Disclaimer: The information included here is accurate to the best of the PAs' knowledge as of February 2016, but we are not legal authorities and can take no responsibility for any errors. This information is for reference only. Please confirm with the proper authorities.

What is an Individual Number?

Starting in October 2015, all residents in Japan, including non-Japanese, received an Individual Number (個人番号 kojin bangou), nicknamed “My Number” (マイナンバー) in Japanese. This 12-digit number links an individual’s personal information across multiple government agencies to make social security and tax procedures simpler and more efficient.

As the name suggests, each resident will receive his or her own unique number, which is valid for their entire lifetime. Starting in January 2016, this number will be used by organizations that handle procedures regarding taxes, social security, and disaster response. For example, the number will be used in the following situations: for employers to create certificates of income and withholding tax, for security firms and insurance companies to use in legal documents for tax procedures, for the pension office to process employee pension benefits, for municipal offices to issue welfare benefits, for individuals to file income tax returns (beginning with the 2016 tax return which individuals will file in February or March 2017), sending or receiving money to/from international accounts, etc.

Individual Number Card

The Individual Number can be printed on an Individual Number Card (個人番号カード kojin bangou ka-do) along with the owner’s name, address, date of birth, gender, and other personal information, so it will be possible to use this card as a form of ID. The Individual Number Card will replace the Basic Residence Card held by Japanese residents (juuki ka-do, not to be confused with Residence Card zairyuu ka-do held by non-Japanese residents). However, be careful not to show your Individual Number to others except for the above tax- and social security-related situations.

Who gets a card and how to get one

All residents in Japan, including foreign residents who have been issued a residence card, should have received a notification card (通知カード tsuuchi ka-do) at their registered address from their local municipal office in or after October 2015. This notification card will detail the procedure for applying for an Individual Number Card, such as mailing in an application or applying online. Then, starting in January 2016, applicants will be notified that their card is ready, and they can pick up their card at their local municipal office (bring notification card, notification of issuance, and a form of ID). Issuing an Individual Number Card is free of charge.

If the information on the notification card or Individual Number Card has changed (such as change in address), you must present your card at the municipal office when you submit your Moving-In Notification so it can be changed along with your Residence Card (read more about Moving within Japan)

More information can be found on the official website (Japanese/English). The Japanese website contains links to information in English, Chinese (traditional and simplified), Korean, Spanish, Portuguese, Tagalog, and more.

What does the Individual Number do?

The main function of the Individual Number is to make paperwork easier for different agencies. But if you take your notification card to a municipal office and turn it into an Individual Number Card, there are a number of other functions it can perform.

Serves as a form of ID

Because the Individual Number Card has your photograph on it, it can serve as a form of ID for administrative purposes. You can also use it for other things like joining a gym or renting a video (make sure not to show them your Individual Number on the back of the card; they are forbidden from writing down or copying the number). The Individual Number Card can serve in place of your Personal Seal Registration (印鑑証明 inkan shoumei), library card, and in the future, your health insurance card in certain circumstances.

Has an IC chip that serves as an electronic certificate

The Individual Number Card, unlike the notification card, has an IC chip containing an electronic certificate (電子証明書 denshi shoumeisho) that is "used to prevent identity theft and data falsification when submitting online applications or notifications via the Internet" (Q3-4). The electronic certificate serves two purposes:
  1. As an electronic signature
    When sending an application, form, or other document online, it certifies that the document was created and sent by the cardholder. This can be used when filling out taxes online (e-Tax), online banking, and other procedures.
  2. As proof of identity
    When logging in to a website or other terminal, it certifies that the person logging in is the cardholder. This can be used to login to online banking sites, to print official documents at convenience stores (see below), and to login to government sites such as the Disclosure System of Personal Information Cooperation Record (マイナポータル My Num(ber) Portal), which will allow people to see how information containing their Individual Number is used.

Beginning in January 2016, the electronic certificate will also be used in some procedures certain private businesses that have been approved by the Minister for Internal Affairs and Communications.

The information stored digitally on the Individual Number Card will not include any highly private information regarding your taxes or pensions, so it is not possible for that information to be stolen from the card. Digital information is limited to the information that is printed on its surface (your name, date of birth, address, and gender) as well as the proof of signature and identity provided by the electronic certificate. (Q3-5)

Print official documents at convenience stores

Before the implementation of the Individual Number System, holders of a Basic Residence Card (住基カード juuki ka-do) (Japanese people) could re-issue official documents at convenience stores. The convenience store machine accessed the data stored by municipal and other servers via J-LIS. Because the Individual Number Card will eventually replace the Basic Residence Card, this process can be done with an Individual Number Card (which incidentally opens the service up to non-Japanese residents).
  • Printable documents include: copy of residence record (住民票 juuminhyou), personal seal registration certificate (印鑑登録証明書 inkan touroku shoumeisho), 住民票記載事項証明書 (juuminhyou kisai jikou shoumeisho)*, various tax certificates*, family registry certificate (戸籍証明書 koseki shoumeisho)*, copy of family registry label (戸籍の附票 koseki no fuhyou)*
    *Not available in all areas
  • Can be done at 47,000 stores nationwide including 7-11, Lawson, Family Mart, Circle K, Sunkus, Community Store, Save On (some locations), Seicomart, AEON (at 2 locations in Chiba), A-Coop (North Tohoku and Kagoshima).
  • Available 6:30AM-11:00PM, including weekends and holidays (except 12/29-1/3)
  • Process is slowly being introduced in municipalities, so it is not available everywhere yet. As of Feb 2016, it is available in 100 municipalities, with plans to increase to 300 municipalities in fiscal year 2016 and up to 500 municipalities after that.
More information in Japanese under Further Reading below.


