Japan might make it easier for “highly skilled professionals” to acquire permanent residency status so it can lure the talent it needs to rejuvenate the stagnant economy.

Under discussion is cutting the minimum requirement for consecutive years of stay to three years from five, Immigration Bureau official Yusuke Takeuchi told The Japan Times on Thursday.

“The government believes accepting foreigners with professional skills will bring benefits because it would lead to a strengthening of the nation’s economy and create employment, so offering more incentives is necessary,” he said. The term “highly skilled” refers to professors, researchers, information technology personnel, and business managers, among others, he said.

In general, foreigners need to have lived legally in Japan for more than 10 consecutive years to apply for permanent residency status. Among the benefits of having permanent residency status are the ability to qualify for a mortgage and the canceling of the visa renewal requirement.

But in May 2012, the government introduced a “point-based system” that would allow highly skilled professionals to shorten the qualification time to just five consecutive years.

The points are awarded based on criteria that include educational background, amount of work experience, salary history and research performance, the ministry said.

Under the system, those who earn 70 points or more would receive preferential treatment for the status. They could also get other perks.

Other perks include permission for a spouse to work, for bringing a parent into Japan as a dependent, under certain conditions and a domestic servant employed by them under certain conditions, among others.

Takeuchi said the points in the evaluation system could also be revised to give even more chances for candidates to get permanent residence status quicker.

“Young researchers could be rewarded more in the category of research performance, rather than salary, in which they might come up short. Or corporate managers could receive more points if they possess an MBA,” he said.

The Justice Ministry, which oversees the bureau, might start implementing some of the revisions by the end of the year, Takeuchi said.

At the moment, there are no restrictions on switching jobs after obtaining permanent residency. But Takeuchi said a restriction may soon be added to limit the types of jobs such people can engage in once everything is revised.

“If they lose their jobs after being granted permanent residency status and they flock to engage in simple labor-based work, it could affect the labor market. That’s raised some concern,” he said.

However, Takeuchi noted the revision will aim to make the system more attractive to foreign professionals, instead of restrictive.

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