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I am a US citizen and my wife is a Japanese citizen. We live in the US. We have a 7-month-old daughter with dual nationality, and she has a US passport.

Question: Does my daughter need a Japanese passport to enter and leave Japan?

Motivation: We thought this was a no-brainer -- since my daughter is a US citizen, she should be able to enter and leave Japan like any other US citizen, on a US passport. However, we have repeatedly called our embassy (in NY), and they insist that our daughter needs to also obtain a Japanese passport to show at customs in Japan! And they refuse to clarify exactly what would be done with us if we landed in Japan with no passport for our baby.

Update: My impressions from informal conversations with family in Japan, who spent considerable time asking questions at the Shiyakusho ("city hall") lead me to tentatively conclude the following:

(a.) If we go to Japan with the baby and no Japanese passport, they will let us through customs with no explicit penalty.

(b.) There is a risk that our behavior will be interpreted as an implicit rejection of our daughter's Japanese citizenship, making a barrier should she ever wish to be treated as a Japanese citizen for any reason.

Again, these are only second-hand impressions. Continued discussion is appreciated.

  • Interesting question regarding Japanese nationality law – Karlson Mar 31 '14 at 18:16
  • Typically, countries require that all citizens of that country enter and leave using that country's passport. I don't know about Japan specifically, which is why this is a comment and not an answer. – Greg Hewgill Mar 31 '14 at 21:39
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    Per the Nationality Law, if she's been registered in the koseki (§12) and is already a bona fide citizen, I don't think it's possible to "accidentally" lose citizenship before age 20 (§14) without a formal notification (§13). moj.go.jp/ENGLISH/information/tnl-01.html – jpatokal Apr 1 '14 at 2:16
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The Japanese Embassy is correct. Per the Consulate-General of Japan in Vancouver:

Q: I was born in Canada and have dual citizenship, Canadian and Japanese. When I go to Japan, which passport should I use?

A: According to the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act, Japanese citizens are required to use their Japanese passport to enter Japan.

Somewhat oddly, I can't find where in the Act it actually says this though, it may be implied by the other conditions.

My hunch would be that, in practice, the baby would be fine to enter with a US passport as it wouldn't be that easy to connect the dots to her Japanese doppelganger.

However, I'd still get a Japanese passport: they're cheap, fairly fast to process (a week or so), will be handy if she ever needs Japanese ID, and will allow her to enter the country 100% legally. The main fly in the ointment is getting the koseki extract you'll need for the application.

  • I'm marking this as the correct answer, although I remain curious about the exact consequences of disregarding this inconvenient rule. In our particular situation, getting the passport will involve a couple of days of travel and associated expenses. – zkurtz Apr 1 '14 at 1:44
  • You can nominate someone to apply for the passport on your behalf, but collection has to be done in person. This means that it might be possible for you to apply "remotely" and pick it up on your way to Japan. – jpatokal Apr 1 '14 at 2:09
  • In theory, the Japanese could in the future use this to verify that the child has dual-citizenship and cause issues past the age of 20 if they felt the need. In practice Japanese record keeping hasn't been ideal when it comes to inter-departmental communication, and they would likely never end up linking the two in a database. In 20 years, who knows? I know of two cases where dual-citizenship has been discovered due to unique circumstances (not this situation), and the Japanese government has caused trouble over it, so it's really up to you @zkurtz to decide if the risk is worth it. – jmac Apr 1 '14 at 7:16
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    Odds are they already know -- you're required to list a child's other citizenships when registering their birth (shussantodoke), and speaking from personal experience, most Japanese embassies overseas won't take "none" for an answer. – jpatokal Apr 1 '14 at 9:39

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