Taste the irony: Japan proposes language requirement for foreign long-term visas, yet protests when Britain proposes the same
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on April 6th, 2008
Hi Blog. Yes, you read that right. The GOJ wants to issue Japanese language tests for long-term NJ visa renewals, yet protests when Great Britain proposes the same. Moral: We Japanese can treat our gaijin any way we like. But don’t you foreign countries dare do the same thing to members of Team Japan. Bloody hypocrites. Debito in Sapporo
Long-term residents may face language test
By KAHO SHIMIZU Staff writer
The Japan Times: Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2008
The government may require long-term foreign residents to have a certain level of Japanese proficiency, Foreign Minister Masahiko Komura said Tuesday.
The Foreign and Justice ministries will begin discussing the envisioned Japanese-language requirement, Komura said without providing further details, including when the talks will start or who would be subject to the obligation.
“Being able to speak Japanese is important to improve the lives of foreign residents in Japan, while it is also essential for Japanese society,” Komura told reporters.
“I think (the potential requirement) would be beneficial because it would not only prompt long-stay foreign residents to improve their Japanese ability but also promote awareness among people overseas who are willing to come to (and work in) Japan to study Japanese.”
A Foreign Ministry official in charge of the issue stressed that the idea is not exclusionary. “It is not about placing new restrictions by imposing a language-ability requirement,” the official said on customary condition of anonymity.
Someone with high Japanese proficiency may be given favorable treatment in return, including easing of other existing visa requirements, he said. “(High Japanese proficiency) may actually make it easier to come and work in Japan,” he said. “We want to provide incentives for foreigners to learn Japanese.”
A Justice Ministry official said the discussions are neither intended to expand nor restrict the flow of foreign workers to Japan.
He also said the requirement should not be uniformly applied.
“We don’t want to prevent talented foreign workers from immigrating,” he said.
Some media speculated that the move is intended to expand the acceptance of unskilled foreign workers, given Japan’s shrinking population and expected long-term labor shortage.
But the Foreign Ministry official said the government’s stance — which is to issue work visas for foreigners applying for specific jobs that require particular qualifications while restricting foreigners seeking manual labor — remains unchanged.
According to the Foreign Ministry official, the two ministries hope to reach a conclusion on the matter within a year.
The idea of a language requirement emerged as part of the government debate on the conditions of a large number of foreign nationals of Japanese descent in such areas as Hamamatsu, Shizuoka Prefecture, which has a large population of Brazilians of Japanese descent.
Many such residents, who are often engaged in manual labor because they obtained ancestry visa permits that allow them to do so, are not covered by the social security system and their children are not enrolled in schools.
The Japan Times: Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2008
The MOFA offers more details on this in a February 12, 2008 Press Conference here:
But put the shoe on the other foot and see how the MOFA reacts…
Japanese community concerned about Britain’s plans for English tests
Japan Today.com/Kyodo News Friday, March 21, 2008 at 04:43 EST
Courtesy of Mark Mino-Thompson and Paul Hackshaw
LONDON — The Japanese community in Britain is hoping the government will rethink plans for a new English language requirement for foreign nationals coming to work in the country.
The Japanese Embassy in London has expressed “serious concern” at initial government plans to ensure that all skilled workers from outside the European Union seeking work visas have an “acceptable” level of English language proficiency.
It was felt that the level suggested was too high for the many Japanese who come to Britain on “intra-corporate transfers” (ICTs) for periods of around three years.
The Japanese Embassy in London, along with other foreign governments, has been lobbying hard to ensure that ICTs are exempted from the English language requirement or that the level of English required is reduced.
An embassy spokesman told Kyodo News that the initial level of English proficiency suggested by the government would have been a “hindrance” to Japanese firms dispatching staff on regular transfers. But the spokesman said he now feels the government was listening to the concerns of the Japanese and is awaiting a statement from the government in the next few weeks.
The Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Britain said it believes that, if implemented in its present form for ICTs, the plan would have a “profoundly negative impact” on Japanese firms here, and could lead to some relocating to other parts of the European Union.
However, there are indications the government may be about to water down its plan following pressure from foreign governments.
The government says no final decision has been taken on the English language requirement for ICTs but a statement will be made shortly. Informed sources have told Kyodo News that the Home Office is likely to lower the level of the English requirement for ICTs.
The English requirement is due to be introduced toward the year-end.
It is part of a general tightening up of Britain’s visa regime in an effort to make it fairer and more objective. The requirement is designed to ensure that foreign nationals can properly integrate into the country and are best equipped for working here.
Patrick Macartney, spokesman for the Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said the majority of Japanese expatriates are working in Britain for a limited period of between three and five years and should therefore be treated differently from immigrants who are seeking to work and stay indefinitely.
He said, “If the English proficiency requirement were to be compulsory, even for people who stay for such limited periods in this country, this would create a huge problem for the personnel rotation policy of many Japanese companies.
“This is especially true in cases where companies need to send their technical or engineering experts, for whom the priority is their skills and/or knowledge and not language.
“The impact would be most severely felt by the manufacturing industry. Japanese companies who have factories in the United Kingdom might be forced to scale down or even relocate their operations because they could not secure the necessary number of technical people from Japan whose knowledge or experience was crucial to their operations.”
Danny Sriskandarajah, from the left-leaning think tank the Institute of Public Policy Research, said, “It (the English test) is going to be an issue. I don’t actually know the level required, but if it is to be meaningful it has to be reasonably high. It will pose a challenge for people.
“A significant proportion of the work permits are intra-corporate transfers. If you assume that some of those are coming from non-English speaking countries that do jobs which might not require English, they may be affected.”
Liam Byrne, the minister in charge of visa rules, acknowledged Japanese concerns at a recent parliamentary committee when he said, “If you talk to many Japanese investors, they will say that people coming over under intra-corporate transfers from a Japanese company, skilled engineers contributing quite considerably to the strength of the U.K. manufacturing base, are quite nervous about the kinds of English requirements that we would insist on.
“You cannot look at migration policy purely in terms of the economics. I think you do have to look in terms of the wider impact that migration has on Britain and that is why the prime minister has been right to stress the ability to speak English,” he said.
A spokeswoman for Britain’s Home Office said, “We will publish a statement of intent shortly setting out the detailed policy in this area. We are fully aware of the concerns expressed by Japanese businesses operating in the United Kingdom over the proposed English requirements, especially in relation to ICTs.”
In order to simplify immigration procedures, Britain has recently introduced a points-based system, similar to that in Australia. Basically, applicants are given more points the higher the level of skills they possess.
Entrepreneurs and scientists are classed as tier one and are very likely to get a visa. Skilled workers with an offer of a job in occupations such as nurses, teachers and engineers are classed as tier two and must also have met the English language requirement. This tier also includes those on intra-corporate transfers.
Under Home Office plans, tier two applicants should have reached level B2 in English according to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages.
This would require applicants to “understand the main ideas of complex text on both concrete and abstract topics.” And they should be able to “interact with a degree of fluency and spontaneity that makes regular interaction with native speakers quite possible without strain for either party.”