Japan Times: New Gaijin Cards bill looks set to pass Diet


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Hi Blog. Looks like we lost this one. Arudou Debito in Sapporo

Immigration revision set to be passed
The Japan Times: Friday, June 19, 2009

Compromise paves way for state-issued foreigner cards
By MINORU MATSUTANI, Staff writer, courtesy lots of people.

The ruling and opposition camps have revised a contentious set of immigration bills in a way that increases government scrutiny of both legal and illegal foreign residents while extending additional conveniences, according to a draft obtained Thursday by The Japan Times.

Legislators from the Liberal Democratic Party-New Komeito ruling bloc and the Democratic Party of Japan hammered out the bills to reach a balance on how the estimated 110,000 undocumented foreigners living in Japan should be tracked. Currently, municipalities issue alien registration cards and provide public services to foreigners, even if they know they are overstaying their visas.

The revised bills, expected to be passed Friday by the Lower House, will abolish the Alien Registration Act and revise the immigration control and resident registration laws with sweeping changes that put information on foreign residents completely in the hands of the central government.

“The bills are well made. Foreigners obeying the law will be treated better,” said Hidenori Sakanaka, director general of the Japan Immigration Policy Institute, a private think tank. Sakanaka headed several of the government’s local immigration offices, including the Tokyo bureau.

According to the draft, authority for managing foreign residents will shift from municipalities to the Immigration Bureau, allowing it to consolidate all personal information collected from foreign residents, including type of visa and expiration date.

Documented foreigners will be given more conveniences, including five-year visas and permit-free re-entry as long as they return within a year.

Undocumented foreigners, however, will have to keep in hiding, request special permits to stay, or face deportation.

To prevent illegal residents who have legitimate reasons for staying from being deported, the bills state that the Justice Ministry, which oversees the Immigration Bureau, must clarify and announce the standard for granting such permits so illegal residents will be motivated to turn themselves in.

“We have to make sure overstaying foreigners who are behaving as good citizens as ordinary Japanese will not have to be deported or go underground,” said DPJ lawmaker Ritsuo Hosokawa, who helped draft the bills in the Lower House Justice Committee.

“We need these bills to be enacted. We need to know how many foreigners there are and where they live. So consolidating information into the Justice Ministry is necessary,” Hosokawa said.

The draft also says a new form of identification called a “zairyu” (residence) card will replace the current alien registration cards, and the personal information and code numbers on them will be given to “the justice minister.”

The bills also have a provision to prevent the ministry from using that data improperly, a decision that was made to ward off criticism that “the minister” could abuse the zairyu card number to violate foreigners’ privacy. But no penalty for such abuse was listed.

The practice, dubbed data-matching, was outlawed by the Supreme Court in regard to its use on Japanese citizens.

The provision says “the justice minister” must limit the use of foreign residents’ personal information to the minimum required for managing such residents and that the information must be handled with care to protect the rights of individuals. But no penalties or methods for enforcing such compliance are listed in the bills.

In addition, foreign residents will also be required to be listed on Juki Net, the contentious nationwide resident registry network that lists data on all Japanese residents in each municipality.

On the other hand, the Immigration Bureau will tighten control of foreign residents by stripping away their residential status if they fail to report changes in address, marital status or workplace within three months. No regulations for that exist under current law.

In addition, those who fail to report such changes within 14 days or are found not carrying their zairyu cards could be hit with a ¥200,000 fine, the same regulation as the current law.

To crack down on fake marriages, the bills allow the justice minister to cancel the residential status of foreigners holding spouse visas who have not conducted “normal spousal activities,” such as living together, for six months without legitimate reason. Legitimate reasons include things like domestic violence, Hosokawa said.

The bills also say, however, that foreigners who lose their spouse visas for such reasons should be made eligible to receive other types of visas.

Special permanent residents, who are typically of Korean or Taiwanese descent, will not have to carry special permanent resident cards, but will still need to possess them.

Special permanent resident status is normally given to people who moved to Japan from the Korean Peninsula and Taiwan during Japan’s colonial rule in the early 20th century, and lost their Japanese citizenship due to peace treaties, and their descendants.

The bills also state that the government is to review the new immigration law and make necessary changes within three years after it comes into force. If enacted, the new law take force within three years after it is announced.