FAQ


What is the difference between a notification card and an Individual Number Card?

According to Question 3-2 on the official FAQ, the notification card is a piece of paper with your Individual Number along with your name, address, date of birth, and gender. It does not include a photograph, so it cannot be used as a form of personal identification. It does not have an IC chip, so it cannot be used as proof of identity online or to check what agencies are using your information.

The Individual Number Card has your name, address, date of birth, and gender with an ID photograph on the front. Your Individual Number is written on the back. It also has an IC chip that contains an electronic certificate, which you can use as proof of identity online or to check what agencies are using your information. It is free to issue an Individual Number Card.

Will my Individual Number change if I leave Japan and come back?

According to Question 2-5 on the official FAQ, "You will use the same number you used prior to your departure." The number will only be changed if "the number was leaked and it is recognized that the number could be used improperly" (Q2-4, source)

What do I do if I l lost my notification card or Individual Number card, or if I think the number has been stolen?

Under construction

Is the Individual Number Card secure?

It is illegal for anyone other than designated government agencies, your employer, and certain private businesses approved by MIC to see your Individual Number or access related information. You must not show this number to anyone who is not allowed to see it. The law states in detail precisely who can see it, but basically the list is limited to your employer, official government institutions, and banks if you send or receive money (from) overseas.

You can use the Individual Number Card as an ID card, and the Individual Number is written on the back so just showing the front is OK. However, make sure that the number is not copied or written down.

The information stored digitally on the Individual Number Card will not include any highly private information regarding your taxes or pensions, so it is not possible for that information to be stolen from the card.

However, because the ramifications of having your Individual Number stolen are much worse, it is recommended to use your driver's license or residence card as ID instead of your Individual Number Card just in case.

Can I see what agencies are using my Individual Number information and how?

With the Individual Number System, the government is creating a Disclosure System of Personal Information Cooperation Record (マイナポータル My Num(ber) Portal), which will allow people to see how information containing their Individual Number is used. This record, which will be accessible starting in January 2017, will allow you to check when and where administrative agencies have shared information attached to your Individual Number, and see what information they have concerning you. For example, you may be able to see the cost of your social insurance premiums and information needed for your tax returns.

In order to login to this record, you will need the electronic certificate stored in the Individual Number Card, a computer or smart device with a card reader that can read the IC chip, and a password. If you do not have a computer or smart device at home, or you don't have a card reader, you will be able to login at public terminals in certain public facilities (Q6-3). If you do not have an Individual Number Card (just the notification card), you will be able to submit a paper form to request to see your information (Q6-4, 6-5).

Why do I need my Individual Number to send money overseas?

There is a national law that has existed prior to the Individual Number system stating that financial institutions transmitting money overseas or receiving money from overseas must submit a notification of the transaction to the head of the tax office in the designated area of the financial institution (whether municipal, ward, regional, prefectural, etc. varies by area).

Prior to the Individual Number system, the information required for this notification included information like the sender/receiver's name and address. However, in the laws regarding what agencies can use Individual Number information, the Individual Number was added to the information required in that notification, so now financial institutions must report the sender/receiver's name, address, and Individual Number. In short, now you need your Individual Number in order to send or receive money to/from international accounts. (Sources are listed in Further Reading section below)

My question wasn't answered/I want to talk to an official spokesperson.

The Cabinet Secretariat has a multilingual call center you can use in English, Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Spanish, and Portuguese.
Phone: 0120-0178-26 (Toll Free)
Hours: weekdays 9:30-22:00, October 1, 2014--September 29, 2017 (Excluding weekends, national holidays, and December 29 to January 3)
Website: English: http://www.cas.go.jp/jp/seisaku/bangoseido/english.html, Japanese: http://www.cas.go.jp/jp/seisaku/bangoseido/index.html

J-LIS also has a multilingual call center you can use in English, Japanese, Chinese (Simplified and Traditional), Korean, Spanish, and Portuguese.
Phone: English: 0570-064-738, Japanese: 0570-783-578
Hours: Weekdays 8:30-20:00 (8:30-17:30 after April 1, 2016), weekends and holidays 9:30-17:30 (until March 31, 2016) excluding New Year's holiday
Website: English: https://www.kojinbango-card.go.jp/en/index.html, Japanese: https://www.kojinbango-card.go.jp/

Further Reading

Read about Taxes and the Pension system on this wiki.