Special rules for Gaijin buying an iPhone

If you’re planning on buying an iPhone (it’s a little too late now since they’re already out of stock everywhere in Kanto) and you’re a foreigner, there’s a couple of things you need to be aware of before you head out to the Softbank shop:

  1. Bring your Gaikokujin Torokusho (Alien Card) + Passport. It seems they now require the passport too.
  2. Check your visa expiration date, the following rules apply:

From Softbank’s website

  1. 在留期限が90日未満の場合は回線契約ができません。
  2. 在留期限が申込日より15ヵ月以内の場合、割賦購入(あっせん)契約による受付はできません。(店頭一括払いのみの受付となります)
  3. 在留期限が申込日より15ヵ月超、27ヵ月以内の場合、割賦購入(あっせん)契約による支払回数は12回払いもしくは一括払いのみの受付となります。
  4. 在留期限が申込日より27ヵ月を超える場合、支払い回数に関係なく割賦購入(あっせん)が可能です。

Which translates to:

  1. If you’re on a 90 days tourist visa, no soup (or iPhone) for you!
  2. If you have less than 15 months left on your visa, you wont be able to make a contract, but they’ll sell the phone to you without a plan for ¥80.000
  3. Between 15 and 27 months left on your visa, you can either pay it cash for ¥80.000 or negociate take a 12 months contract (instead of the normal 24) possibly at the discounted ¥20.000 price-tag, but whether the discount applies or not is not clear in the document
  4. Over 27 months and you’re clear, you can buy the phone like any native

With my 3 years visa expiring in 27 months and 24 days, I might hurry my purchase plans…

Note: the maximum length visa you can have (apart from being a permanent resident) is 3 years, so you’d better work on your timing or you might have to wait a very long time to get a phone

Update: as John points out in the comments, if you have a Japanese health insurance card or driver’s licence accompanied by a utility bill to your name, then this should suffice and Softbank’s people should not ask you for anything else. That’ll help quite a bit.

33 thoughts on “Special rules for Gaijin buying an iPhone”

  1. ..and with my 14 months of Visa left I’m screwed.


    Got to yell at them, it ain’t change anything but it will make me feel better.

    And this only apply to the iphone? This is such a discrimination, though I understand for the tourist visa.

  2. @bikoko: if you are already a long standing Softbank customer and are not on your first visa, they will probably let it slide

  3. thanks for the info…I will probably try and get a 1-year contract anyway if i can…

  4. Aie, no way for my, i’ll only have a working business visa in a first time, perhaps i’ll buy it in france before moving in Japan.

    Is it posible to take only a plan if we also have a iphone.

  5. @kapoue: you can have a 3 year work visa if you’re lucky
    as for using a French iPhone, yes you can use it as long as it’s unlocked (legally by Orange for a fee… or illegally jailbroken)

  6. They will also ask for a CC. I was there at the shop today.

    In a nutshell – Gaijin = Screwed.

  7. Just some info for you. I got mine without any of the problems you mention here. They only looked at my license and I signed all the paperwork likeI did for my previous SoftBank phone and here I am using it to write this on your website. The store in Shibuya is the one I went to for my purchase. Cheers and enjoy!!

  8. Dude, Please get your translations correct!!! 「外国人登録証明書+外国パスポート」にてお申込される場合、以下項目をご注意ください。 Does NOT say “Bring your Gaikokujin Torokusho (Alien Card) + Passport. It seems they now require the passport too.” It says IF you are applying using a foreign registration card….” The site actually lists a number of other ways to apply for a softbank contract – Japanese Drivers Licenses, Insurance etc. If you have less than 27 months left on your foreign registration card then why would you not avoid the problem and choose one of the other options.


  9. Is there some reason that you are trying to make up examples of discrimination where it does not exist?
    Even if your “translation” were correct (as a professional translator, I can back up John’s pointing our your mistake.
    If you don’t have any of the other forms of ID acceptable, you are a high risk.
    SB gives a discount on the price of the handset itself for a 24 month contract. If you are not qualified to be in Japan for 24 months, you most likely will not fulfill your contract obligation. A business decision based on viable risk pure and simple.
    Get your facts straight before putting it up on the Internet. Some people will believe your ramblings without checking facts for themselves!

  10. did I ever say or imply the word “discrimination”?

    I know a lot of people legitimately living in Japan who do not have other forms of ID than the alien card + passport: until 6 months ago, I was one of them
    I was on a special French government contract, working in Japan with a work visa but with no driver’s license nor Japanese health insurance (as I was exempt from taxes and had full health insurance in France, I was technically not employed by my company but lent to it by the government under the protection of my embassy in Japan)
    at that time, it would’ve been hard for me to get the phone, which is probably justified on Softbank’s point of view, but sucks non-the-less for us…

    I know if I were to buy an iPhone now (really want to but it’d be a waste of money as I already have a free corporate phone from my employer), I would show my health insurance card + japanese credit card

  11. ¥80,640 for the 16GB
    ¥69,120 for the 8GB

    (prices extrapolated from the price over 24 months without the special discount that comes with the plan)

  12. Has somebody already tried to buy one iPhone without a contract?
    Because I have asked in an Softbank Shop in Ichikawa for the iPhone without a contract and they say that is not possible.
    I have to say they speak hardly english.

  13. I have not tried.
    There’s no information anywhere about it, and it wouldn’t surprise me at all that Softbank will not do it as I’ve never heard of anyone buying a phone without a contract in Japan (be it an iPhone or any other keitai).

