In Japan, marriage between a Japanese national and someone of a foreign nationality is called kokusai kekkon (国際結婚), or, “international marriage.” The majority of Japanese who marry foreign spouses are men, at about four times the number of Japanese women with foreign spouses. Among spouses of Japanese men in international marriages, the majority are women from Asian countries such as Korea, China and the Philippines. The majority of spouses of Japanese women in international marriages are from Korea, China and America.*
In order to marry, both husband and wife must meet requirements for marriage eligibility set by both countries. Marriages must be reported to both the local municipal authorities to be recorded in the Registry (koseki), as well as to the foreign spouse’s embassy or consulate in Japan. In addition to the Marriage Registration Certificate, both spouses must present documents as proof of legality of marriage. The Japanese spouse must bring a complete certified copy of their Family Registry, and the foreign spouse must bring an official form stating their condition of legality for marriage in their home country, as well as certification of their nationality. All forms in foreign languages must have a Japanese translation attached, with the name and address of the translator.
In the case of residing in Japan, the Japanese spouse retains his or her Japanese nationality, but the foreign spouse does not automatically become a Japanese citizen； rather, they obtain the status of “Spouse of a Japanese national.” There is a special procedure for obtaining Japanese nationality, managed by the Ministry of Home Affairs. In the case of residing abroad, depending on the country, the Japanese spouse may have to choose between keeping a Japanese nationality and adopting the nationality of the spouse.
In the case of divorce, in addition to divorce papers, the Japanese spouse must present the copy of their Family Registry along with a resident card, and the foreign spouse must present proof of Alien Registration and passport. Upon divorce, the foreign spouse loses status as “Spouse of a Japanese national.” However, those with children of Japanese citizenship may change their visa status to “Long-term Resident.” In cases where there are no children but the foreign spouse has a long history of marriage or residence in Japan, it may also be possible to change visa status to “Long-term Resident.”
*Statistics taken from the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare 2005 survey:
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