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.

Japanese Credit Card

Flying Blue Japanese VISA cardSunday as I was going to the old apartment to give back the keys, I had the nice surprise to find both my JLPT convocation and my Flying Blue VISA credit card. Nice surprise since I was rejected twice by the Japanese VISA company and I was starting to lose hope. The situation was getting critical as I am now paid exclusively in Yen on my Japanese bank account and all my French credit cards will turn up dry soon.

As with a lot of things here, VISA and Mastercard credit cards are not handled by their global mother companies. They are a separate entities that barely have ties with the rest of the world. A good example is trying to use your overseas Mastercard in a Japanese ATM, even though it has the Mastercard logo which should indicate compatibility, it will not give you any money unless you use give it a real Japanese Mastercard. A subtlety that has left countless tourist sleeping under a Tokyo bridge…

In the same way, foreigner have a great deal of problems obtaining a credit card in Japan. I’ve seen many a story of people with very good situations getting rejected dozens of times by these companies while the average Japanese has 6-7 cards in his wallet. They fall victim to this apparent fear that the gaijin is always here for fun, temporarily, and will definitely accumulate mounds of debts and leave the country without word in 6 months.

Anyways, now I’m safe, I can give in to Japanese consumerism and buy tons of gadgets, all the while accumulating Air France mileage to fly away from this godforsaken country, leaving all my debts behind me like the white-faced barbarian that I am…