Visas for medical stays set to double

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The Justice Ministry said Friday it will allow foreigners who come to Japan for medical treatment to stay up to six months, double the current maximum, to meet growing demand for quality services here.

The change will take effect in January.

The Foreign Ministry will create a new visa category — the medical stay visa — valid for six months. Foreigners who want to receive medical services currently need tourist visas, which are valid for three months.

“We need to drastically lower the barrier on country borders in medicine,” Chief Cabinet Secretary and Justice Minister Yoshito Sengoku said.

The move follows the Cabinet’s adoption in June of a new growth strategy that includes creating a medical visa as a way to stimulate the economy.

According to the Justice Ministry, it will give “special activity” residential status to those seeking hospital care in Japan and their attendants starting Jan. 1.

It now gives such people “short stay” residential status, which allows foreigners to stay in the country 90 days, the ministry said in a news release.

Relatives who live in Japan or hospital officials can apply for the appropriate residential status on behalf of non-Japanese who want to undergo medical treatment, the ministry said.

“Criteria for (foreign) people working in the medical field, caregivers for the elderly and trainers for those people are too strict in Japan,” Sengoku said in reference to Japan accepting foreign nurses as well as soliciting patients for Japanese hospitals. “There are too many barriers that block medical exchanges.”