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Backtracking on an earlier decision, the Justice Ministry has decided to extend a short-term visa to a 13-year-old Thai orphan who came to live with her grandmother in Tokyo after losing her parents, officials said Tuesday.

The move paves the way for the girl to obtain longer-term residency status here.

Mevisa Yoshida currently lives with her Thai grandmother, Bauchan, and the grandmother’s Japanese husband in Tokyo’s Arakawa Ward. She attends a local junior high school, having lived in Japan under short-stay status since February 2003.

The girl, whose father was killed in a traffic accident before she was born and whose mother died of illness in 2002, was adopted by her grandparents last year.

Since her arrival in Japan, she has sought to change her short-stay status to that of permanent residency but immigration authorities have turned down the application twice.

The authorities had explained earlier that the girl was too old to be granted permanent residency status automatically as an adopted child.

The Justice Ministry’s internal guideline set in 1990 says the adopted child of a permanent resident in Japan must be younger than 6 at the time of adoption to be eligible for this status.

Her current short-term visa was due to expire Wednesday, leading to deportation procedures.

In a news conference Tuesday morning, Justice Minister Daizo Nozawa said he had ordered immigration authorities to rethink the earlier decision not to renew Yoshida’s current visa.

“In principle, since (the girl) entered Japan on a short-term visa, she needs to once return home (to become eligible to apply for long-term status),” Nozawa said.

“But if she can prepare the necessary documents, we will consider (letting her stay in Japan) as an exceptional case,” the minister said.

The Tokyo Regional Immigration Bureau plans to extend her visa by three months to give the family time to prove she has no relatives in Thailand to support her.

Yoshida’s grandmother plans to visit the bureau Wednesday to renew the girl’s visa.

If it is confirmed that Yoshida has no one to rely on back home and that her adoptive parents have the will and ability to support her, the Justice Ministry will grant her a longer-term visa as the dependent of a permanent resident in Japan, according to a senior Immigration Bureau official.

After hearing the news from the Tokyo Immigration Bureau, Sukehiro Kawasaki, principal of Oguhachiman Junior High School, told Yoshida in her classroom that she does not need to leave Japan.

“I want to say thanks to the people who have supported me. I am very happy now,” Yoshida told reporters later in the day.

Nearly 6,000 people, including local school teachers, parents of her classmates, Arakawa Ward officials and local residents signed their names to a petition handed to the ministry urging that Yoshida be allowed to remain in Japan.

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