Japan govt to ease visa criteria for highly skilled foreigners

PHOTO: Japan govt to ease visa criteria for highly skilled foreigners

The Justice Ministry has decided to ease criteria for a points-based preferential immigration system as some conditions are too strict and have failed to attract many foreign residents since its introduction in May last year.

The points system was introduced to encourage foreigners with high levels of skill and talent who work in Japan to stay for a long period of time.

Under the system, foreign residents are given points in accordance with skills, and those with high points can receive preferential immigration treatment.

The introduction of the system was partly urged by the nation's business community to help Japan compete with other Asian nations in obtaining competent human resources.

However, the system has not been widely used with some foreign residents saying, "The criteria are far too strict."

The ministry will revise the system next month and put the revised system into effect from December.

The current points system applies to foreigners working in three professions in Japan-academic researchers, engineers and corporate managers. Basic points are given based on their annual income, academic career and employment history, among other factors. Those who obtain at least 70 points are recognised as "highly skilled professionals."

However, only 17 people have used the system in the first 11 months between May last year and early April. Some foreign residents criticised the system, saying, "The annual income criterion is too strict, making it difficult for us to use the system."

Taking this into consideration, the ministry will review the criteria used to classify "highly skilled professionals."

First, the ministry will remove the minimum level of annual income required for academic researchers, which is currently set at between ¥3.4 million and ¥6 million depending on age.

The ministry will also change the income calculation method by including income paid by overseas parent companies, in addition to research institutions and companies in Japan.

Other revisions include raising the evaluation points of Japanese language skills from 10 points to 15 points, while those who have professional degrees, such as an MBA, will be given an additional five points.

The ministry will also widen the range of applicants eligible to apply under the system to include those who plan to stay in Japan for less than a year.

For those who have been recognised as "highly skilled professionals," the ministry will lower the level of annual income required to bring their parents to Japan from their home country from ¥10 million to ¥8 million.

Parents of foreign residents in Japan will be permitted to stay to care for children aged up to 7, instead of the current up to age 3. Parents of foreign residents will also be permitted to stay for the purpose of assisting with the care of an adopted child.

The ministry will consider establishing a new resident status, which can be applied after three years of stay on condition that applicants work in Japan as highly skilled professionals.

Currently, applicants are required to reside in Japan for five consecutive years to be eligible to apply for permanent residency.

The ministry hopes to submit a bill to the Diet to revise the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Law as early as the ordinary Diet session next year.