New foreigner IDs now bear minister’s signature

by Minoru Matsutani

Staff Writer

Immigration offices nationwide Sunday began issuing “zairyu” residence cards to foreign residents with the electronic signature of the justice minister, a Justice Ministry spokeswoman said Friday.

Due to a computer glitch, eight regional bureaus, six district immigration offices and 63 branch offices have issued about 130,000 residence cards without the signature since July 9, the first day immigration offices gave out the cards.

The ministry, which oversees the Immigration Bureau, fixed the glitch and ran the revised computer system Sunday, spokeswoman Shoko Sasaki said.

The cards without the minister’s electronic signature are still valid and will pose no inconvenience for their holders, she said, although the signature is meant to prevent counterfeiting.

“Cardholders can continue to use their cards without a problem. But those who want the electronic signature on the cards can bring their cards to immigration offices to install the signature on them,” she said.

The Justice Ministry also plans to send a prepaid envelope, addressed to local immigration offices, to the 130,000 holders of residence cards minus the signature. No date has been set for mailing the envelopes.

Those who receive the envelopes will be asked to return their cards to their local immigration office. The offices will then insert the electronic signature onto the cards and send them back to the cardholders.

The card has an embedded IC chip that stores personal information, including the cardholder’s name, address, occupation and visa expiration date, as well as the electronic signature of the justice minister.

IC chip readers installed at banks, hotels and other places may beep or flash a warning signal when reading cards that do not carry the electronic signature, the official said, but she said she has not heard of any cases yet.

Banks, hotels and other places can buy IC chip readers from electronic device makers if they wish, Sasaki said. Specifications of the IC chip embedded in residence cards are public information, she added.

The National Police Agency will place IC chip readers in police stations nationwide by the end of this year, an agency spokeswoman said.

An IC chip reader may or may not confirm that the beeping or other warning signals is because the card lacks an electronic signature, depending on the specification of the IC chip reader, she said.