Paperwork on foreign residents, including changes of status and renewal of their alien registration cards, are usually handled by their municipalities. If the new law is enforced, they will have to go to the nearest immigration office to handle everything except for changes of address, which will still be handled by their municipalities.

The Japan Times: Friday, June 19, 2009

17 comments on “Japan Times: New Gaijin Cards bill looks set to pass Diet

  • This article makes it sound a clean and peachy…

    Many Japanese couples, often where one or both are teachers, do not even live together. And isn’t it silly how domestic violence is a reason NOT to cancel residential status (assuming the assailant is the NJ)?

    So they are suggesting NJ residents will get longer visas, more easily, and more flexibility with re-entry. It will be interesting to see how it plays out.

  • “The bills are well made. Foreigners obeying the law will be treated better,” said Hidenori Sakanaka …

    It’s interesting that Sakanaka supports this bill. Not to discount all the obvious negatives which you’ve well documented, is it possible it might become easier to get a visa to stay in Japan as a result of this law? Is there a silver lining here perhaps? Just thinking aloud …

  • Unless I am mistaken, the upper house hasn’t even touched this bill yet. Even if the bill gets through the lower house today, it will also have to get through a DPJ-dominated upper house.

    — And then it goes back to the Lower House for a revote, an overruling, and enactment into law.

  • How about PRs? also need to report changes? If I leave (soon hope) to keep my PR will have to come back every year??? It was every 3 at least to get Re-Entry and back home again.

  • I think the negatives of the unjust bill clearly out weight the positives. this bill will just make my daily harder in japan. it will not help me in any way, shape, or form. And i wonder why japanese are allowed to live apart for over 6 months, but not NJ.We have an old saying where I come from if it smells like shit, then its shit. So this bill is just shit.

  • Like the “Borg”, http://blog-imgs-17.fc2.com/m/a/m/mamechoja/bush_borg.jpg
    this law is yet another one that the Collective (a.k.a. the GOJ) has drawn up to the detrement of those who find themselves almost powerless to resist. To be sure, there is a suger coating to all of this, but the devil is in the details as they say.

    I’ve always wondered if the Emperor, his son, or Masakao-sama were to ever shake the bonds of the Kunaicho and speak out IN FAVOR of immigrant rights. What would the reaction of the Collective be? For that matter, what about the “loyal” media, or the general public?

  • What if we just oppose this new thing like the Koreans (and special permit holders) in Japan
    did many years before with the fingerprinting program ? They protested all together en masse,
    refused to be fingerprinted and finally got heard (or so I remember, please correct me if I’m
    Couldn’t we do something on the same line ?
    What IF (of course I’m taking it to the extreme here !!), for example, we all together,
    publicly destroyed our Juki-net/new card (in front of the press)?
    What could happen…
    Would we be deported all together ?
    I just wonder…

    This bill, as some people say, seems not too bad but if you read bewteen the lines I feel not so sure after all…

  • let`s talk says:

    The threat of a spouse visa cancelation can be used by J-spouses as a blackmail to force a foreign spouse to sign unfair divorce papers.Moreover, the period of six months is too shot.Divorces, except consent ones, often take much longer time.

  • I feel that this will help them boot out some illegals.
    But the “real time” tracking is like 1984 George Orwell.

    For example: You married Yuki. Yuki decides to run off with her lover and your kid.
    Moves and registers in another city. You have no idea where she went. Day 91.
    Immigration is at your door to deliver you to the airport.Reason. Not engaging in marital activities.

    It is a double standard to have one litmus test for gaijin and another for Japanese in regards to marital activities.

    How many Japanese couples are legally married but live apart because they can’t stand each other? They may have grown kids but they still on paper “together”.

    What about the local who is comes home only on Sunday to sleep because of “demanding work” .Is gone mostly all the time and forgets the name of his kids.

    — Ah, but they’re not foreigners, you see. Completely different! (/sarcasm)

  • The sense I got from the article is that the “compromise” meant the DPJ would not object to the final bill.

    So that if the LDP and the DPJ pass it in the lower house, it won’t meet a fatal objection in the upper house. (House of Councillors?)

    I think Debito is referring to the fact that right now, even if the House of Councillors rejects the bill, the lower house is so chock-full of LDP elected with Koizumi in Sept. 2005, that the bill will pass anyway.

