A record 385 foreign people were stripped of their resident status in 2017 as suspicious cases involving students surged, the Justice Ministry said Friday.
The figure is 31.0 percent higher than a year earlier and the highest since 2005, when comparable data became available.
With cases linked to student status doubling from a year earlier and accounting for 44.7 percent of the total, a ministry official said the overall rise in foreign students in Japan may have pushed up the figure.
As of May last year, the number of foreign students in Japan stood at a record 267,042, up 27,755 from a year earlier, according to the Japan Student Services Organization.
In some cases, students were found to have remained in Japan after being expelled from schools.
By type of status revoked, the top three were “student” at 44.7 percent; “spouse or child of Japanese national” at 17.4 percent, including those who received that status through bogus marriages; and “engineer/specialist in humanities/international services” — a working visa status — at 17.1 percent.
Vietnamese accounted for the largest portion of those stripped of residency status at 46.5 percent, followed by Chinese at 21.8 percent and Filipinos at 7.8 percent. Some were found to have obtained the status by listing the names of companies that had no plans to hire them in their visa applications.
The ministry also revoked residency from individuals who used a status obtained under the government-sponsored technical training program to work at other companies after disappearing from their originally assigned workplaces.
If document falsification and other circumstances deemed doubtful arise, the justice minister or the heads of regional immigration bureaus must decide whether to revoke resident status after hearing from the individual concerned.
If their residency is stripped, foreign nationals face deportation and can be detained at immigration facilities.
In the meantime, 26 people have been arrested by Tokyo’s Metropolitan Police Department and the Fukushima Prefectural Police over alleged fake marriages involving Japanese men, which granted residential status to Filipino women, investigative sources said Friday.
Among those arrested were two marriage brokers in Tokyo’s Katsushika Ward — Emma Red Hiratsuka, a 50-year-old Filipino restaurant employee, and Hiroyuki Hoshino, a 54-year-old company executive.
An international sham marriage syndicate may be behind the case, the sources said. The 26 were arrested for their alleged involvement in submitting false marriage papers for 10 couples to the Sumida Ward Office in Tokyo and elsewhere between 2013 and 2017.
The Japanese men who entered the sham marriages are believed to have cooperated in return for being paid ¥50,000 per month.
The Filipino women were working at places including a restaurant, which Hiratsuka has effectively been running, the sources said. Hoshino was married, but his own marriage also proved to be fake, the MPD said.
Amid a labor crunch, the government is aiming to lure more foreign workers and students to Japan while stepping up a crackdown on those staying in the country illegally.
The central government is set to open the door to blue-collar laborers from abroad in April and upgrade the Immigration Bureau to an agency to respond to the anticipated surge.
The justice and labor ministries are expected to share information on the employment of foreign nationals so they can swiftly identify those whose activities are incompatible with their status. Police and local immigration branches will also collaborate to strengthen their clampdown on those in the country illegally.
As of October 2017, Japan’s foreign population had doubled from 680,000 in 2012 to a record 1.28 million, according to statistics compiled by the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry.
In 2015, a record 15,657 foreign students secured jobs in Japan right after graduating from schools in the country, according to the Justice Ministry.
But to work in Japan, foreign students need to switch their resident status in line with the industries in which they work.