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In an apparent reflection of Japan’s recession, the number of foreigners who obtained work visas after coming to Japan as students decreased to 2,624 in 1997, a 10.4 percent drop from the year before, the Justice Ministry’s Immigration Bureau said Thursday.

However, the number of foreigners entering Japan with work visas stood at 8,979 last year, an increase of 11.5 percent compared to the year before, the bureau officials said. This indicates that despite the sluggish economy, Japanese firms seeking opportunities abroad are enthusiastic about hiring foreigners with skills and bicultural understanding, according to the bureau.

A total of 2,775 foreign students applied to change their student visas into working visas in 1997, with 94.6 percent approved. Of all foreigners, Chinese comprised the biggest group, at 71 percent, followed by Koreans and Taiwanese, the officials said.

Translating and interpreting were the leading professions among foreign students who changed to working visas, accounting for 30 percent of the total, the officials said.

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