Getting your visa renewed in Japan under shifting sands.

This is another one in my Japan visa renewal series.

As it stands, my time to remain in Japan is up in the middle of next month. I had submitted my application to Shinagawa in early September, based on the following items:

1) employment with a dispatch agency, which is now telling me I am not their employee until they find an assignment worth acknowledging that I am;

2) freelance English teaching, which I don’t think will have the weight to support a renewal;

3) my earlier work for an IBM subsidiary which is the subject of the EEOC administrative charge regular readers know about.

I decline to discuss that last one too much, because the government investigator says that the EEO office in New York city has been working on it . (This has gone on for two years as of this week.) Additionally, it may be a news article back home in the future. I have started to talk to press contacts over the summer that I initially made in 2009, and I am told by one that once something breaks, it would be a good article. I assume the “break” is if the administrative charge is unsuccessful.

My feeling is that, unless something comes along to allow for a more “traditional” renewal (a basic English teaching job with set hours, for example), then I am going back home. This is sad and unfortunate, but frankly, it’s also how Japan works. I think the problem the government has here is that they just expect every expat who gets screwed in one way or another to disappear, back in their home country. Well, I don’t intend to, of course. And with the continuing or lingering EEOC matter, simply leaving Japan wouldn’t force me to leave behind claims for the bad things that were done to me in corporate employment.

19 thoughts on “Getting your visa renewed in Japan under shifting sands.

  1. Hopefully your visa renewal goes through. Like many others, I have had my fair share of visa renewal issues over the years to understand how frustrating it can be.

    Question: As I recall reading from earlier posts, via totalitarian [edit: you mean totalization] treaties, you are getting your retirement from the Japanese government. If you do move back to the US, what effect, if any will this have on this arrangement? Will the Japanese government send your retirement overseas or to a foreign bank? Or could it be returned to US control?

    1. Ben, the social security / pension is the least of my worries, because it’s protected by treaty. That’s the whole purpose of it: time in the system here is credited.

      So, let’s say–I dunno–maybe a 20,000 yen a month pension in the Japanese system, and whatever under U.S. social. The Japanese pension system would send me a payment starting in 2030 for however much in dollars the 20,000 yen would be.

      The thing I would go at is damages for breach of contract. That’s actually getting to be a big number. If the EEOC brought litigation under Title VII (employment discrimination), I could join my claims for breach and tortious interference to it. If the EEOC declined to litigate, I get a “right to sue” letter from the New York office. Then, I could have the employment discrimination claim heard by a jury, and the pleadings would include breach of contract and tortious interference.

      None of this is easy, and none is certain. Right now, I have been letting the New York office do its job. It has a good reputation for understanding the law and getting relevant facts. The case investigators work with the in-house team of attorneys. The unit also works with the respective New York state discrimination unit, which I believe is called the Human Rights Commission.

      I am still open to EEOC mediation, but I don’t think it’s going to happen. This is one of the reasons why I’ve not been seeking a lot of press on the matter. I am operating in good faith, but IBM has not been. And I think at some point I have to stop being the doormat, even though it’s David and Goliath. Usually, in Goliath Co., it’s really just a handful of individuals who are screwing around, and if David makes enough of an issue over the years, higher management in Goliath starts asking the right questions.

      That’s what’s going on in America’s foreclosure crisis right now; but then, I am getting off topic!

  2. Hoofin,
    I, too, hope everything gets straightened out for you with the visa renewal.
    Frankly, it sucks how things work (or, don’t work) here in Japan sometimes.

    I have another question that I’ve been wondering about. I understand that this is off-topic from your original post, and it’s probably not a topic that you care to spend much more time on at the moment, but…as a follow up to Ben’s comment:
    I understand that the totalization agreements benefit workers who would otherwise fail to qualify under one county’s (or another’s) social security program.
    But…is there any advantage (or benefit) to qualifying independently (i.e. without applying the treaty benefits) in both the US (e.g. having 40+ credits) and in Japan (e.g. having paid in 20 years +, adjusted for “kara kikan”)?
    Say, I’m close to qualifying under the Japan system, but considering returning to the US. Would there be any advantage to waiting until after I qualified to make the move? Or, is it a compete wash between applying the treaty and not?
    If you can find the time and inclination, I would really be interested in your insight.

