Japan Times update on granting children of mixed J/NJ parentage citizenship


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Hi Blog. Here’s more on the debate regarding legally plugging the holes in Japan’s nationality laws. Arudou Debito in Sapporo
Citizenship for kids still tall order
The Japan Times, Wednesday, Nov. 5, 2008


Many observers of the Nationality Law have welcomed the government’s proposed revision approved Tuesday by the Cabinet that will soon allow hundreds of children born out of wedlock to Japanese men and foreign women to obtain Japanese nationality if the father recognizes paternity even after birth.

Despite what seems to be a positive move, however, some also predict many challenges ahead before the children entitled to Japanese nationality can actually acquire it.

“The revision will mean a lot to the children, because (nationality) is part of their identity and will secure them a more stable status and future,” said Rieko Ito, secretary general of the Tokyo-based Citizens Network for Japanese-Filipino Children, which supports Filipino women and children in Japan who often live under permanent resident status.

The scheduled amendment is in line with the June 4 Supreme Court ruling that a provision of the law on the status of children born out of wedlock was unconstitutional.

Today, the law still reads that a child born out of wedlock between a Japanese father and a foreign mother can get Japanese nationality only if the father admits paternity during the mother’s pregnancy, or if the couple get married before the child turns 20, but not after birth.

Thus, children whose fathers acknowledge paternity after their birth are not granted Japanese nationality, which the top court declared a violation of equal rights.

The proposed revision stipulates that children born out of wedlock whose fathers recognize paternity, regardless of the timing of the acknowledgment, can obtain Japanese citizenship.

The revised bill will soon be submitted to the Diet and is expected to clear both chambers during the extraordinary session.

Since the ruling, more than 90 people who would be granted Japanese nationality once the revision is enforced have applied for it, according to Justice Ministry official Katsuyoshi Otani.

Among them, two-thirds are Filipino and the rest are mainly Chinese and South Korean, he said. Of the applicants, about 90 percent reside in Japan, he said, adding that the procedure is currently pending.

The reason behind the large number of Filipino applicants is that Japanese brokers have brought Filipino women to Japan to work as entertainers since the 1980s. In most cases, the women, who came to earn money to send back to their families, ended up working in night clubs as hostesses.

The bill grants applicants who were younger than 20 as of Jan. 1, 2003, and had been recognized as a Japanese man’s child by then, the right to obtain Japanese nationality if they apply for it within three years of the revision taking effect.

The revision draws the line at Jan. 1, 2003, because among the plaintiffs, that year marked the oldest case of paternal recognition, the ministry explained.

Nihon University law professor Akira Momochi is critical of the revision to the law, arguing this will inevitably invite fraudulent cases with people falsely claiming parental recognition.

“There are many Asian people who want to sneak into Japan. I can easily imagine they want to defraud the Japanese authorities (by using the revision),” he said.

Momochi added that the revision’s new clause penalizing people who forge documents necessary to apply for nationality with up to one year in prison or a fine of up to ¥200,000 is not severe enough to serve as a deterrent.

But Chuo University Law School professor Yasuhiro Okuda argued that forging paternity recognition was not worth the risk.

First, even if the mother succeeds in registering the child as a Japanese national at a registration office, this does not automatically secure her residential status in Japan.

And once a child is registered, the “father” must technically bear responsibility for child support or giving the child inheritance rights, unless the father files a lawsuit to fix the registry, Okuda said.

In addition, forging a family registry is a crime that can lead to a prison term of five years or a ¥500,000 fine.

Okuda, who supports the revision, is more concerned about the difficulties the mothers may face when seeking recognition for their children by the real biological fathers.

First, many fathers hesitate to recognize their paternity of children born out of wedlock. The revision to the law may encourage more mothers to file lawsuits against the father to acknowledge paternity, but lawsuits can be very expensive for the mothers.

Another problem is that local-level authorities tend to refuse to accept the parental recognition registrations, even though the mother, in accordance with the rules, has the necessary information to prove the child belongs to a Japanese father. This largely derives from lack of knowledge of the correct procedures by the authorities, Okuda noted.

Okuda estimates there are at least 10,000 children in Japan who may potentially apply for citizenship once this revision takes effect.

