dual citizenship of Japan and another country, due to the provisions for loss of Japanese nationality when a Japanese national naturalizes in another country (see "Loss of citizenship" above), and the requirement to renounce one's existing citizenships when naturalizing in Japan (see "Naturalization" above).

There are still some ways in which a person may have dual citizenship of Japan and another country, including:

  • They had dual citizenship prior to January 1, 1985, when the Nationality Law was enacted
  • They acquire multiple citizenships at birth, such as being born to a non-Japanese citizen parent and acquiring that parent's citizenship as a result of that country's laws or by being born in a jus soli country. However, they must choose one citizenship/nationality before the age of 22 or within two years if the second citizenship is acquired after the age of 20, or they may lose their Japanese nationality (see "Loss of citizenship" above),[12] though this is not enforced.[13]
  • The Japanese Ministry of Justice refuses to recognize citizenship of North Korea.[14]

Travel freedom

Visa requirements for Japanese citizens
Visa requirements for Japanese citizens

In 2018, Japanese citizens had visa-free or visa on arrival access to 180 countries and territories, ranking the Japanese passport 1st in the world according to the Visa Restrictions Index.

In 2017, the Japanese nationality is ranked twenty-ninth in the Nationality Index (QNI). This index differs from the Visa Restrictions Index, which focuses on external factors including travel freedom. The QNI considers, in addition to travel freedom, on internal factors such as peace & stability, economic strength, and human development as well. [15]

See also


  1. ^ "Tokyo court upholds deportation order for Thai teenager born and raised in Japan". 2016. Retrieved 6 December 2016.
  2. ^ a b "The Nationality Law (Law No.147 of 1950, as amended by Law No.268 of 1952, Law No.45 of 1984, Law No.89 of 1993 and Law.No.147 of 2004,Law No.88 of 2008) Article 8". 2008. Retrieved 5 August 2017.
  3. ^ From Article 3 of the 1984 revision, enforced 1985 (昭和59年法律第45号附則第3条):


    "If the father or mother [e.m.] is currently a Japanese citizen or was a Japanese citizen at their time of death, Japanese nationality can be acquired by contacting the Minister of Justice."

  4. ^ Nora Fitch (19 July 2005), Strict enforcement of ill-conceived clause in Japan's Nationality Law threatens families., Japan Times, retrieved 30 October 2008
  5. ^ a b Agence France-Presse (30 October 2008), (UPDATE) Japan top court strikes down nationality law, Philippine Daily Inquirer, archived from the original on 8 November 2008, retrieved 30 October 2008
  6. ^ a b Ito, Masami, "Many angles to acquiring Japanese citizenship", Japan Times, 27 December 2011, p. 3.
  7. ^ Japan's Ministry of Justice: The Nationality Law (in English)
  8. ^ Article 11, The Nationality Law, Ministry of Justice of Japan.
  9. ^ Renunciation of U.S. Citizenship, United States Department of State, archived from the original on 20 April 2013, retrieved 16 May 2016
  10. ^ a b Civil Code of Iran (last amended 1985), UNHCR, 2008, retrieved 30 October 2008
  11. ^ Minoru Matsutani (November 14, 2008), LDP panel mulls easing law on dual citizenship, The Japan Times, archived from the original on 22 August 2010
  12. ^ "The Choice Of Nationality". Japan Ministry Of Justice. Retrieved 10 June 2010.
  13. ^ "Japan's dual citizens get a tacit nod but keep their status in the shadows | The Japan Times". The Japan Times. Retrieved 2017-07-06.
  14. ^ https://web.archive.org/web/20120407131319/http://www1.korea-np.co.jp/pk/087th_issue/99032507.htm
  15. ^ "The 41 nationalities with the best quality of life". www.businessinsider.de. 2016-02-06. Retrieved 2018-09-10.

External links

Japanese passport

Japanese passports (日本国旅券, Nipponkoku ryoken) are issued to Japanese citizens to facilitate international travel.

Jus sanguinis

Jus sanguinis (Latin: right of blood) is a principle of nationality law by which citizenship is determined or acquired by the nationality of one or both parents. Children at birth may automatically be citizens of a particular state if either or both of their parents have citizenship of that state or national identities of ethnic, cultural, or other origins. Citizenship can also apply to children whose parents belong to a diaspora and were not themselves citizens of the state conferring citizenship. This principle contrasts with jus soli (Latin: right of soil).Today, almost all states apply jus sanguinis in their nationality laws to varying degrees, one exception being the Vatican City State. The most common application of jus sanguinis is a right of a child to his/her father’s nationality. Some countries extend this right on an equal basis to the mother. Some apply this right irrespective of the place of birth, while others may limit to those born in the state. Some countries provide that a child acquires the nationality of the mother if the father is unknown or stateless, and some irrespective of the place of birth. Some such children may acquire the nationality automatically while others may need to apply for a parent’s nationality.

List of former United States citizens who relinquished their nationality

This is a list of notable former United States citizens who voluntarily relinquished their nationality. It includes only public figures who completed the process of relinquishment of United States nationality. This list excludes people who may have indicated their intent to do so but never formally completed the process, as well as immigrants who had their naturalizations cancelled after convictions for war crimes or for fraud in the naturalization process.


Naturalization (or naturalisation) is the legal act or process by which a non-citizen in a country may acquire citizenship or nationality of that country. It may be done automatically by a statute, i.e., without any effort on the part of the individual, or it may involve an application or a motion and approval by legal authorities. The rules of naturalization vary from country to country but typically include a promise to obeying and upholding that country's laws, taking and subscribing to the oath of allegiance, and may specify other requirements such as a minimum legal residency and adequate knowledge of the national dominant language or culture. To counter multiple citizenship, most countries require that applicants for naturalization renounce any other citizenship that they currently hold, but whether this renunciation actually causes loss of original citizenship, as seen by the host country and by the original country, will depend on the laws of the countries involved.

