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Is this a good plan to stay in Japan?

khoaaohk

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My wife is a Japanese citizen and has a U.S. green card. I’m a U.S. citizen (not military) and we are planning a move to Okinawa within 12 months. She currently has a job with a U.S. company with an agreement to terminate her U.S. work status and rehire her in the Japanese office. I will be there under a spouse visa and working remotely for a U.S. company.

Our plan is to live in Okinawa for 4 years. If I understand correctly, we have to apply for a reentry permit for my wife so she doesn’t lose her green card status. A reentry permit will allow you to stay outside of the U.S. for up to two years. We will then have to be physically in the U.S. to re-apply for second time (which takes about 3 months). Then go back to Japan for another 2 years. This makes a total of 4 years and from my understanding is about the maximum number of times you can do this.

I have a few questions and if anyone can help me out that would be much appreciated.
  1. Is there an easier process to maintain the green card while abroad then what I’ve described?
  2. If we decided to forgo the re-entry route and let her green card expire, how hard would it be to obtained the green card again? Say 5-10 years if we decide to stay longer in Japan?
Love Japan and possibly see this as a long term stay. Already talked to a lawyer and this was the route that was recommended. Done some research and it has answered some questions, but would love the advice of others out there if you’ve experienced this. Any comments would help. Thanks!
 
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cocoichi

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I think your question might be answered better on a forum that deals with US immigration. Most of the people on this forum have been living in Japan 10+ years and do not seem to plan a permanent return to the states.
 

Glenski

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Is there an easier process to maintain the green card while abroad then what I’ve described?
Why is that plan so difficult? Geez! Is it so painful and awkward to return to the U.S. once in 2 years? I'm sorry, but I don't understand the problem. She takes a leave of absence for 3 months, while you continue to do distance work for your company (unless things change).

If we decided to forgo the re-entry route and let her green card expire, how hard would it be to obtained the green card again? Say 5-10 years if we decide to stay longer in Japan?
Unless someone has recent experience with such a thing, I'd say nobody including immigration can give you a sufficient answer. Government offices are highly bureaucratic, and they either work by the letter of the law, or they claim "case by case" circumstances. If you haven't found any letter of the law describing your situation, I'd say it's up for grabs. The best thing to do is talk to immigration or an immigration lawyer.

Already talked to a lawyer and this was the route that was recommended.
Ok, so you've done one of the 2 things recommended. But WHICH route did he recommend? Hard to understand based on what you wrote.
 

Mike Cash

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I don't think anybody can reliably predict what American immigration law is going to look like 5-10 years in the future, and I saw that based simply on the nature of the system and not the current political climate. It has always been impossible to know what wild hair Congress may get up its butt or what the policies of some unforeseeable future administration may be.

I would like to point out a couple of factors which seem not to have come up:

1. Of all the "lifers" I have ever known in Japan, none came here intending to stay more than a few years.

2. No matter what she may say now, you have to enter into this aware of and totally accepting and alright with the possibility that once she gets back in Japan you couldn't blast her out again with dynamite. You come understanding that you may be the one leaving your country for good....or going back to it without her. I know it sounds melodramatic and over the top, but you wouldn't even be close to being the first one it happened to.
 

Glenski

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Just wanted to write that I agree with all of Mike's statements.
 

Lawrence1

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I can't say much to this but it does seem that eventually you will need to decide where you want to stay permanently. I have heard a lot of cases where your wife would want to stay in Japan. If the environment of Japan is right for you, I think it should be completely fine for you. Try your best to adjust to the culture. The big hurdle of being able to take care of yourself and your family is sort of already considered. Although do try to find out if you are allowed to do the kind of work you will be doing with your spouse visa. As long as you pay your taxes and don't break any laws, you should be able to to eventually get permanent residency based on being with your wife.

I should mention (although you probably know), the ecology of okinawa is very different from main land japan. It has a lot of influences from china. The political stances of the people there tend to be a little different from the general mainland. Also I have even heard that some don't even consider themselves japanese (although not sure if this is really true). From what I have heard, okinawa is small so everyone in the island will know about you pretty quickly after you have arrived. So if you are a city boy, then it might be a bit of an adjustment, but I think if you are open minded and willing to try to adjust, you should be fine. I have never been to okinawa so this is mostly based on friends that have traveled there or what I heard in interviews or online.
 

Mike Cash

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From what I have heard, okinawa is small so everyone in the island will know about you pretty quickly after you have arrived.

The population is about 1.4 million. I doubt they're quite that chummy....
 

Lawrence1

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The population is about 1.4 million. I doubt they're quite that chummy....

Perhaps you are right. Those bits about how they identify themselves and knowing about each other really well I am a bit skeptical about as well... Perhaps my friends misunderstood
 

cocoichi

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Perhaps you are right. Those bits about how they identify themselves and knowing about each other really well I am a bit skeptical about as well... Perhaps my friends misunderstood
Do a quick tour through Naha on google street view, and you'll see that it's just like any other mid sized city in Japan. Also takes you more than an hour to drive from Naha to Nago. I'd be surprised if OP knows everyone in his apartment complex after six months.

However, your friend might be talking about one of Okinawa's smaller islands like Ishigaki or Miyako.
 
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