Mainichi: Foreign researchers, tech experts may get preferential immigration treatment


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Hi Blog. Next people on the assembly line for the revolving door of NJ employment in Japan? Oh wait, they’re baiting the hook with PR. Kind of. Arudou Debito in Sapporo


Foreign researchers, tech experts may get preferential immigration treatment

(Mainichi Japan) May 15, 2009

Courtesy of Jeff K

A government committee has released a draft report recommending that a skill- and experience-based point system be established to ease acquisition of residency and permanent residency for foreign researchers and technical experts.

The high-grade worker acceptance promotion committee report calls for points to be awarded to Japan-bound candidates for experience and good academic and research records in potential high-growth fields such as information communications, energy and biotechnology, as well as for Japanese language ability.

Should a candidate receive a set number of points, he or she would qualify for Japanese residency, benefit from simplified residency status renewal procedures, receive extended periods of stay, and be given preferential treatment when applying for permanent residency.



毎日新聞 2009年5月15日 東京朝刊




14 comments on “Mainichi: Foreign researchers, tech experts may get preferential immigration treatment

  • More concrete synopsis from Nikkei says that the standard 3-year permit would be extended to 5 years, with the option for PR after 5 years. Which makes sense, considering that one could naturalize at that point.

    専門知識・技術持つ外国人材受け入れ拡大策を了承 有識者会議


     外国人の能力を数値化する「ポイント制」で、高い能力を持つ外国人を優遇する制度の新設が柱。原則3年の在留資格の5年への延長や、原則10年の永住権取得に必要な期間を5年に短縮するなどの優遇措置で、有能な人材の受け入れ拡大につなげる。(14日 22:01)

  • I can certainly agree with the desire of having Japanese ability. When in Rome… The research / technology skills, while potentially beneficial to employment, really seems outside the business of immigrations. However, any preferential treatment in such a strict and unforgiving system may be better than none.

    Reminds me of the UK point system. One of my Japanese friends is studying abroad and told me that student visas (maybe others as well) were allocated on a point system depending on various criteria.

  • New programs and additional regulations are all very well and good. I would suggest that such a purpose might be better served by providing a bit more employment protection for the workers they already have, foreign or native, instead of offering them temporary contracts with no security and dismissing them like yesterday’s trash when it seems fashionable. They would be well served by just observing the spirit of the regulations they already have, or better yet, enforcing them. Making new programs and regulations will do little real good if the present ones are not used. I certainly would have preferred to stay and be of as much use as I could be.

    I was employed by a very famous and reputable research facility here for thirteen years. I worked on a number of high profile projects over the years. They were referenced by the press on numerous occasions. I had no disciplinary record of any kind, and many friends at the facility. I was summarily non-renewed one day when a funding term for a project ended. I was offered no severance, no transfer to another section, no salary negotiation, no advice of any kind, and only the briefest statement. I had three months notice, which is better than many people get nowadays. I later learned when I filed for unemployment insurance that they hadn’t even bothered to register me for coverage for the first six or seven years, which cost me thirty days benefits. Since I’m fifty-three years old now (I started there before I was forty), I’m likely to need that coverage. Finding a job in Japan is problematic at best when you’re over forty. I have lost my medical coverage, and must now replace it. I will not be able to retire from the company now. We also have to get a US immigrant visa for my wife with whom I’ve been for twelve years, so I won’t have to leave her behind when I leave as it seems I must. Getting that visa will now take up to six months and a very rigorous set of background, financial, and physical examinations, to say nothing of the cost. After that we have to tear down a long life here, abandon our home and friends, leave much of our possessions behind, and start all over again in a place as strange to us as Japan was when I came here, and that’s just the beginning.

    Please pardon me for my ranting. It’s a topic a bit too close to my heart at the moment, but I realize I am not the only one affected.

  • J. Hart, Sorry to hear of your story, but thanks for sharing it. Stories like yours help to remind me that I don’t really belong here, and am only a temporary visitor (8 years and counting). I also have contract position at a national facility (JAMSTEC) in high-profile international research, one interesting point is that they apply the same contract system to all staff, J and NJ alike. However I only know of three non-renewed staff, who just “happened” to be NJ, and there were no financial excuses, just the boss wanted rid of them.

