Shorter stay eyed to qualify as resident

by Masaaki Kameda

Staff Writer

Japan might make it easier for “highly skilled professionals” to acquire permanent residency status so it can lure the talent it needs to rejuvenate the stagnant economy.

Under discussion is cutting the minimum requirement for consecutive years of stay to three years from five, Immigration Bureau official Yusuke Takeuchi told The Japan Times on Thursday.

“The government believes accepting foreigners with professional skills will bring benefits because it would lead to a strengthening of the nation’s economy and create employment, so offering more incentives is necessary,” he said. The term “highly skilled” refers to professors, researchers, information technology personnel, and business managers, among others, he said.

In general, foreigners need to have lived legally in Japan for more than 10 consecutive years to apply for permanent residency status. Among the benefits of having permanent residency status are the ability to qualify for a mortgage and the canceling of the visa renewal requirement.

But in May 2012, the government introduced a “point-based system” that would allow highly skilled professionals to shorten the qualification time to just five consecutive years.

The points are awarded based on criteria that include educational background, amount of work experience, salary history and research performance, the ministry said.

Under the system, those who earn 70 points or more would receive preferential treatment for the status. They could also get other perks.

Other perks include permission for a spouse to work, for bringing a parent into Japan as a dependent, under certain conditions and a domestic servant employed by them under certain conditions, among others.

Takeuchi said the points in the evaluation system could also be revised to give even more chances for candidates to get permanent residence status quicker.

“Young researchers could be rewarded more in the category of research performance, rather than salary, in which they might come up short. Or corporate managers could receive more points if they possess an MBA,” he said.

The Justice Ministry, which oversees the bureau, might start implementing some of the revisions by the end of the year, Takeuchi said.

At the moment, there are no restrictions on switching jobs after obtaining permanent residency. But Takeuchi said a restriction may soon be added to limit the types of jobs such people can engage in once everything is revised.

“If they lose their jobs after being granted permanent residency status and they flock to engage in simple labor-based work, it could affect the labor market. That’s raised some concern,” he said.

However, Takeuchi noted the revision will aim to make the system more attractive to foreign professionals, instead of restrictive.

  • http://getironic.blogspot.com/ getironic

    Revising the “system of entrance” doesn’t make anything more attractive, because they’d be entering into another, even more restrictive economic system — which is this country’s real problem. For example, economically speaking, why would anyone “highly skilled” want to choose Japan over Singapore?

    When you take the cage off from around a bottomless pit, don’t be surprised when no one jumps in.

    • Steve Novosel

      I presume you have never lived in Singapore or the answer to that would be obvious. Singapore has many of Japan’s issues but throws in super high rents, ridiculous taxes to buy a car, no political freedom whatsoever, and has basically nothing to do but shop or gamble.

      But I suppose the income taxes are low.

  • goalseek

    Japan is ignoring an major impediment. The proposed policy targets skilled professionals who are likely to have a choice of where they would prefer to live and work. Many countries offer similar visa programs, but Japan has a much higher personal income tax rate than others. Why choose to immigrate to Japan and pay 50% personal income tax versus going to Singapore where the tax rate is 17%?

  • Ron NJ

    Further proof that the Japanese bureaucrats are completely out of touch with the world. “Come help revive our tanked economy that has few, if any, prospects of improving the medium- to long-term! You can even bring your domestic servants!” This isn’t the 19th century, for pete’s sake, and anyone with a clue will head somewhere like China or South Korea (or even one of the many African states!) with an economy that isn’t on a one-way ticket to Implosion City and becoming an irrelevant economic backwater by 2050.

  • Nicolas Soergel

    Shortening the period of more than 6 months (officially 1 year) between application and receipt of permanent residentship might also be helpful to make it more attractive.

    • TT

      Heard that application period has been speed up to around 4 months from unofficial sources.

  • Antoine B.

    I do not agree with several of the negative comments here. Why compare Japan and Singapore? one is a 3-million people small city-island and the other is a 128-billion country…

    Of course, Singapore looks attractive to typical expatriates wanting to save on taxes, but it is also a much smaller market for long-term career. And when the economy will slow down in Singapore, it will be much more impacting for the foreigners there that it would (has been) in Japan.

    Anyway, reducing income taxes to attract foreigners would be a very short-sighted approach. And what you save on taxes, you pay it somewhere else (anybody wants to talk about car registration or real-estate in Singapore? no?)

    Another point to consider: once you get the PR in Singapore, your children will have to make their military service (2 years) in Singapore if they intend to live there someday… wow

    One comment I definitely agree with though: reducing the process length and clarifying the rules for approval would definitely be a great improvement.

    • http://getironic.blogspot.com/ getironic

      Singapore is only one example. One could move to India or Brazil, there are better places for people who want their value to be more fully recognized in emerging markets.

      As for the specifics:

      “…one is a 3-million people small city-island and the other is a 128-billion country…”.

      That is another reason to want to go there, and not be in Japan. Less dead weight that you get shackled in to pay for.

      “…reducing income taxes to attract foreigners would be a very short-sighted approach…”

      Why reduce income tax? The taxation is not the primary issue, it is the existence of social programs that require that taxation to support them.

      “…once you get the PR in Singapore, your children will have to make their military service (2 years) in Singapore if they intend to live there someday…”.

      Nope. Only those unlucky enough to be born male do. People who are intelligent enough to qualify as a “highly skilled professional” are smart enough to realize that children are an unwise investment in this atrocious global economy. Although, I suppose some pragmatists believe that they will never get that pension they are forced to pay into, so if they have a few kids, the kids will become their future pension in stead.

      • Antoine B.

        wow… “children are an unwise investment”… that phrase only shows how off-track you are.
        And be my guest: go live in India or Brazil and tell me about how wonderfully better the life is compared to Japan. Of course, if you are a wealthy person and not part of the 99% of the local population, you can always afford to create your life-style anywhere.
        At least in Japan, the large majority of the population has access to a very good average level of service.

        But to build this, it requires a minimum of solidarity.

  • http://getironic.blogspot.com/ getironic

    If Japan doesn’t want to reform its socialist conglomerate ways, there is something else it can do: start selectively allowing dual citizenship from particular countries.

    Oh good heavens, what chaos might occur if someone were to have a South Korean AND a Japanese passport! Madness!

    • Steve Novosel

      Why should Japan or any country allow people to naturalize and retain their old passport? It boggles my mind.

      Make a decision, folks. If you want to become Japanese, become Japanese. If not, don’t.

  • myfree

    3 yrs is long + processing time (for e.g Canada gives PR in a year, Australia has it fast too etc.) and highly skilled workers have many options. They might have to consider leaving their existing environment and try to settle in a new place that doesn’t give them the assurance required. Keeping taxes/cost-of-living aside (when salary negotiations happen those will be taken into account anyways), it should be possible to even enter the country on PR status for such people who have to potentially leave their existing PRs/GreenCards that they earned painfully in other countries – my two cents