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Japan’s permanent residency rules may be loosened to lure global talent

by

Staff Writer

The requirement time for highly skilled foreign professionals to apply for permanent residency may be shortened under a move being considered by the government to help lure more global talent to Japan.

The current evaluation system, started in April last year, designates some foreign professionals, including entrepreneurs, technical experts and academic researchers, as “highly skilled” workers who are granted some privileges.

One is a fast-tracked application for permanent residency.

The current system allows highly skilled workers to apply for permanent residency after five years of living in Japan — half that of other foreign residents.

The government is now considering lowering this time frame “significantly” to create one of the fastest systems to issue “green cards” to top-level professionals, a Justice Ministry official said Tuesday.

The official said it has not been decided what the new time frame would be.

The Nikkei financial daily reported Tuesday that the term could be shortened to three years, or even one year for people deemed to have exceptional management or technical skills.

The newspaper said the new guideline will be put in place by the end of March.

The Justice Ministry official said the government aims to boost economic growth by actively accepting more highly skilled foreign specialists.

The existing points-based system evaluates foreigners based on criteria such as annual income, academic background and language skills.

Those who receive more than 70 points can stay in Japan under a five-year “designated activities” visa.

For foreign residents in highly skilled professions, this can be extended to working visas for their spouses and the right to bring their parents and housekeepers to Japan.

The five-year requirement for permanent residency for skilled professionals is comparably longer than other developed countries.

For example, the United Kingdom requires at least five years of residency for foreign nationals to become permanent residents, though this shrinks to three years for certain entrepreneurs. South Korea also has a five-year requirement, but it falls to three years for experts with a college degree in cutting-edge technology, and one year for those with a doctoral degree.

As of June, Japan has 2,688 foreign nationals recognized as highly skilled foreign workers, of which 65 percent are Chinese nationals. That constitutes a mere 0.12 percent of the 2.3 million foreign residents in Japan.

Luring more foreign workers is seen as critical, with the graying society contributing to a shrinking workforce.

In a separate move, the Lower House passed an amendment to the immigration law last month to allow foreign caregivers to enter Japan under a new visa status aimed at boosting workers in the notoriously low-paid profession.