The government has decided to launch an online service to allow foreign nationals to apply and update their residency status in Japan from fiscal 2018, one of a series of measures aimed at improving business efficiency to attract more foreign investment.

It will also ease requirements for foreign nationals with highly specialized skills to gain permanent resident status and simplify procedures for foreign businesses to establish companies.

The move comes as the government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe seeks to boost the amount of direct foreign investment in Japan to ¥35 trillion by 2020, a figure roughly twice the 2011 amount.

"Accelerating foreign firms' investment in Japan is a major pillar of the Abe government's growth strategy," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said last week, following his visit to an Apple Inc. research and development center in Yokohama.

Under the new plan, residency status applicants will no longer have to wait at crowded immigration offices to complete documentation, although details such as how to check the applicants' identity online have yet to be decided.

The government will release data on the length of application processing times from fiscal 2017 and consider introducing a system in which applicants can track the status of their case online.

The minimum required residence period before foreign nationals can apply for permanent resident status will be slashed from five years to one for those with highly specialized skills by the end of March.

Establishing a company in Japan will also be made easier by allowing foreign owners to register companies without opening bank accounts within Japan.