    Visas are already pretty straightforward for anyone with a job and qualifications in technical/research areas. My understanding is that PR should also be pretty easy to get for anyone actually engaged in research, as the guidelines for the “contribution to Japan” (which only requires 5 years residency, ie undercutting the normal 10 year min residency) are quite light. So I don’t really see this proposal as very meaningful. I agree that employment protection (and maybe dual citizenship) are more pressing matters.

  • Friends, May I raise a very basic point here ! What is the fuss about PR and points and all alike when (like J Hart said) the society in itself (To be precise, Employers) have fixed mindset not to consider anyone above 35-40 years of age for ANY DAMN job ? The ultimate result for any NJ would be that NJs have to return to respective home countries and jobless J will start working for a PT job or drive cabs or face the worst of rest of their lives. I have a Japanese friend who is now 52 years and we had a long friendship when I was in Japan. He enjoyed his work as a Senior Director for an IBM affiliate vendor company, which fired him one day 3 years ago. Since them, he understood why we NJs blamed Employment systems in Japan as despite his early cockiness and pride in Japanese security / social benefits, its the fact that he is being shown door by every prospective employer. Even his wife has threatened to leave him. Its a real life horror story. My point is, its for the NJ community to decide that though Japan has greener pastures (when one is young enough / fit enough to work), one must safeguard his/her own needs as the Employment world out there is horribly capitalistic and no one will be spared, once age catches up with you. I returned home too and I know that only few years contracts work best for people who are above a certain age and who are professionals in their respective fields. Dont wait to gather points and PR and all…! First find out, if there are jobs for you after 40 or not…! Disagree with me ? No issues, just check out any wanted ADs in Japan…!

  • anonymous says:

    I am currently a researcher in formation, that was previously in Japan. I am relatively young, and when I see the comments from my more senior peers I can wonder, how Japan pretends to attract the kind of highly skilled people, when even them will be treated as outsiders and with a different set of rules. I projected myself into the future and saw things like the ones Mr. Hart and Mr. Annan comment, and many others in their daily work and life, that probabably they did not comment, and I made the decision to leave. As time goes by, I notice it was the right thing. Japan has not learned yet, from the US, how treating foreigners as equals (at least in Academia) can really enrich the country. Some examples are the countless Nobel prize winners for the US that are there, and also many of the scientists in the Manhattan project (which were European immigrants). This is a small glimmer of hope, but there is still way lots of changes to be done. Ganbatte Nihon!

    — Ganbatte researcher!

  • I appreciate J. Hart’s sentiments, and am concerned that America offers its military protection so willingly to a society that seems to have an extraordinarily difficult time with any group of people who aren’t Japanese, even though Japan does a vigorous trade with the rest of the world.

    Mr. Hart’s story is repeated hundreds of times throughout the years here. It basically goes to denying “sei sha’in” status to anyone who isn’t a Japanese. As a so-called contract employee, Mr. Hart and thousands of other NJ workers are basically thrown into an alternative system of labor la, codified as Labor Contract Law. And although this law purports to give consideration to individuals who have had labor contracts consistently renewed (Article 17-2), in reality, the rule is a dead letter. It’s unenforced. Or it depends on who the worker or who the employer is. Which means, it isn’t law.

    Once the gaikokujin worker is gone, the Japanese regime believes they and their concerns will vanish. After all, look at how well the atrocities of World War II are whitewashed.

    But it seems to me as the numbers of victims pile up, the internet and its communication links endure, and the Chinese become more and more willing to support and fund people who will discuss the negative aspects of the U.S.-Japanese relationship, these curious employment practices will someday end.

  • Facing the same problem here, I really can’t see myself joining any Japanese research lab without be given full time status and contract just like a native. Any other job offer without such status should be refused, even if you’re desperate for the job.

    But even IF we can get a proper full-time contract, well, we still can’t really expect to have the same labor protections as a native Japanese, can we? I will plan accordingly, both financially and in other ways. There ARE ways for individuals to gain leverage against their employers….

    Heck, even having the same contract as a Japanese doesn’t really count for much in the science world, just ask Professor Shuji Nakamura (the guy who invented the blue LED and left the country when he got screwed by his employer) or 2008 Nobel laureate Yoichiro Nambu about the reason many of Japan’s most-gifted choose to stay out of the country.