“If the numbers of applications to Japanese nationality don’t go up, it’s important to doubt whether the authorities are doing their job properly,” he said.

The proposed revision does not exclude children between Japanese fathers and foreign mothers living overseas from applying for Japanese nationality when the conditions are met.

Ito of the network for Japanese-Filipino children said its office in the Philippines is currently helping some 30 mothers prepare to visit theJapanese Embassy in Manila to apply for Japanese nationality for their children in early December.

But she added that mothers need to think carefully before considering applying, because their children are already growing up in the Philippines and such a profound change may affect them in many ways.

“Unfortunately, some mothers blindly believe that obtaining their children’s nationality will automatically secure them a better life in Japan, but having that kind of premise is dangerous,” she said.

Okuda of Chuo University advised that applicants must also be careful to check the regulations in the mothers’ countries, as obtaining Japanese nationality may lead to their children losing their other nationality.


3 comments on “Japan Times update on granting children of mixed J/NJ parentage citizenship

  • its now 2008, why does it take the GOJ so long to treat all people as equals regardless if there japanese father is a loser or not?

  • Douglas Sweetlove says:

    I’m not really sure what the whole preoccupation with the father “acknowledging the pregnancy” means. Or why the timing of before or after birth is significant.

    After all,can’t a simple DNA test determine paternity? Surely this would be the best option in cases like these. Otherwise, it seems like Japanese men have a “Get Out Of Fatherhood Free” card. They can impregnate foreign women at will and avoid their responsibilities simply by denying their involvement.

    How is paternity determined in other countries, where there is no marriage or where there is a question of who the father is?

  • Daily Yomiuri: Wednesday, November 26, 2008. A1.

    “Steps Mulled for Preventing False Paternity”

    ‘The ministry, in response, has decided to draw up a set of new ministry ordinances… Specifically, to recognize the Japanese citizenship of a child born to a foreign woman and a Japanese father, the ministry will require that the applicant has a copy of the family register of the child’s Japanese father, a photo of the child together with his or her parents and related articles attached to the application form.’

    Am I reading this correctly? In order to determine paternity and to prevent a falsification of paternal relations, the applying party will be expected to be able to navigate the Japanese bureucracy in order to produce forms (and proofs) that are going to potentially be exceedingly difficult if not impossible to obtain — especially if application is being made from abroad and/or if the couple were not together as such after time of birth for the sake of photographic evidence?

    The article goes on to state that there are no plans to use any DNA testing as has been proposed by some lawmakers because ‘the task of verifying DNA test results would present difficulties for the ministry’s regional bureaus’.

    I suppose it would make it more difficult for ministry bureaus to reject applications if faced with DNA evidence. And then where would we be?! Overrun with foreign mothers with lawful claims to rights of paternity and little half children running around everywhere taking over everything?! Wouldn’t want that, would we?!

    — Yomiuri takes their articles off line after a few days, so let’s archive the entire text:

    Steps mulled for preventing false paternity
    The Yomiuri Shimbun

    To prevent the fabrication of parental relations in Japanese citizenship applications for children born to foreign women, the Justice Ministry is to tighten up procedures for confirming the paternity of Japanese men involved in such cases, it was learned Tuesday.

    The ministry will revise its ordinances to make the verification procedures stricter and issue instructions about the procedural changes to its regional legal affairs bureau by the end of the year, officials said.

    The planned stiffening of the procedures comes in the wake of a revision to the Nationality Law that will be approved by the Diet during its current session.

    The law revision eases requirements for the acquisition of Japanese nationality by a child born to a foreign woman and a Japanese man by deleting a provision that makes acceptance of the nationality application conditional on the married status of the two.

    Instead, applications will become acceptable if the man admits paternity.

    The government-proposed bill for revising the law passed the House of Representatives on Thursday and is likely to become law Friday with approval from the House of Councillors.

    The revision was deemed necessary following a ruling by the Supreme Court in June, in which the top court decided that a provision of the current Nationality Law making nationality acquisition contingent on a matrimonial relationship between the parents involved violates the Constitution, the ministry officials said.

    In the process of deliberating the revision in the lower house Judicial Affairs Committee, some members raised concerns that the revision could be abused as part of a fraudulent business by means of fabricating parental ties.

    (Nov. 26, 2008)


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