Japan Times on Immigration’s fingerprinting of NJ outside of Narita


Here’s another article to show we’re being listened to… Debito


Arriving outside Narita will be worse
By ERIC JOHNSTON Staff writer
The Japan Times November 8, 2007


OSAKA — As annoying as the new fingerprinting procedure will be for non-Japanese going through immigration at Narita International Airport, it is going to be much worse for foreign residents who don’t live in the Tokyo area.

Unlike at Narita International Airport, those passing through regional airports will have to go through the fingerprint registration process every time they re-enter Japan.

This is because only Narita, which handled half of all non-Japanese coming into the country in 2006, will introduce a new automated system that officials hope will speed up the new rules requiring most foreigners to have their fingerprints and photographs taken upon entry.

The Justice Ministry’s Immigration Bureau plans to introduce the automated gate system at Narita on Nov. 20.

Registration for the automated gate system is optional. Those who choose to do so must provide their passport information and have their fingerprints scanned and photographs taken. This has to be done first at select locations in and around Tokyo, including the immigration office at Narita airport.

Once registered, participants will go through the immigration line by having their passport electronically scanned and fingerprints confirmed.

They may still face questioning by immigration officials before being allowed to officially enter Japan. However, officials say people who are registered are likely to get through immigration quicker than those who aren’t.

While all of Japan’s international airports and ports will have the new equipment to take fingerprints and photos, Narita will be the only entry point where people will be able to register with the automatic gate system. There are no plans anytime soon to introduce it elsewhere.

Martin Issott, a Kobe-based British businessman, is calling on the Kansai region’s foreign residents, especially members of the business community, to lodge a protest to the Immigration Bureau over a policy he says is unfair and discriminatory.

“For foreign residents living in the Kansai, indeed, for all those living outside of the immediate Tokyo area, we will have no option but to be fingerprinted and photographed on each and every occasion we enter the country,” Issott said.

Kansai International Airport had little comment on Narita’s system, except to say it has no plan to introduce the automatic system.

Nor does the Immigration Bureau have the ability to preregister resident foreigners, Tokyo-based or not, before the system goes on line Nov. 20.

After Nov. 20, preregistration will be possible in Tokyo.

There are also questions on a separate matter. To date, airports have usually allowed foreigners with alien registration cards and re-entry permits to pass through immigration counters reserved for Japanese nationals.

At the moment, it remains unclear if fingerprinting and photographing machines will be set up at immigration counters reserved for Japanese citizens. During the initial period after Nov. 20, it could be the case that foreign residents will have to stay in the lines for foreign visitors only.

“That policy may change after Nov. 20, but it depends on the airport,” said Takumi Sato, an Immigration Bureau official in Tokyo.

In fact, the Justice Ministry has told the European Business Council in Japan that separate lines at immigration might be established for those foreign residents with re-entry permits who pass through certain regional airports. But the council warns this is merely an oral commitment.

On Oct. 26, the European Business Council and the Australian and New Zealand Chamber of Commerce sent a joint letter to Akira Tamura, director of the Immigration Bureau’s entry and status division, calling for a fingerprinting system that does not adversely affect foreign residents, businesspeople or companies in Japan.

“Foreign residents are currently allowed to line up together with Japanese citizens when re-entering Japan. Suddenly grouping long-term residents and taxpayers in Japan with occasional visitors risks creating excessive delays for frequent business travelers and imposing unacceptable costs on businesses that are heavily reliant on the efficient and rapid mobility of executives,” the letter states.

The letter calls on the ministry to notify regional airports in writing of the need to establish a separate line for foreign residents until the automatic gate system is introduced. As of early this week, the Justice Ministry had not formally responded to the letter, said Jakob Edberg, the European Business Council’s policy director.

According to the Immigration Bureau, about 8.1 million foreigners passed through the immigration centers at 10 airports and eight ports in 2006. About 50 percent arrived via Narita, while about another third entered via Kansai, Chubu, New Chitose and Fukuoka airports.

The remainder arrived at Haneda and smaller, international terminals at airports in Sendai, Naha, Okinawa Prefecture, Hiroshima, and Hakodate, Hokkaido, while a little more than 187,000 people, or 1.1 percent of the total, arrived by ship.