    — Yes, NJ can expect to have exactly the same labor protections as native Japanese. NJ are workers, as defined under the labor laws, like any other, regardess of nationality. And in the academic world, NO contract means job security. Even “Slave Nakamura” won in court for being exploited, to the tune of 20 billion yen.

  • Just to put the positive side of things, my salary is significantly higher than it was (or ever will be, I imagine) in the UK, my standard of living is higher, I have much less pressure (not reading and writing much Japanese gets me out of all sorts of bureaucratic nonsense). Effectively I get to do what I want, within reason, with ample resources. Compared to what scientists around the world have to struggle through, it’s a pretty cushy deal.

    The downside is that yes, I am “honoured guest” and expect to be sacked unceremoniously at some random future date. But in 8 years in the UK (in various labs), I endured 3 sets of redundancy procedures, which (although not personally at risk) was a depressing and unhappy experience for the labs as a whole. There isn’t such a thing as a “permanent” job anywhere these days, and our 5 year contracts (technically annual, but basically renewed for 5 years) aren’t so bad compared to the perpetual state of underfunding, contraction and long-term insecurity that was my previous experience.

    — But how about dem pensions?

  • Regarding pensions:

    The pension debacle takes a big chunk out of the headline salary uplift, but still does not overwhelm it. Total pension contributions for comparable UK employment are typically in the range of 20-25% of salary (mostly from the employer), I’m saving more than that easily enough so in financial terms should be ok. I would certainly advise scientists coming here do so with an escape route firmly in place for after about 2-3 years, and make sure they don’t accidentally get trapped in a dead end (and later unceremoniously dumped). It’s certainly important to go into things with your eyes open and I’ve found your webpages very helpful in that regard. I may still live to regret my choices but it’s not like the situation in the UK is great for (most) scientists either, I have occasionally looked at job opportunities there but it’s very rare to find anything I’d willingly swap my current situation for!

    — Right, an escape route that will rob you of your pensions after more than three years’ employment here in Japan. Not quite the same situation if you worked in the UK pension system, no?

  • Getting to the crux of it, it is this whole idea of “guest”. It is a term that is thrown at NJ like a knife. Both indirectly and/or systematically by the ruling regime and key portions of Japanese society. And also by a number of NJ who have situated themselves into more secure lives in Japan. (Secure for a number of reasons, but usually PR or marriage is key.)

    In most developed nations, the idea that people can be in a country for years upon years and still be a “guest” is sort of silly. Yet here, there are families who live for generations and are considered “guests”. The U.S. military are “guests”. The English education workforce, no matter how long in Japan: “guests”. Then you have the actual tourist guests.

    And like how hotels provide different level of service, I guess the “stay” of the “guest” depends on what kind of travel package they get. And to use related vocabulary, if they are happy with the accommodations.

    but for those of us who look at ourselves as residents, and not “guests”, this whole structure of thinking is an irritant that gets in the way of daily life. It also becomes a handy excuse for any Japanese who do not want to live up to their ends of bargains. And this goes on all the time.

    For the one poster, I don’t know what makes it easy for your residing here to be seen or treated like a “guest”, but I would suggest if you have cut a nice deal for yourself, then you did it certainly not to put yourself in the position to berate anyone who objects to this idea of the multi-year (multi-decade!) “guest”. It sounds more like the rewards of effort or maybe life’s luck, or a mix of both, has made him an “honored guest”.

    The poster is correct that nothing is certain, especially jobs, in so many parts of the world. It’s rather that two sets of rules are created, and exploited, by the Japanese power structure. “Guest” is yet one more concept employed to treat people unfairly when need be.

