Hi Blog. Comment follows article.
Ministry plans to strengthen visa system / Plan includes 5-year stay extension
The Yomiuri Shimbun Mar. 21, 2008
Courtesy of Jeff Korpa
The Justice Ministry intends to extend the current period of stay issued for foreigners from a maximum of three years to up to five years, based on the recommendation of a government panel on immigration control policies, sources said Thursday.
The panel, which has been discussing ways to improve the system for foreign residents, will submit to Justice Minister Kunio Hatoyama within this month the proposals aiming to boost convenience for foreigners living in Japan lawfully as well as strengthening measures against foreigners who overstay their visas, according to the sources.
The ministry will present to an ordinary Diet session in 2009 related bills to revise the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Law, the sources said.
The main pillars of the proposals will be:
— Issuing a new “foreign resident’s card” by the Immigration Bureau and abolishing foreign resident’s registration cards issued by ward, city, town and village governments.
— Requiring foreigners to report to the justice minister any changes in their places of work during their stay in Japan and other personal information.
— Requiring organizations that accept foreigners as students or trainees to report how they study or undergo training programs.
The measures are aimed at unifying and tightening government management on the control on foreign residents as well as enhancing the convenience for foreigners living in the nation lawfully, the sources said.
With the enactment of the revised Employment Measures Law in October, companies hiring foreigners are required to report to job-placement offices their names, visa statuses and other personal information.
With the panel’s recommendation the ministry intends to widen this mandatory reporting to other organizations, including universities, the sources said.
The duration of stay for foreign nationals is determined according to visa status. For example, one or three years are allowed as the duration of stay for a foreign national with the visa status of a spouse of a Japanese or of an intracompany transferee. At first, the duration of stay is one year. But if the person has no problems after this first year, it is common for the duration of stay to be extended to three years.
If the duration of stay is extended up to five years as the envisioned system suggests, renewal procedure burdens over the duration of stay would be lessened for long-stay foreign residents with Japanese spouses.
There were about 2.09 million foreign nationals with alien registrations in Japan as of Dec. 31. Of them, those subject to the envisioned system will include permanent residents (about 780,000 people), spouses of Japanese and intracompany transferees.
The envisioned system will exclude about 440,000 special permanent residents such as ethnic Korean residents in Japan. It also will exclude temporary visitors who are allowed to stay a maximum of 90 days, as well as diplomats and officials.
In response to an increase in the number of illegally overstaying foreigners, the panel set up in February last year a special committee to examine a new resident entry system for foreign nationals living in Japan, under which members conduct hearings with officials at the local municipalities, the Japan Business Federation (Nippon Keidanren) and the Japan Federation of Bar Associations.
(Mar. 21, 2008)
COMMENT: Don’t know what to make of this policy revision yet. On one hand, we have the abolition of the old Gaijin Card and Registry system, in place since shortly after WWII to police foreigners, and registry more akin (they say) to to the current Family Registry system we have for Japanese citizens (in case you don’t know, NJ are “invisible residents”, as Japan is the only country I know of that requires citizenship to register people as juumin “residents” (cf. the juuminhyou mondai)). It also will extend the legitimacy of the former “Gaijin Cards” (which all NJ must carry 24-7 or face arrest) from three years to five. That’s the good news.
The bad news is that this measure, despite claims that it will make life “more convenient” for NJ living in Japan, is mainly a further policing measure. Registration will be centralized in the police forces (not the local municipalities any more), the replacement Cards will have more biometric data and tracking capability (RFID, anyone?), and the cards, as labelled, are rhetorically old wine in new bottles. Despite the translation of “foreigner residents’ card” below, the “zairyuu kaado”, as it’s called in the original Japanese, are not “zaijuu” cards (indicating residency with juumin no juu), rather “zairyuu” (ryuugakusei no ryuu), indicating merely a stay here from overseas.
How nice. We still have to get beyond seeing NJ in Japan as “not really residents”, and all our protestations thus far clearly have not sunk yet in with policymakers at the national level. Arudou Debito