    Thanks.
    And, again, keeping my fingers crossed for you…
    (But isn’t that nuts! That luck should be a factor in someone’s immigration status…)

    1. Doug, you would always want to qualify in Japan via the treaty. If you qualified independently, you would be subject to something in America called the “Windfall Elimination Provision”, which would reduce your U.S. payment.

  3. Thanks for your reply Hoofin,
    But, doesn’t the WEP apply to any non-Social Security pension?
    In other words, if my US benefits are subject to the WEP (likely), wouldn’t they be reduced regardless of whether I qualified for (received) a Japanese pension under the treaty or independently?
    Maybe I misunderstand, but it seems you are saying that it would benefit me to get out of the Japanese system before fully qualifying independently?
    Why would that be?

    1. He! I’m in the hunt for a job, and something is making me think I should hire myself out on the issue-since you’re not the only one asking about pension questions.

      I am going to point you in the direction: go back to the totalization treaty and read about whether WEP applies if you need to rely on the treaty. Also, it’s pretty clear that WEP reduces your social security pension.

      WEP comes into effect whenever you are collecting another pension in employment that was not covered by social security. If social security is already reduced due to some other pension where you didn’t pay social security tax at all (like military, post office, state of Illinois, etc.), you may already be getting dinged for WEP anyway.

  4. Google is your friend:

    http://ssa.gov/pubs/10045.html

    I would say fully qualifying independently in one system or the other would be more advantageous than having one or the other padded out with “kara kikan” although that is just a gut feeling rather than anything I have worked out to verify.

    It looks like the max they can ding you for on your US Pension is 1/2 of what you would receive for it. A fully qualified Japan Pension should more than make up for that, especially at current exchange rates.

    1. Chuckers, that is the wrong answer.

      For an American, one always wants to qualify in Japan via the treaty, if there is the possibility of also getting U.S. social security. If you qualify independently, you fall into WEP.

      I think this also makes kara kikan for a permanent resident a little dangerous; and redundant, since the treaty covers any empty space where one has had the U.S. coverage.

      My own example: 23 or 24 years in the U.S., 5 in Japan once I catch up on the nenkin coupons. I want never want, or need, to qualify independently in Japan.

      [P.S. Now back on the topic of my visa issue. Who can help me if I would be getting my ass kicked out of Japan on a non-renewal because of their screwy labor laws and discrimination?]

  5. [Sorry to veer back off topic]

    My reading of it was that regardless of whether you qualify independently or under the treaty, you are going to get dinged by WEP.

    From the site:

    “If you work for an employer who does not withhold Social Security taxes from your salary, such as a government agency or an employer in another country, the ­pension you get based on that work may reduce your Social Security benefits. ”

    But then elsewhere it states:

    “If you qualify for Social Security benefits from both the United States and Japan and you did not need the agreement to qualify for either benefit, the amount of your U.S. benefit may be reduced[by WEP].”

    That would seem to imply you may not be affected by WEP if you qualify for one with the treaty but need the treaty for the other.

    [Back on topic]
    These people *might* be able to help out but they seem to specialise in marriage visas:

    http://www.lawyersjapan.com/

  6. —-If you qualified independently, you would be subject to something in America called the “Windfall Elimination Provision”, which would reduce your U.S. payment.—–

    This is not true.

    [Hoofin’s Note: No. This IS true. If you have 25 years in the Japanese system (i.e. “qualified independently”), you would be subject to WEP. Unless you also have many years of substantial earnings in the U.S. system as well (I forget the exact number, but it’s big like 30), then you are subject to a haircut.]

    I called SS (1-800-772-1213) two weeks ago and was told if you aren’t receiving a foreign pension you’re good to go. [Hoofin’s Note: Yes, this is obvious, isn’t it?] The totalization treaty you referred to only comes into play AFTER you have joined the J-pension plan. [Hoofin: Yes, this is obvious, too. That is what the questioner was asking about.] The fact you didn’t enroll doesn’t mean sh*t as far is the US government is concerned except that you lost out on those years you would have received benefits had you joined. [Hoofin: I disagree with this. I am sure people pay into their U.S. social security, but I would not advise that people think that if they do it opposite of what the treaty says, they are in the clear.]

    This pretty much sums it up:

    “Your Social Security retirement or disability benefits may be reduced if you work for an employer who does not withhold Social Security taxes from your salary, such as a government agency or an employer in another country, the pension you get based on that work may reduce your Social Security benefits.

