Japanese govt to grant permanent residency to foreign workers with advanced skills

TOKYO (The Japan News/ANN) - The government plans to create a new residency status tentatively called “worker with particular skills” (see below), as part of a new system for accepting more foreign workers, it has been learned.

 As a main pillar of the envisioned system, which the government aims to implement in April next year, the new status will be divided into categories of (1) and (2), and foreigners acknowledged as having high-level skills will effectively be allowed to permanently stay in Japan, according to the new system. 

 The government will submit bills to revise the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Law and the law for establishment of the Justice Ministry to an extraordinary Diet session to be convened this month.

 The government is considering allowing more foreign nationals to work in Japan to address the shortage of workers associated with the nation’s declining birthrate and aging population. The government will present the outline of relevant bills when it holds a meeting of ministers concerned as early as Friday.

 Under the outline, the government will grant a new residency status called “worker with particular skills (1)” for foreigners who are recognized as having “skills that require a certain level of knowledge or experience” in certain specific areas. This status will be provided to people who complete three-year technical intern training programs or pass both Japanese language and technical tests. Holders of this visa will be allowed to stay in Japan for up to five years, but will not be allowed to have family members in the country.

 When technical interns, who can stay for up to five years, obtain this envisioned residency status, they will be able to work in Japan for up to 10 years.

 If foreign workers with this visa pass more difficult tests to be acknowledged as having even higher skills, they will be given a status called “workers with particular skills (2).” There will be no limit to the length of stay for holders of this envisioned status, effectively providing them with permanent residency. Holders of this visa can come to Japan with family members or summon them from their home countries.

 To differentiate the envisioned system from the immigration policies of other countries, these visas must be reviewed and renewed every year, so that the status can be revoked in case of serious incidents.

 Under the new system, foreigners can obtain a status in either category by taking exams without participating in technical intern training programs.

 When it comes to accepting more foreign workers, some have expressed concerns that such an approach may trigger increases in illegal employment or stays. As countermeasures, the government has included in the outline ways to strengthen immigration control and residency management.

 Specifically, the Immigration Bureau, which is currently a part of the Justice Ministry, will be upgraded to an affiliated agency, which would be called an “immigration and residence control agency.” The envisioned organ will strictly deal with companies suspected of putting foreigners in inappropriate working conditions by conducting on-site inspections and other means.

 In addition, the government will reject the acceptance of workers using the envisioned resident status from countries that have many citizens who stay illegally in Japan or abuse the nation’s refugee recognition system.

 To improve the treatment of foreign workers, the outline also stipulates that they should receive livelihood support from their employers or other entities, and have it ensured that their wage levels are at least equal to those of their Japanese counterparts.

 The government is considering applying the new residency status to 14 fields, such as agriculture, nursing care and construction, but the outline will not specify the fields. Instead, the government will leave this issue to discussions between the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and its junior partner Komeito.

■ Worker with particular skills

A new status of residence for foreigners that the government plans to create, with 14 fields being considered for eligibility: agriculture; nursing care; food and beverage manufacturing; construction; shipbuilding and ship machinery; hospitality; food services; fishery; building cleaning; processing raw materials; manufacturing industrial machinery; industries related to electronic and electric devices; automobile maintenance; and aviation.


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