I’m Takashi Akeyama, a representative of the Niseko VISA & Immigration Support Centre. As the only Administrative scrivener(行政書士) office in Hokkaido specializing in VISA & Immigration and tourism, we help foreigners living in Hokkaido, mainly in Niseko, Otaru and Sapporo areas, to apply new or extend VISA, to change the status, such as working visa and spouse visa etc.
In this article, I will explain whether “Spouse of Japanese=在留資格 日本人の配偶者等” visa can be obtained even if you do not speak Japanese.
When foreigners live in Japan, there is nothing better than being able to speak Japanese for social and daily life. It must be said that not being able to speak Japanese can cause a lot of hardship and difficulty in your life in Japan.
On the other hand, is Japanese language proficiency required to apply for a ‘spouse or other spouse of a Japanese national’ visa? The answer to this question varies from couple to couple. The new application or change of status will not be denied solely because of a lack of Japanese language skills.
Is Japanese language proficiency examined when applying for a “Spouse of Japanese”?
How do immigration officer examine Japanese language skills? When applying for the visa, a ‘Questionnaire’ is submitted. One of the items in this Questionnaire is ‘Ask about the language used in the couple’s conversations.’ You have to answer these questions following,
①’What languages are used in your daily conversations?’
②What is each other’s mother tongue?
③How well does the foreigner understand the native language of the Japanese spouse?
④How well does the Japanese understand the native language of the foreigner?
Difficult = interpreter needed
Written = only greetings
Daily conversation possible
No difficulty in conversation
⑤If the foreigner can understand Japanese, please state specifically when and how he/she learnt it.
⑥If you cannot understand each other’s language, what methods do you use to communicate with each other?
If there was an interpreter, state the name, address and nationality of the interpreter.
These six questions are used to check the common language of the couple and their language skills.
If the foreign spouse cannot speak Japanese
For example, in (1), if the language used between the couple is other than Japanese, such as ‘English’ or ‘Chinese’, or (4), if the Japanese spouse answers that there is “no difficulty in conversation” in the foreign spouse’s mother tongue, and the language used by the couple is not Japanese, the foreign spouse may be able to communicate even if they cannot speak Japanese, and it is considered that there are no problems in living as a couple.
If the couple speaks a language other than Japanese, it should be better to submit documents to prove the Japanese spouse’s language proficiency. For example, for English, an Eiken or TOEIC score certificate; for other languages, a certificate of language proficiency test, a certificate of completion from a language school or a diploma from a local university. In the case of my office, we submitted diplomas from local universities. This is not only proof of academic qualifications, but also a valid document as proof of language skills. These are strong supplementary documents that provide objective proof of foreign language proficiency on the part of the Japanese spouse.
If the foreign spouse can speak Japanese
If the foreign spouse can speak Japanese, the answer in (3) will be that the Japanese spouse can understand the native language (Japanese) of the Japanese spouse “at least on a daily basis” or “no difficulty in speaking”. To support this, in section (5), you should provide specific details of how and when you have earnt the Japanese language. （In (5), you can state, for example, that you studied at a Japanese language school in your home country for two years before coming to Japan, or that you enrolled in a Japanese language school in Tokyo for one year after coming to Japan. If you have a certificate of Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT) or a diploma from a Japanese university, it will be a strong source of objective proof of your Japanese language skills and should be submitted with your application as an attached document.
If it is difficult to communicate in each other’s language.
If the foreign spouse’s understanding of Japanese is ‘difficult’ or ‘written’, despite having answered ‘Japanese’ as the language used in conversation in (1). If the language used for conversation is the ‘foreign spouse’s mother tongue’, but the Japanese spouse has ‘difficult’ or ‘written’ understanding of the language.
You would wonder even if you were not an immigration officer, how will this couple communicate in their daily life? Can they live together and live together? You must wonder. From this perspective, “Is this couple in a marriage with real substance?” and the authenticity of the marriage will be questioned.
In such cases, state in detail how you are communicating if the language is not understood in (6). This will provide an explanation that will convince the immigration officer. Recently, many couples used the translation apps and translators. However, simply using them will not be a sufficient explanation. It is also necessary to show that you are making an effort to learn Japanese and the language of your foreign spouse so that you can understand each other’s language. For example, attending a language school or course would also be a valid explanation.
If the couple met through an arranged marriage or an introduction, and have an interpreter, filling in the box to write their details. It will add credibility to the communication of each other.
To prove the formal marital relationship, documentation supporting the relationship and marriage is provided in the screenshots of LINE or e-mail correspondence records. The officer can understand the language ability and communication level of each couple from these records.
Therefore, it is advisable not to answer the section on language in this questionnaire above your level in an attempt to look good. The officer’s impression will be better if you answer the questions as they are.
The Niseko VISA & Immigration Support Centre help and support foreign nationals who are trying to overcome language, cultural and custom barriers and live as a member of Japanese society. If you have any questions or enquiries about this article, or about the conditions or procedural aspects of applying for spouse of Japanese visa, please feel free to contact us by phone or via the ‘Free Consultation Form’ on our website.