The simple answer: yes, it is theoretically possible, but it could be a risk to try and change your Japanese visa so suddenly.
I wondered this exact same thing, though. I saw this asked several times on forums such as Gaijinpot, and each time, the answers contradicted each other!
Commenter A: Yes, I did it. It was easy, just walk in and change it.
Commenter B: It’s illegal. You will be deported and may be banned from entering the country.
So, who should you believe?! Well, it really depends on your own personal situation.
In Japan, it is hard for unskilled foreign labourers to get a long-term Japanese visa that allows them to work. In recent times, there has been a large number of foreigners having sham marriages to gain one. Not only that, a large number of people who got their marriage visa denied disappeared and are over-staying their tourist visa illegally. Because of this, the Japanese Immigration Bureau will want to carefully assess if your marriage is the real deal or not – this takes time, more time than your typical tourist visa.
Normally, to receive a long-term visa in Japan, you will have to get a CEO (Certificate of Eligibility) that proves you are eligible for one. Because it takes a long time to process a CEO, the Immigration Bureau will ask you to return to your country while it is processed. Then, you will be required to visit one of the Japanese embassies in your country, where you will finally receive your Japanese visa.
So then, it’s impossible? Well, not quite. There are exceptions where one is permitted to change from a tourist visa to a spouse visa.
- The visa applicant has a child with a Japanese partner.
- The applicant is not yet married and is intending to marry on the current short-term visa.
- The applicant was married overseas and has not yet registered the marriage in Japan.
- Applicant already has a COE.
So now you might be thinking that filling one of these conditions doesn’t seem very hard. You may be correct, or you may not be.
The problem with visas is that everyone’s visa application is different. Not only are applications different, but also the people who grant them. If you ring the Immigration Bureau, they will have no definite answer for you. They won’t want to guarantee something that could possibly be overturned by someone on the other side of the country.
So at the end of the day, the choice is up to you. I opted to do things the long and safe way and got my CEO and visa while in my own country.
For those who can read Japanese, or have a Japanese partner interested in the information, please visit this website.