The Japan Times: Thursday, Nov. 8, 2007

9 comments on “Japan Times on Immigration’s fingerprinting of NJ outside of Narita

  • As a permanent resident married to Japanese, I sure hate to see things develop this way. Separate lines for Js and NJs, families divided etc.
    However, I wouldn’t think it’s only Japan doing things this way…
    I visit Europe every year and I see different lines for EU residents and Non-EU nationals, in Germany, Frankfurt, for example. Although there is no fingerprinting and photos taken (as far as I know; in case of Germany…), people are divided in EU and Non-EU groups. If one spouse is German or French etc. and another Turkish or Japanese, wouldn’t that mean the same thing as in Japan – separate lines for Japan passport holders and foreign nationals?

    I wonder if people living in EU complain about the division and sign petitions against the separate lines.
    I guess EU nationals in Japan don’t like being separated from their Japanese family members when entering Japan, but what happens in EU?

    Just for the sake of comparison, is anyone knowledgable about how this really works in EU countries?
    Has anyone of you guys from EU married to non-EU national had to separate from their spouse when entering EU?
    (Both me and my Japanese spouse are non-EU, so we go to the same line.)

  • Dear Netko 様

    Please do not mix up things.
    The original problem is not which line you have to line up
    or family separation for a short period of time but your human rights and other people’s as well! If you do not care about that
    that is OK for you, but not for the others.
    Please consider this!

  • Sure I do.
    I didn’t mean to mix up … did I?
    I just wanted to know about the LINES, that’s all.
    I think that’s also annoying and makes you feel awful.
    At least I feel that way.
    And, as I said in the beginning, “Hate to see things develop this way.”
    I know the original problem, but the other one is stemming from that one.
    How to do it in practice, the logistics – separate lines etc.

    Nevertheless, as many of us hate the separate lines, too
    (I hate to see my husband, our child and me separated – and what if only a parent and a child travel together, are we supposed to go to separate lines if our kokuseki are different!?) I simply wanted to know IF anything was done and how people felt in EU felt about it. Simply that.

    BTW, EU passports allegedely have a chip in which biometric data, fingerprints are stored. So, EU nationals provide that info automatically upon crossing the border. Non-EU nationals do not have to, it seems.

    Please, do not accuse me of mixing things up. I was just talking about lines this time.
    Isn’t that my and my child’s (human) right too to pass the border together…

  • Netko 様

    Please do not worry. I do not accuse you. By the way, I am an EU citizen but because I live in Japan for a long time I do not know
    about the EU too much. Sorry.

  • In Frankfurt, I can assure you, there are humans (i.e. people who can think for themselves, act rational and logical, make timely and correct judgements) at the immigration booths. Up to now I never had any problem for my Japanese wife to stand with me at the EU-member booth.
    Let’s see if the Japanese immigration officials will just follow the iron clad rule (here the good Japanese, there the bad foreigenrs). Anyone wants to bet?

  • Here it seems will be 3 lines…
    As anyone could already read about it…
    One for Japanese nationals, another one for “gaijin” and the third one for re-entry permit holders. It seems finally that I would have to go to a “re-entry permit holding gaijin” place.
    When we go back to Japan, I’ll (try to) keep my Japanese husband with me and see what happens.
    But, for now, even the officials can’t say if, for example “foreign” mothers would be separated from their Japanese children. Unbelievable.
    Unbelievable is even just the fact that there’s no regulation on that and it would be left to immigration officers’ discretion. Simply unbelievable.

  • In the UK, I take my Japanese spouse with me, normally through the EU channel and only rarely have the immigration officers objected. But at KIX Japanese officials do not allow spouses to pass together even through the gaijin line: they insist one at a time. Japan is not a human-friendly country.

  • As an EU citizen living in another EU country with a Japanese spouse: all immigration facilities have EU and non-EU lines. The Schengen countries we’ve passed through together are generally pretty relaxed and pragmatic. The UK has a much stricter separation (and a much stricter border regime); I’ve never tried it, but I get the impression it would be more trouble than it’s worth to try and go through together.

  • In New Zealand and Australia, which of course both have their own racial inequality problems, I can at least still walk through immigration with my Japanese wife and child together.
    I suppose paying income tax, land/property tax, national health, pension, etc etc here is this closed minded arhaic cuntry just makes me the same as that bloke who is here to do drug deals in Namba……just another gaijin, end of story.
    I will be interested to see how they make my daughter and I enter separately. If they try to there’ll be some objection on a major scale I can assure you.


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