  • My story is so relevant here. I am a physician from a developing country, came to Japan in 2000 (I was 30 years old) for a PhD and soon got married with a Japanese and now we have 2 bilingual bi-national kids. Over the years, I really loved this country, eventually got PR and wished to live here forever. After I finished my PhD with several publications in 2006, I could easily move to other university as a post doctor and my Japanese supervisor in my new lab soon identified my qualifications and wished that I would stay as long as possible. From very early time of my job there with him, thanks to all the knowledge I gained through reading in Debito’s blog, I told him either you give me a permanent position or I may leave at any moment if I found a better offer inside or outside Japan. I know that he tried with sincerity and he applied for some positions and projects in which he tried to include me as an associate principle investigator or even as an assistant professor but the university never gave him/me what he requested and I remained as a post-doctor. This year I decided to give up on Japan. It is a so sad decision but I have no doubt that it is the correct one, for my scientific future, career and may be for my wife and children. Since last year, I applied for jobs in Australia, Europe and US and luckily I was welcomed every where. Sad to say that all of these places appreciated the experience and knowledge that I have built up in Japan while the Japanese system did not! Although none of these job offers are permanent in the first place but from the first day all of them promised me with chances of stability within few years. I decided to take one offer from UCLA and I am leaving at the end of this month. I am really sad to leave this country that I really loved as my second country and I would not mind to take its nationality if it would not request me to drop my first one. But, after reading what J. Hart wrote, I only say: thanks God, I made the right decision just on time. I am still 38, I can be a post doctor in UCLA for more few years before trying to find my permanent or near permanent position somewhere, my children are still young enough to start with English and I left this Japanese university before they ask me to leave in such a degrading and humiliating way.
    J. Hart: my heart is really with you.
    Where I came from we used to say: “eat them in lunch before they eat you in dinner”. I am still in my lunch time so I will go to eat and I encourage everyone here, if you could pressure your employer for a permanent position, please do. Either you get one or prepare for your lunch before dinner time comes.
    Saynora Japan.

  • A few days ago I was on national TV here in Sweden being interviewed as a “New Swede” – now with multiple Swedish/EU and US citizenships. I spoke of feeling a new sense of empowerment & being a stakeholder. Plus with the EU’s equal treatment, I can now freely live, work or retire in 30 more countries. This is a strong contrast to Japanese & Korean tribal systems that frantically maintain exclusive barriers against other peoples – keeping foreigners in ‘temp’ positions, as ‘guests’ for as long as we stay (naturalized people no doubt face the attitude too). I share many of Ahmed’s feelings in relation to Japan, where I spent 12+ years. I may live in Japan again, but have learned not to hold my breath waiting for promised changes. Take a look at The Japan Punch, a Meiji-period English-language newspaper published in Yokohama (it’s at the Japan Foundation library in Tokyo). Many articles speak of how Japan is changing, and becoming more accepting of foreigners, though slowly… The perspective and arguments are the same in this week’s Japan Times: 140 years later.

    In Japan, is the prize worth the effort? Enjoy & share what you can, but regardless of good intent by some Japanese individuals, the systems stubbornly resist multi-ethnicism. Best wishes Ahmed! Thrive!

  • yurikamome says:

    decided to give my 2 cents to this forum.
    As a European I came to japan for my Master’s and PhD and then I stayed here for a period of time,some 4 more years, conducting research in the Tokyo bay area. The moment I entered that research facility I knew what was in the box for me.
    Ironically, while living and thinking about settling in japan, I got the canadian citizenship through my ancestors, and this was another sign that I had to leave for north america, which I did after a full period of 10 years in japan.
    a year before I left (though I decided to leave on the back of my head, way before that) I applied for my PR status, and though it took almost one year (being a researcher and working for a governmental research facility I thought it would have been faster), I got approved 3 days before leaving. Honestly didnt want to spend more time in japan even though after having the PR I was entitled to.
    decided to keep the PR (and therefore visit once in 3-4 years) for pension effects and the commodity, of not being harassed by cops and immigration, while minding my business in roppongi or elsewhere. because I see no other use for it.
    Trying to compare the US PR and J PR, there is barely any ground where one can even suggest doing it.

    The japanese FAKE respect for the elite of people that visit that country is really researchers make no exception on the way the J treat NJ, and make no mistake about it.
    I kid japanese with love here in THE STATES where I am living now, I hope I am not piling on. Either way dont really expect a lot when working as a researcher in japan.
    even if they sincerely want to make an effort for promoting you, the environment will render it useless, as to obeying unwritten rules, no NJ for longer than 1-2 decades around us.
    my piece of advice, enjoy while it lasts. be proud of being a NJ, and remind them from time to time that world is big and beautiful and nobody wants to “occupy” their tiny island.

    I was wondering if smb can advice me what I have to do paperwise, in order I keep those 4 years of contribution for my pension while not losing the PR status, though I am working now in the USA, which most likely will be home for me.can I transfer those 4 years in a US or canadian or EU pension plan (as most of these countries have treaties with Japan)?

    Greetings from NYC.


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