  14. Ok, it seems that if you pay the 8万円 upfront, you WILL get “reimbursed” starting after the 3rd month, by approx 1,820円 each month, for the next 24 months (hence the requirement for 27 months of visa validity).
    This payment scheme is to protect softbank in case you “disappear” before the end of the 2 years contract attached with the subsidised price.
    This from the 店長 of one of the Softbank shops in Tokyo.

  15. SO! I was in the Softbank Shop in Harajuku, the big one. And I have spoke very detailed about the purchasing condition. I will be less than one year in Japan.

    I only get the iPhone for these prices:

    ¥80,640 for iPhone 3G 16GB
    ¥69,120 for iPhone 3G 8GB

    Then I have asked him if I have to pay for any plan or can I only get the device for ¥80,640. He said, that I have to take following plan:

    White Plan (i) basic monthly charge ¥980
    Packet Flat-rate Full fixed charge ¥5,985
    S! Basic Pack (i) ¥315
    Total ¥7,280

    But I could cancel the plans anytime I want.
    That does not make sense for me.

    Does somebody knows if there is a way to get the iPhone without any plan?

  16. I bought the phone on the 11th, providing my for. reg. card and insurance card, and was able to create a 2 year contract. However, they charged me the full 80,640 up front for the phone, regardless of having just renewed my visa (I have 34 months remaining on my visa).

    I would like to take the wording from their website that you have posted into them to get a refund of the difference, but I have combed through their site and cannot find the 4 points you noted coming from http://mb.softbank.jp/mb/iphone/purchase/check_list_ja.html

    Can you point me to exactly where on their site that wording appears? It would be greatly appreciated.

    Thanks in advance

  17. Apple has no also removed pages…

    Initially, I arrived at this blog “special-rules-for-gaijin-buying-an-iphone” through a link in a thread at the Apple Discussion forum. Then, I wrote a reply to the thread saying “Softbank apparently follows a policy of discrimination towards foreigners when purchasing the iPhone… see the following link http://w00kie.com/2008/07/11/special-rules-for-gaijin-buying-an-iphone/ … And guess, what, they deleted the entire thread, in which people were discussing their difficulty in getting an iPhone here in Japan.

    Along with other things I’ve experienced recently, I no longer think my old grouchy uncle is as nuts and cynical as I used to. I had more faith in Apple, especially. But now they’re censoring. What can be done?

  18. I got my iPhone on Saturday. Paid full price (8万円) but could use my 20,000 Softbank points. Now, with the 新スーパーボーナス and starting the 3rd month of my new contract (from August 1st), Softbank will credit me 1,920円 each month for 24 months; which means that after the 27th month, my iPhone 16GB will have cost me 34,560円, which is basically what you pay for the phone upfront when you take the alternative solution of them charging you a monthly fee to repay the phone subsidies over 24 months.

  19. Same problems trying to buy an iphone…applied using a Japanese Driving license, having a new 3 year Visa AND living here for 5 years….

    I was not allowed to buy on contract
    , and asked to pay upfront 80,000 yen

    The decision seemed to come from a processing department rather than the store it self….It sucks

  20. there is a specific rule written on the PDF I linked
    I advise anyone trying to buy an iPhone to print it out before going to the shop, then showing a driver’s license or insurance card + credit card for identification
    if they want to make you pay the ¥80.000 upfront, whip out the printed rules

  21. OK, I guess just to add to the ‘tales of despair’, here’s my experience.

    Managed to find a electronics store near my house that had some stock.
    Went through the process twice and got told no both times (of course still able to pay the 80,000 for the phone…)

    1. Passport and Alien Card with expiry on Feb 2010.
    2. Health Insurance card/papers and Utility bills.

    Both times bad, but I was asking for transfer from my bank account (don’t have a credit card)

    I wonder what I could use to get one… Not many other options left but to either get a credit card. I don’t have a drivers license and not about to either… Sigh, maybe when my bonus comes through I can fork out the cash for the full price…

  22. Military members cant get the Iphone here (in Japan) either– we have our visa stamped till 2012 and they told us no.. I dont unerstand it. We tried twice.

  23. I could score an iphone at yodobashi on a morning 3 weeks ago. they seemed to receive some on the morning. did not have my gaijin card, but the paper they give you before they hand you the gaijin card, + a credit card from citi japan, my french passport with a visa ending 2011.

    They input and submit the details to a center that grants or refuse the contract.
    Was refused first time, after redoing the whole process (i think i did not sign with my middle name first), got accepted.

    It took sthg like 1h30… take some biscuits with you !

  24. Nicolas!

    I tried the same trick today, but to no avail. I am beginning to think using a Japanese credit card may help.

    As for all those having trouble with visas, simply buy the cheap government health insurance (1000 yen per month) and take a government document with your address on it. Easy. I’m stuck on the central lending center part. It’s very very annoying, I spent nearly 2 damm hours on the process. I am applying for a credit card tomorrow and give or take a month, I’ll report back here how I got on. If anyone has any hints please post them! I’ll be dammed if I pay that 80,000 yen but I really don’t want a Japanese phone for my stay here.

  25. I just bought an iphone from the US and came to Japan to make a contract with softbank but they refuse to accept it. iphone bought outside Japan is not accepted by softbank. Just crazy. Anyway I want to sell it as it is useless here. any body interested? It is 8GB black type.

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