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No Problem, Plenty of Time

jeffs-extension- by Jeff -

This month my original 3-year spousal visa to Japan was set to expire—August 20 to be exact. So I started the renewal process the recommended two months prior to the expiration date.


I thought to myself, "No problem, plenty of time."


I started filling out a bunch of paperwork—one of the joys of being a foreign missionary. Nozomi and I worked diligently to complete everything as carefully as possible, even including our marriage certificate and a legal copy of her Takeda family record. When everything was in order, I took my first trip to the Immigration Office.


Being that it was summer vacation for the kids, I took the whole family. To get there, we road our bicycles to my local train station and parked them... then took our first train about 25 minutes to downtown Tokyo... then transferred to another train for 30 more minutes. Then we walked a few minutes to the bus stop, and boarded the bus over Tokyo Bay to a small peninsula.


Upon arrival, we looked for the right window at the huge Immigration Office. I pulled my ticket number and sat down.  The family went to find some lunch.


When my number was finally called, I submitted my paperwork to the agent. She looked everything over, then told me to come back between August 5-19 to pick up my new extension permit.


I reassured my family, "No problem, plenty of time."


You see, the kids were just a tad concerned because we had read a notice saying I was subject to deportation two weeks after the expiration of my visa, even if my renewal application had been submitted and was still pending. Ellie even had a nightmare that I was sent packing!


On August 5, two full weeks before my original visa expired, I returned to the Immigration Office to pick up my new visa. My family again accompanied me on the journey. Because I have a September 7 airline ticket for Singapore to attend meetings, I also planned to purchase a re-entry permit the same day I got my visa. Without that re-entry permit, they would not let me back into Japan after my trip to Singapore.


After my number was called, I approached the counter. Uh-oh! Something looked wrong. I could see two agents talking about my paperwork, looking concerned.  It seemed as if the man and the woman were doing "Rock-Paper-Scissors" to see who would tell me the bad news.


The man lost. His hands were literally shaking as he explained to Nozomi and me that one important piece of paperwork—namely her family record from her hometown's city office several hours north of Tokyo—was obsolete. Though nothing had changed on the document, it was older than 3 months. Since it was actually 6 months old, it would not meet compliance.


He reassured us, "There's plenty of time to get your wife's paperwork from Sendai and submit it."


With no new visa or re-entry permit, we all were a little bummed. So we decided to hit Sony Explora Science museum nearby before heading home. We actually made it onto their blog (, having our photo taken for promotional purposes!


FROM SONY'S BLOG: "When we were taking photographs on the third floor, some guests who were passing by joined in the photo with us. They were fun-loving, photogenic customers. Thank you for your participation."

Afterward, we worked quickly to obtain a fresh Takeda family record from Sendai, and I headed back to Shinagawa for the third time—this time alone—to get the visa "extension of stay" permit and multiple re-entry permit.


Fortunately, I successfully obtained both permits that day, with two days to spare! No problem, plenty of time.


My wife and kids are glad this alien didn't get deported.


Jeff's Posts


Jeff's column offers a mix of reflections on leadership and fatherhood, as well as news from Asian Access.


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Nozomi's Posts


Nozomi's column contains reflections on motherhood, Japanese culture, and ministry.


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Zack's Posts


Zack's column provides a variety of glimpses into what makes him tick.


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Ellie's Posts


Ellie's column is coming soon...


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