A bill made it through the Diet on Wednesday that will enable foreign nationals with advanced skills to stay indefinitely in Japan and simplify passport control procedures for foreign tourists.

The revision to the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Law passed on the strength of support by the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito, as well as some smaller parties.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's administration is hoping an influx of people with special skills will help invigorate the economy. Specialists targeted by the revised law are researchers and engineers in information technology, medicine and other fields, as well as corporate managers and university professors.

Foreign nationals may qualify to stay in the country under a new status for specialists if their academic credentials, professional background, annual income and other factors meet specific criteria and if they remain active in the area of their specialty in Japan for three years. Thereafter, they will be allowed to stay in the country indefinitely.

The spouses of special status holders may work in Japan, and their parents and housekeepers will be allowed to join them.

As part of the government's effort to attract more foreign travelers, the revised law also includes provisions for simplifying passport control procedures.

Short-term repeat visitors who register their fingerprints may use "automated gate" machines at Narita and other major airports to bypass human passport control. Currently, the facility is available for Japanese passport holders and foreign passport holders with re-entry permits.

Passengers on designated cruise boats will also be given access to simplified passport control procedures.