The Justice Ministry said Tuesday it will start requiring foreign nationals of Japanese descent applying for special resident visas to submit a record of any laws they have violated.
The stricter screening takes effect April 29. It follows the November slaying of a 7-year-old girl in Hiroshima Prefecture, for which a Peruvian man who used a fake passport to get the Japanese ancestry visa has been charged. Police were told by Peruvian authorities that the suspect had committed sex crimes against minors in Peru.
Under the new rules, someone applying for long-term resident status as a descendant of a Japanese will have to submit a document issued by the government in the country of origin stating whether the applicant was ever charged with violating the law.
Applicants with criminal records will be refused entry. However, people who have committed minor infractions, including traffic offenses, will not be denied a visa.
Foreigners with long-term resident status generally are entitled to stay in Japan for a period of three years and can apply for extensions.
People of Japanese descent who already have resident status will be required to submit criminal-record certificates upon renewing their visas.
Ministry officials said they already have tightened screening of other documents from visa applicants in a bid to substantiate their claims of Japanese ancestry, as there have been many cases of forgery.
It is easier for descendants of Japanese to get long-term resident status visas than for others. In addition, the special visa allows them to engage in any type of work, including unskilled labor.
Since the usual working visa is issued for a specific job, requiring particular qualifications, the ancestry visa is an easy way to come to Japan to look for work, ministry officials said.
Jose Manuel Torres Yake, who has been charged in the Hiroshima girl’s slaying, got his Japanese ancestry visa under the name of Juan Carlos Pizzaro Yagi. He reportedly bought a forged passport under the false name and fake date of birth for about $4,000.
Over the past five years, crimes committed by foreign nationals with long-term resident status visas have accounted for about 25 percent of all crimes by foreigners. In 2005, 1,946 crimes were committed by holders of long-term resident visas out of 8,508 crimes perpetrated by foreigners.