Stricter visa rules eyed for foreigners of Japanese descent

by Akemi Nakamura

The ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s special committee on foreign workers proposed Tuesday that the government set stricter regulations for foreign nationals of Japanese descent when they renew their visas.

Holders of the Japanese ancestry visa can renew the three-year permits almost unconditionally. But under the new proposals, foreigners with Japanese blood would have to have regular jobs, speak Japanese and prove they are paying into social security.

The committee also urged the government to provide more chances for the children of foreigners to learn Japanese in public schools.

“Our proposals are aimed at addressing problems regarding foreign workers that have surfaced,” including the education of foreign children, said Yoshio Kimura, the Lower House lawmaker heading the panel. “It’s important to take measures to better integrate foreigners into society.”

There are about 230,000 foreigners of Japanese descent in Japan, but many of them do not have social insurance and their children sometimes drop out of school because of the language barrier.

Language ability, school attendance and proof of social security should all be checked when Japanese ancestry visas are renewed, the panel said.

To increase foreign participation in social security, the pension system should be reviewed to ensure all premiums paid into the system are refunded when foreigners return to their home countries. At this time, only part of the premiums are refunded.

Compulsory education for foreign children should also be considered, with their mother tongues taught in public schools so the children will have fewer problems after returning to their countries.

Although elementary and secondary education is mandatory for Japanese children, it is not required for foreigners.

As for foreign job trainees, the panel called for extending their period of stay from the present three years to five.

According to the proposal, foreign trainees in the government-backed industrial job training program can re-enter Japan after finishing the three-year program and receive training for another two years, if their employers want to keep them on.

To acquire more skilled workers from various industries, the government should consider creating a new system, the panel said.

Japan grants work visas to foreigners for 27 kinds of specific jobs that require particular qualifications. Only foreign nationals of Japanese descent are permitted to take unskilled jobs.