    The Windfall Elimination Provision affects how the amount of your retirement or disability benefit is calculated if you receive a pension from work where Social Security taxes were not taken out of your pay. A modified formula is used to calculate your benefit amount, resulting in a lower Social Security -benefit than you otherwise would receive.”

    http://www.ssa.gov/pubs/10045.html#

    Now what I plan to do is file self-employed income next year and it seems pretty straightforward: You file the correct forms, pay the 15.3% you owe in social security taxes and you’re good to go.

    By declaring “self-employed” income earned in Japan on my US taxes I can max my SS benfits. Forget the J-pension and pay the US direct! Also if you`re married your wife will get half of you earn when she reaches retirement age as well and qualify for Medicare as well.

    [Hoofin’s note: The only thing I want to point out is that you open yourself to a challenge, at some point in the future, that the government could say that those contributions really weren’t eligible for the U.S. system. To be honest, I don’t exactly know what happens when you make S.S. contributions in contravention of the scheme in a totalization treaty. I think the worst case scenario is that a future S.S. administrator might rule that you were trying to defraud the system by making payments to the United States when in fact those payments were supposed to go to Japan. (Yes, I am certain people must have been doing this on some of their SE income in Japan pre-treaty, but now the practice is murkier.)

    Since FICA is a tax, if this worst-case scenario happens after the point where you can file an amended return (3 years), you could potentially lose what would amount to the overpayment or, precisely, the extra money you gave away to the government in the incorrect filing of your U.S. tax . Treaties trump national law, at least in America.

    So what you’re doing, Ken, is saying, “I think I can get away with doing X” (just like you say you do with the Japanese health insurance). Not: “the rule lets me do X”. I hold a CPA license, but I am not giving out any tax advice on this. I am merely saying that I see a pitfall, a potentially costly one, with your strategy. Even though I imagine there are American expats here in Japan who were doing this pre-treaty.]

  7. —- I think the worst case scenario is that a future S.S. administrator might rule that you were trying to defraud the system by making payments to the United States when in fact those payments were supposed to go to Japan. —-

    How am I defrauding the US government? I am not required by the US SS to pay into the J-pension system while living in Japan. True, the J-government might be upset but what do I care? I will not be living here.

    I called the US SS several time and was told the same thing: As long as I am not receiving a pension in Japan I am good to go. (I have always filed US taxes and have always worked p/t in Japan.)

    — “the rule lets me do X”. I hold a CPA license, but I am not giving out any tax advice on this.—-

    Again the SS told me there is nothing to worry about. It is fine to declare self-employed income earned in Japan with my US taxes.

    Bottom line: If I filed self-employed income here in Japan and it appears on the SS statement usually receive each year in Japan I`m good.

    1. Ken44 asks:

      How am I defrauding the US government? I am not required by the US S[ocial] S[ecurity Administration or the IRS] to pay into the J-pension system while living in Japan. True, the J-government might be upset but what do I care? I will not be living here.

      Ken, you are going off my worst-case scenario, so I am responding in kind. The fraud is that you are pretending to be covered under FICA when, in fact, you are not or you should not be.

      Here are the caveats, to which I don’t know the answer:

      1) What makes you “FICA exempt” in a totalization treaty situation? How are you actually “FICA exempt”?

      2) If you are “FICA exempt” due to a totalization treaty, are you allowed to voluntarily pay FICA?

      I don’t have the answers for you. All I know is that if you are self-employed here, with a business that you did not transfer over from America beforehand, you are supposed to be covered under the Japanese system and pay there (here).

      You say:

      I called the US S[ocial] S[ecurity Administration] several time[s] and was told the same thing: As long as I am not receiving a pension in Japan I am good to go. (I have always filed US taxes and have always worked p/t in Japan.)

      This sounds like the answer to the question of whether the Windfall Elimination Provision would apply, not whether you can opt out of Japanese nenkin and just pay FICA (or rather, SE tax) voluntarily. I think your issue goes to whether you work as self-employed, not whether you work part-time.

      Ken says:

      Again the SS [you mean Social Security, I am assuming, and not making a Nazi reference] told me there is nothing to worry about. It is fine to declare self-employed income earned in Japan with my US taxes.

      Bottom line: If I filed self-employed income here in Japan and it appears on the SS statement usually receive each year in Japan I`m good.

