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  • Ignore recent news articles: Non-Zainichi Perm Residents WILL be fingerprinted

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on October 5th, 2007


    Hi Blog. I’ve been asked a number of questions about some recent news articles, which indicate that “long-term” or Permanent Residents will NOT be fingerprinted at the border from November 20, as per newly-promulgated anti-terrorism laws.

    “Permanent residents, including ethnic Koreans born in Japan, will be exempt from the law, along with state guests and diplomats.”

    “Permanent residents will be exempt from the law, along with state guests and diplomats.”

    “Japanese permanent residency certificate holders, people under the age of 16, and guests of the country’s government chief administrators will not subject to the new measure, Sasaki [Seiko, head of Japan’s immigration agency’s intelligence management department], said.”
    Similar misportrayals of the law have appeared in the Japan Times, Iran TV, Kyodo, and other news agencies.

    Sloppy, lazy journalism and interpretation, if not some careless statements by government officials. As reported on as far back as last June (and the information has not changed as of this morning), the new Immigration procedures, according to the Japanese Government, apply to (English original):

    1. Persons under the age of 16
    2. Special status permanent residents
    3. Those performing actions which would be performed [sic] by those with a status of residence, “diplomat” or “official government business”

    “Special status permanent residents” (tokubetsu eijuusha) mean the Zainichi generational “foreigners”. This means regular-status permanent-resident immigrants (ippan eijuusha) or “long-term foreign residents” (teijuusha) are NOT exempt. They will be fingerprinted.

    This means you if you’re not a citizen, a Zainichi, or naturalized. Every time you enter the country. Don’t comply, you don’t get in. Be advised.

    I’ll have some advice on what you can do about this in a later post today, and some feedback I’ve received in the Comments section below.

    Arudou Debito in Sapporo

    11 Responses to “Ignore recent news articles: Non-Zainichi Perm Residents WILL be fingerprinted”

    1. debito Says:


      I have seen several on-line news reports in addition to Kyodo News
      that also erroniously state that permanent residents are exempt. I
      think is a clear example of sloppy reporting, but they are most
      likely confused based on the fact that most (all?) other countries
      do not have designations for “regular” permanent residents
      (immigrants), and “special” permanent residents (3rd generation
      Asians born in Japan). The latter would normally be classified
      as “citizens”.

      Mark Mino-Thompson

    2. debito Says:


      Thanks Debito. I think all the foreign language articles are cannibalising each other, as I have seen the same phrase ‘permanent residents will be exempt’ all over the place. Good work on this issue.

    3. Permanent Residents Will Be Fingerprinted? : Japan Probe Says:

      […] You may have read the following about Japan’s new policy of fingerprinting foreigners entering the country: All foreigners aged 16 or older will be photographed and electronically fingerprinted when they enter Japan, under a similar system to the one introduced by the United States after the September 11, 2001 attacks. […]

    4. debito Says:

      2) At Narita, for foreign residents with pre-registered fingerprints and photographs, there will be an automated gate system established prior to 23rd November.

      Came through Narita on Thursday morning [Oct 4], and there were handmade signs over all the gates for non Japanese passport holders which indicated those gates would have the automated system. No actual hardware in place yet though. No signs on the gates for Japanese holders, so it looks like resident visa holders will indeed no longer be able to use those gates.

      The system was featured on the TV Asahi NEWS 23 programme last night.


    5. steve yamaguchi Says:

      I am infuriated to say the least. I have lived in for the last 8 years (mixed Canadian/Japanese) and will not leave Japan until I leave permantently as I refuse to submit to this. I wonder how long it will be before they come door to door and get all the foreigners who aren’t leaving Japan to submit to this?

      I hope this has a huge impact on Japanese tourism and business so we can see the idiots running the Japanese government backpedal on this.

    6. Japan Law Blog » Blog Archive » Fingerprinting update Says:

      […] Many articles indicated that “permanent residents” would be exempt before Debito set the record straight that the only non-Japanese exempt will be: […]

    7. debito Says:


      >Has everyone seen this, from the Ministry of Justice?

      Thanks for the link, Ann. This video clip link has been posted
      before, but it’s never a bad thing to post something like this in
      case some may have missed it earlier. An interesting development
      seems to have come out of this original video announcement from the
      Ministry of Justice, namely that there seems to be a newer version

      Gone are the “random” gaijin being interviewed about their concerns,
      then acceptance of this program (once they “realise” it’s for their
      security). The voice-over now has a pleasant-sounding British man
      to soothe your worries. The bit about “foreign visitors” coming to
      Japan has been changed to “foreign nationals” as well.

      Altogether, it’s a much slicker package overall. I love the bit
      stating “If for any reason you cannot provide your fingerprints,
      please follow the immigration officer’s instructions” (“Please
      follow me to the holding cell, sir.”) Sadly, it still mentions that
      after your photo and prints are collected, you will be interviewed
      by the officer “as to the purpose of your VISIT to Japan.”

      Mark Mino-Thompson

    8. Rolf Says:

      Thanks to Debito, we are getting some clarification on these matters at last, since the press can apparently not be relied upon in this case. It is disappointing to see that, not only is there a lack of official information, but those articles pusblished in newspapers are incomplete or inaccurate.
      I can confirm the comment on the automated gate system earlier in this thread, after my (Japanese) wife surfed the Web for some information (in Japanese). Although it says that it’s currently being tested in a trial, it also adds that it will be fully implemented within this year. Presumably that means as of the enaction of the new law, although this is not specifically mentioned. I will be travelling abroad in the second half of November and can only hope that the system will be in place by the time I get back. All in all, the system actually does looks rather promising. The only regret I have is the almost complete lack of information in English. If we were informed properly in the first place, we wouldn’t have to get worked up about this so much!
      One can also hope that people entering through airports other than Narita will also be able to use an automated system soonest possible!

    9. Glenn Says:

      Because I leave the country for business a couple of times a month or more and I live in Tokyo, I am very interested in making use of the reported “automated gate system” at Narita. However, when my (Japanese) wife called Immigration to inquire about how I can register my fingerprints and photographs for this, she was told basically there is no such thing and I will simply have to wait in the visitor line (an almost unbearable prospect) every time even though I am a permanent resident.

      Any information that can shed light on this runaround from the government will be greatly appreciated.

      Keep up the good work, Debito.


    10. Gazzer Says:

      I’m wondering what will happen to sportsmen and celebrities entering the country. It seems it’s going to be somewhat embarrassing what Tiger Woods, Harrison Ford, all the foreign baseball players have to submit to fingerprinting. Plus every member of the F1 teams.

      I think there could be a real opening here to look at Permanent Residents at least. Interesting headlines:

      “Tiger Woods to be fingerprinted as potential terrorist”

      But if they make him an exception but not Permanent Residents many married to Japanese citizens, it’ll come across as straightforward discrimination and inconsistency.

    11. Joe Says:

      Well Gazzer, aren’t you glad that they fingerprinted Tiger Woods now?

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