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Permanent residency in the U.S., once obtained, is very convenient, as it allows you to work in the U.S., without the need for a visa sponsor. However, in many cases, it takes a very long time to obtain permanent residence. For example, general employment-based permanent residency applications often take at least 2~3 years due to the annual cap on the number of applications that can be issued and delays in screening. In addition, depending on the applicant’s country of birth, some categories may take more than 10 years from application to acquisition.

For Japanese nationals, there are three main ways to obtain permanent residence. Employment, family, and by lottery.

First, Employment based (EB) permanent residency applications are often sponsored by a company. There are 5 different categories, classified as EB-1 to EB-5. The following are a few categories that Japanese nationals mainly fall into. EB-1 is issued for an executive or managerial class of a multinational corporation, etc. EB-2 is for individuals of very high ability who meet the lower standard of , or have an advanced degree (master’s degree or higher) in an intellectual profession, etc. EB-3 is for individuals who do have a bachelor’s degree but do not qualify for the EB-2 category, have at least two years of work experience, and are in an occupation where there is a shortage of U.S. workers. Which category you fall into is determined by the company, the position and duties being offered, and your background.

Application Process

The Application basically consists of three steps: File a work permit application (PERM application) with the Department of Labor 2) File an I-140 immigrant application with the USCIS (which is also subject to examination of the sponsoring company’s ability to pay salaries, etc.) 3) Apply for permanent residency (basically, a background and biometric verification of the individual). In the third and final step, the applicant who is already in the U.S. on a visa of some kind may choose to apply for a change of status in the U.S. or to apply for an interview in Japan. It is important to note that EB-1 and some other categories are exempt from the first step, which significantly reduces the examination period. As a point of reference, EB-4 applies to religious workers etc., while EB-5 is based on large investments.

Next, let’s discuss the Family-based permanent residency application. A family member who can sponsor the applicant is basically a U.S. citizen or a U.S. permanent resident. For U.S. citizens, the main eligible family members are spouse, parents, children (over 21 years old), brothers and sisters. For permanent residents, the main eligible family members are spouse, children under 21 years old, etc. Applications are prioritized according to the relationship between the applicant and his or her family members. For example, applications by spouses or parents of U.S. citizens are not affected by the annual number of visas issued, and the application process is relatively smooth.  In addition, if the application is sponsored by a U.S. citizen and the applicant is in urgent need of permanent residence, there is an application process that can shorten the time to obtain permanent residency as an expedited application if the applicant meets the requirements. There are cases where the applicant can obtain their permanent resident in about six months, such as when a Japanese national is brought to the U.S. from Japan. It is important to note that grandparents, uncles/aunts, in-laws, cousins, and other relatives who are U.S. citizens are not eligible for family-based permanent residence.

Application Process

The general application process is as follows. If the visa applicant is residing in the U.S., he/she files Form I-130 (Petition for Alien Relative) and Form I-485 (Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjustment Status) to the USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services).  If the visa applicant resides outside of the U.S., he/she must first file Form I-130 with the USCIS (with some exceptions), and after it has been approved, it will be reviewed by the National Visa Center (NVC) and followed by an interview at a U.S. embassy in Japan (Tokyo or Naha). As mentioned above, in cases where permanent residence is urgent, a special measure has been established that allows the I-130 application to be filed directly with the U.S. Embassy, which is expected to greatly shorten the examination period.

In addition to proof of the family relationship, the sponsor is also required to have financial resources (a certain amount of income in the U.S.). In particular, it is very important for spouses applying for permanent residence to show that the marriage itself is genuine (Bone Fide Marriage). If you apply for permanent residence as the spouse of a U.S. citizen within two years of your marriage, you will initially be issued a conditional permanent residence status valid for two years.

Finally, there is the Electronic Diversity Visa Lottery. Commonly referred to as the “Permanent Residence Lottery,” it has been conducted by the U.S. government since 1992. Japan is also an eligible country, and hundreds of people seem to obtain permanent residence through this method every year. The application period is usually from October to November. This is because each region (Asia in the case of Japan) has a cap on the number of permanent resident visas that can be issued by lottery, and the number of winners is set higher than the cap. After winning the lottery, you can apply for permanent resident status by changing your status to permanent resident in the U.S. or through an interview at the U.S. Embassy in Japan.

Once you obtain permanent resident status, it is a prerequisite that you will live permanently in the United States. Therefore, please note that your permanent resident status may be revoked if you leave the U.S. for more than one year without interruption as a permanent resident. If you intend to leave the U.S. for an extended period of time, we recommend that you obtain a Re-Entry Permit. It is also possible to become a U.S. citizen using the Permanent Resident status as a steppingstone.


If you have any questions or need further assistance, please do not hesitate to contact us for a consultation. Our dedicated team is here to support you through the petition process and address any concerns you may have.