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Justice Minister Shozaburo Nakamura on Thursday announced a set of changes to immigration policies, including extending the period for re-entry permits and eliminating a visa requirement for short-term visitors from Australia.Nakamura told a news conference that the changes are part of the nation’s administrative streamlining.Foreigners in Japan must apply for a re-entry permit at the immigration bureau before departing Japan if they intend to return while their visas are valid.The Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Law stipulates that all non-Japanese — except for “special” permanent residents — are allowed to re-enter Japan within a year from the day the permit is issued. However, many foreigners have been confused about the one-year rule, believing they can return after a year as long as their visas remain valid, Nakamura said.The ministry will extend the re-entry period but the length is still being discussed, according to ministry officials. Some 82,000 nonspecial permanent residents and about 857,000 nonpermanent residents will be affected, they said.The decision will not affect some 543,000 people who have special permanent residency — mostly Koreans who came to Japan during Japan’s colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula from 1910 to 1945. The San Francisco treaty in 1952 deprived the Korean residents and their descendants of Japanese nationality.An immigration law revision in 1991 extended special permanent residents’ re-entry permits to four years, with a possible one-year extension abroad. Nakamura said he has instructed ministry officials to draw up a bill to revise the law to submit to the next Diet session that opens in January.Nakamura also announced he has agreed with Foreign Minister Masahiko Komura to eliminate a visa requirement for Australian short-term visitors.The move was a response to the large number of visitors from Australia who have tried to enter Japan without visas. “Japanese can go to Australia virtually with no visa if their stay there is within three months,” Nakamura said. “There is no reciprocity (under the current system).”

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