My passport, showing that my visa expired June 11th, and they finally accepted my application on July 20th.

So I’m technically in the country illegally right now. My “Specialist in Humanities / International Services” visa expired last month, and I just realized it about a week ago when I was going through my records for an unrelated reason.

I asked Yuko to call the regional immigration office that covers the region of Japan in which we live to ask what to do. You know those conversations that start with “I have this friend…”? Yeah, it was like that, in which she said she didn’t recall my name or really where I was from, but that I lived in Ehime.

Even though that was all she said, they knew exactly who I was when I went into the local office at 10am the next morning, Friday the 16th. The first woman I talked with was very reasonable. She said there was just one extra form to fill out, a letter of explanation/apology to submit with my visa renewal application.

Unfortunately, she was busy when I went back up to the counter to submit the form, and I talked with a guy who was markedly less friendly. He said they needed time to process the application; their office was about to close for lunch, and I had to go to work anyway, but when I suggested I come back on Tuesday (Monday was a national holiday), the dude suddenly became very animated, telling me that this was very very serious, and the police were going to come arrest me with his pantomimed handcuffs.

I obediently called work and told them I’d be a bit late for my scheduled administrative time.

A school such as mine is accustomed to helping its employees renew their visas, and when I brought in the paperwork from the immigration office, our accountant banged it out in about ten minutes, a model of efficiency. I ran home and grabbed a couple of forms she said I also needed (tax receipts from last year), and went back to the immigration office as they were reopening after lunch.

You have to realize that talking to someone in the Matsuyama immigration office is not as simple as walking up to Lucy’s psychiatric booth, coughing up a nickel, and getting what you need. Each time you hand them something, they dismiss you to the waiting area and secrete it back to their desks to perform arcane rituals that tell them how to proceed. Rinse and repeat until they run out of remotely-related things to tell you they need.

To wit: before my application for visa renewal was actually accepted, they “needed” a two-page application form I filled out, a slightly different two-page application form my school filled out, my letter of explanation, my passport, my foreign national registration card, my municipal health insurance card, receipts for paying income tax last year, receipts from paying my resident taxes last year, and two SEPARATE official certificates from city hall certifying that I had actually paid those two items for the last year (which they wouldn’t issue until I could prove I was current on this year’s payments as well).

Suspicious, I asked my accountant at school if all this was because I let my visa lapse. She said she’d been curious herself, and when she asked the immigration office, they said they had recently changed their renewal requirements, and this was all normal, save the letter of explanation.

Since they’ve finally accepted my application, now I just have to avoid the police while I wait for my new visa.

I’m not sure if Japan wrote the book on yak shaving, but they’re certainly raising it to an art form.

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