Sunday, February 27, 2011
Buying a house in Japan Part 10 - The Immigration Lawyer...
(Again, to catch up on the ongoings, read the previous posts in this series here)
So, quite late in the evening during a regular weekday with just a couple of days to go until my permanent residence visa application had to be delivered, me and Mrs. Sunshine found ourselves in the middle of the most rundown and dirty area of the Ikebukuro red-light district to try and find the office of the immigration lawyer that we had made contact with the night before.
After some considerable search, we finally located the building, an apartment building that now seemed to no longer house private residences but offices of questionable (judging from the names they mostly seemed related to the sex industry in the area) firms housed in tiny one room apartments.
The lawyer turned out to be a quite friendly young guy who ushered us into the shabby apartment that served as his little law office, as we had explained our situation over the phone the previous day, he knew the basics of what we needed to have done and was quite positive that he could meet the deadline of compiling my permanent residence application within the two days that we had. Although friendly and seemingly competent enough, there was a certain "Ikebukuro Red-Light District Lawyer" vibe about him which was a bit reinforced by his seemingly erratic business hours (opening late in the afternoon and being available well into the night).
From the start, it became quite clear that he was more used to less straightforward permanent residence applications... Now, I'm not the expert on the visa process or anything, but when it comes to people applying for permanent residence who balance on the "~8 year before applying" criteria and do not have specialists job in the diplomatic or education sector, having a Japanese spouse is one of the more important factors. Considering the location of his office and the clientele that you could assume comes with it, I think it's fair to assume that he had handled a number of applications like this where marriages had been tied just to help in getting the visa... The conversation went something like this
Lawyer: Ok, so one of the first things that they're going to check is the passport and the stamps that you have and if any of you have made any trips together or so, how about you?
Salaryman: Yeah, sure, we took our honeymoon to Hawaii and have made a few other trips before that as well, take a look (handing over the passports)
Lawyer: (checking stamps and dates, nodding to himself as he finds that they correlate) ...nice...
Lawyer: (quite upbeat) Ok, next, you don't happen to have any pictures of you two together during the honeymoon or so that can give some more evidence?
Salaryman: (handing over a bunch of photos) We have a few here and we also had our wedding here in Tokyo with 70 or so guests, we have those pictures here as well (pointing at the wedding pictures with all of Mrs. Sunshine's serious looking Japanese relatives)
Lawyer: (with a sly grin) Nice, you really have all the bases covered, don't you (gives a wink)
Mrs. Sunshine: (slightly annoyed) Well, we are married actually, you know so I think it's quite normal.
Lawyer: (ignoring her and lowering his voice and almost whispers) One more very important thing, outside your apartment, do you have a nameplate with your family name on it?
Salaryman: (a bit surprised) No, actually not, we haven't gotten around to it and are gonna move quite soon anyway, why?
Lawyer: (looks around conspiratorially) You see... Sometimes they actually go to the apartment and try to check things out and if you don't have a nameplate, they might call the doorbell and want to check that things are in order... (looking very serious)
Salaryman: (laughing at the absurdity of the conversation) Well, ok, but they're more than welcome you know, we have nothing to hide!
Lawyer: (just looking very serious and concerned at both of us, silence for a few seconds)
Mrs. Sunshine: (to me) Look, whatever, I'll just make a sign and set it up tomorrow.
Lawyer: (gives a wink and a grin) Clever wife you have there.
After a few more back and forth of this type it finally seemed to dawn on him that there really wasn't any "catch" except the speed we needed the application compiled in. And by the end, he looked mildly relieved and looked at us and said "Huh? This actually looks a lot easier than most of the cases I handle, I'll knock off 20% of the price for you because of that".
As we left the office at around midnight, handing over half the money as advance payment I had the feeling that as soon as we had left the building, he was on the phone either with A) The Yakuza to use the money to pay off the money he owed them B) his favorite whorehouse asking them to saddle up since he got money in the bank or C) his gambling pals to make sure he would get in on the next mahjong game.
In the end he managed to get the application submitted on time and without any hitches I got the permanent residence visa approved, so although I would be hesitant to recommend him (unless you happen to be a Philippine girl in the Ikebukuro "service industry" overstaying your visa marrying the brother of the local club owner to get the visa), he took care of stuff quite smoothly for us.