    I don’t know if it’s customary in Japan to have later technical amendments to a passed bill. But conceivably after this fall’s election (when the DPJ will very likely gain a veto proof control of Japanese government), there would be a chance for modifications. Maybe?

    Anymore, I don’t trust the Japanese [authorities] with power to do the right thing in any event. So all of us getting upset about IC chips sitting in yet one more plastic card might just be a little silly. And if they spin the rules around about how good a visa is, they are never offering the same kind of PR terms that the western trading partners routinely offer.

    So maybe everyone is getting upset at the wrong things.

  • I think the reporting to be a bit onerous. As some people have stated this seems to increase exposure to negative consequences for some – depending on the visa type. Certainly seems to require reporting information not relevant to certain visas. As far as I know, spouses are not required to work. Will this mean that someone on a spouse visa will now have to report changes in employment status? Will this apply to part time work as well? What about PR?

    I liked Jon’s idea about the circuit break. That should become standard for all of these rfid thingys.

    A real marriage should be pretty conclusively obvious no matter the living arrangements.

  • “What if we just oppose this new thing like the Koreans (and special permit holders) in Japan
    did many years before with the fingerprinting program ? They protested all together en masse,
    refused to be fingerprinted and finally got heard (or so I remember, please correct me if I’m

    There are a number of reasons those protests were effective.
    1: Strong organization, led by Chongryon or Mindan.
    2: They are mostly born and raised in Japan, native speakers and natively acculturated
    3: Most of them had special permanent residence, meaning they could not be deported for civil disobedience of these laws

    The fact that special permanent residents are exempt from most, if not all, of the new regulations means that as a community they will have little incentive to join protests against the new law, and the rest of the foreign community in Japan lacks their organization and political connections.

    — Zuboshi. Thanks Roy.

  • Hey Guys,
    Any chance to stop this to pass as I recall DPJ was against it. Any sense to protest on Tusedays? How many of us can come during weekday? I can 🙂 Check out Twitter ID japandontlikeu.
    A lot of links to debito.org
    Roy great idea, but I think it would be hard to organize 2mln foreigners to do so. Many love it here and don`t care. I know such people. For them even chip under the skin would be OK as long as they are allowed to stay

  • Mark in Yayoi says:

    Humor aside, I don’t htink the “marital activities” thing is anything to worry about. As long as you’re legally married, you’re still the Japanese partner’s haiguusha, and a divorce can’t be obtained without both partners’ consent.

    If the spouse dies, it might be another matter, particularly if you don’t work. Could a newly-bereaved housewife raising a small child remain in Japan as a dependent of her Japanese-citizen baby? How about a husband who doesn’t work enough hours for a working visa?

  • Mark in Yayoi says:

    AWK, I really want to go too, but the hours (9 AM-12 noon) are right in the middle of when my overnight-shift self is asleep. There’s no anger quite like sleep-deprived anger (as an aside, I suspect that this, more than anything alcohol-related, was what sent Scott Tucker over to that nightclub where he ran into fateful trouble), so I’m worried about a potential argument with a police officer. I really do want to get to one of the sessions, though, before they pass the law.

  • Debito,

    Now that the bill did pass the lower house, and the Japan Times is saying that passage is assured in the upper house, what do you think the result will be?

    Particularly, there is something about the law coming into effect within three years of passage. Does it mean that changes wouldn’t be effective until June 2012 in any event?

    Like I mentioned above, my own view is that the technicalities of visa law here pale in comparison to the ordinary difficulties NJ face in Japan with labor and contract issues. And I feel this is on purpose by the J-government, although they would never come out and say so directly.

    Just curious what your thoughts are on the effective passage of this.

    — For what it’s worth, I see more policing of NJ with few benefits. Least of all more secure jobs or contracts. This doesn’t even touch labor issues. Except to say they’d better register properly or they lose their visas. The stated benefits aside (proper juuminhyou registry and longer visas), the changes leave even less wriggle room for life changes, and creates more reasons to say no and void visas if any mistakes are made. Somosomo, it’s a policing measure, not an enabling measure. Those are my thoughts.

  • Officially passed the lower house.

    『入管法改正案:衆院を通過 「在留カード」制度盛る』




    毎日新聞 2009年6月19日 22時50分


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