The massive increase in population flux due to globalization and the sharp increase in the numbers of refugees following World War I created a large number of stateless persons, people who were not citizens of any state. In some rare cases, laws for mass naturalization were passed. As naturalization laws had been designed to cater for the relatively few people who had voluntarily moved from one country to another (expatriates), many western democracies were not ready to naturalize large numbers of people. This included the massive influx of stateless people which followed massive denationalizations and the expulsion of ethnic minorities from newly created nation states in the first part of the 20th century, but they also included the mostly aristocratic Russians who had escaped the 1917 October Revolution and the war communism period, and then the Spanish refugees. As Hannah Arendt pointed out, internment camps became the "only nation" of such stateless people, since they were often considered "undesirable" and were stuck in an illegal situation, wherein their country had expelled them or deprived them of their nationality, while they had not been naturalized, thus living in a judicial no man's land.

Since World War II, the increase in international migrations created a new category of migrants, most of them economic migrants. For economic, political, humanitarian and pragmatic reasons, many states passed laws allowing a person to acquire their citizenship after birth, such as by marriage to a national – jus matrimonii – or by having ancestors who are nationals of that country, in order to reduce the scope of this category. However, in some countries this system still maintains a large part of the immigrant population in an illegal status, albeit with some massive regularizations, for example, in Spain by José Luis Zapatero's government and in Italy by Berlusconi's government.

Relinquishment of United States nationality

Relinquishment of United States nationality is the process under federal law by which a U.S. citizen or national voluntarily and intentionally gives up that status and becomes an alien with respect to the United States. Relinquishment is distinct from denaturalization, which in U.S. law refers solely to cancellation of illegally procured naturalization.

8 U.S.C. § 1481(a) explicitly lists all seven potentially expatriating acts by which a U.S. citizen can relinquish that citizenship. Renunciation of United States citizenship is a legal term encompassing two of those acts: swearing an oath of renunciation at a U.S. embassy or consulate in foreign territory or, during a state of war, at a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services office in U.S. territory. The other five acts are: naturalization in a foreign country; taking an oath of allegiance to a foreign country; serving in a foreign military; serving in a foreign government; and committing treason, rebellion, or similar crimes. Beginning with a 1907 law, Congress had intended that mere voluntary performance of potentially expatriating acts would automatically terminate citizenship. However, a line of Supreme Court cases beginning in the 1960s, most notably Afroyim v. Rusk (1967) and Vance v. Terrazas (1980), held this to be unconstitutional and instead required that specific intent to relinquish citizenship be proven by the totality of the individual's actions and words. Since a 1990 policy change, the State Department no longer proactively attempts to prove such intent, and only issues a Certificate of Loss of Nationality (CLN) when an individual "affirmatively asserts" their relinquishment of citizenship.

People who relinquish U.S. citizenship generally have lived abroad for many years, and nearly all of them are citizens of another country. Unlike most other countries, the U.S. does not prohibit its citizens from making themselves stateless, but the State Department strongly recommends against it, and very few choose to do so. Since the end of World War II, no individual has successfully relinquished U.S. citizenship while in U.S. territory, and courts have rejected arguments that U.S. state citizenship or Puerto Rican citizenship give an ex-U.S. citizen the right to enter or reside in the U.S. without the permission of the U.S. government. Like any other foreigner or stateless person, an ex-U.S. citizen requires permission from the U.S. government, such as a U.S. visa or visa waiver, in order to visit the United States.

Relinquishment of U.S. citizenship remains uncommon in absolute terms, but has become more frequent than relinquishment of the citizenship of most other developed countries. Between three thousand and six thousand U.S. citizens have relinquished citizenship each year since 2013, compared to estimates of anywhere between three million and nine million U.S. citizens residing abroad. The number of relinquishments is up sharply from lows in the 1990s and 2000s, though only about three times as high as in the 1970s. Lawyers believe this growth is mostly driven by accidental Americans who grew up abroad and only became aware of their U.S. citizenship and the tax liabilities for citizens abroad due to ongoing publicity surrounding the 2010 Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act. Between 2010 and 2015, obtaining a CLN began to become a difficult process with high barriers, including nearly year-long waitlists for appointments and the world's most expensive administrative fee, as well as complicated tax treatment. Legal scholars state that such barriers may constitute a breach of the United States' obligations under international law, and foreign legislatures have called upon the U.S. government to eliminate the fees, taxes, and other requirements, particularly with regard to accidental Americans who have few genuine links to the United States.

Shinkun Haku

Shinkun Haku (白 眞勲, Haku Shinkun, born 8 December 1958) is a South Korean born-Japanese politician of the Constitutional Democratic Party and a member of the House of Councillors in the Diet (national legislature). A native of Shinjuku, Tokyo and graduate of Nihon University, he was elected for the first time in 2004.

Haku was born to a South Korean father and Japanese mother. At the time of his birth, both South Korean nationality law and Japanese nationality law imputed nationality solely by patrilineal descent, and thus he had South Korean citizenship rather than Japanese citizenship at birth, with the legal name Baek Jinhoon (백진훈). In 2003, he renounced his South Korean citizenship to naturalise as a Japanese citizen.

Haku worked for the Chosun Ilbo, a South Korean newspaper, from 1985 to 2004, serving as its Tokyo bureau chief from 1994 onward. He left the newspaper to enter politics in 2004. In 2012 he was named Senior Vice-Minister in the Cabinet Office under Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda.

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