      You are confusing two things: You are always required to report your self-employment income to Uncle Sam if you work in Japan and are required to file back home. That is part of declaring income.

      The question is whether or not you are “FICA exempt” (which would make you SE (self employment) tax exempt.) The question you want to be asking into the telephone ether is: Am I able to voluntarily pay FICA in a situation where the totalization treaty says that I should be paying the country in which I am carrying out my self-employment activities? In short, can you voluntarily pay into Social Security, and have that count as if you weren’t really FICA exempt? This is not what you are asking, according to you. You are just asking if you should report your self-employment income (YES), and if it’s OK that you pay tax on it (UNCLEAR as to whether Social Security won’t take away the credits on that.)

      In the states where government workers don’t have to pay in social security, sometimes such persons will try to game social security with their earnings somehow. They usually always get shot down when caught. This is why I hesitate to endorse anything that you’re saying.

  8. —-Am I able to voluntarily pay FICA in a situation where the totalization treaty says that I should be paying the country in which I am carrying out my self-employment activities? In short, can you voluntarily pay into Social Security, and have that count as if you weren’t really FICA exempt?—

    Thanks for the wording.

    This is what I will ask!!

    1. Good luck finding someone on the telephone who is going to answer that accurately. My advice would be to put it in a letter and send it to social security, asking for a determination. If you get something as a hard copy, that is, in writing, then you might have more confidence to pay the SE tax. Telephone means nothing. People can say things, and you have absolutely no proof unless you recorded the conversation. You can make assertions over the internet, but without something more solid to back it up, it’s just an assertion, as you know.

      If you got something from U.S. social security, in writing, saying that we can all skip the Japanese pension system if we feel like and if the Japanese don’t care, that would be very valuable, and worth sharing.

      Myself, I got proof of exemption through a J-USA/6 certificate. This means I just pay Japan on any self-employment earnings here, because that is the rule.

  9. It seems you are correct. I spoke with a woman working with Social Security Administration’s Office of International Programs at (410) 965-1977 and was told:

    1) You cannot voluntarily contribute into the US SS and need to pay into the Japanese pension in order to qualify for either a US or J-Pension.

    2) You can`t work 6 years in Japan and add them to the ten years you`ve got in the US for a total of 16 years US SS.

    The totalization agreement would help if I had 10 years in the US and 15 years in Japan. This would give me 25 years and Japan would send me a pension formulated on the 15 years (I think…) and the US would pay me for the 10 years.

    However, in my case I have 10 years US and only say 6 years in Japan which will not qualify me for a J-pension because the total number of years including the US equals only 16. My guess I would only get a lump sum for those 6 years of paying into the J-system if I got anything at all.

    This topic is also discussed here:
    http://forum.gaijinpot.com/showthread.php?92316-Kokumin-Nenkin-US-social-security&p=1042325#post1042325

    1. That was my sense. I want to give people good advice, even if it isn’t “the way around things”, which I feel is quite often frought with unseen dangers. You probably could do that little maneuver and get away with it, but there is a chance you wouldn’t. In which case, you threw your money away.

      If you were in the Japanese system, they would refund at most 36 months (3 years), and I am not sure it’s a total refund, because you get a tax deduction for nenkin payments.

      I am a bit confused by your math. You say 10 years in America and 6 years in Japan, for a total of 16. This means you have to be somewhere in your 50’s? If not, and you go back to America, then any additional years in the American system build on your record. If you had just 10 now, and put 6 into Japan, and then went back to America and got another 9 (even as part-time work in retirement, which many people do), you should presumably have the 25 years required by Japan.

      Ten plus six means you are already, what, 56? 56 + 6 = 62, minimum age to collect U.S. social security.

      It surprises me that you only have 10 years in with the U.S. system. I had that by the time I was 26.

  10. I started paying into the US SS when I begain working from age 18-24. Then moved to Japan from 24-30. Return to the US and paid into US SS from 30-31. Returned to Japan age 31 fulling qualifiying for US SS.

    I will be around 58-60 when I leave Japan for good and will have time to file self-employed income in the US for a good 5-6 years after returning. Currently Medicare (Plan B) is $109 a month but only a fool would believe that isn`t going to at least double by the time I reach *66. I already qualify for $350 a month and another $100-150 would easily cover my Medicare costs. Plus my wife will receive Medicare coverage when she reaches 67 and get half of the money I receive as well.

    *66 is when I plan on collecting.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s