Time employed under new visas won't count toward working period requirement for permanent residency

Kyodo, JIJI, Staff Report

The Justice Ministry does not intend to count time spent employed under one of two new visas set to be introduced next spring when checking whether those who apply for permanent residency status meet requirements, government sources have said.

One of the prerequisites for permanent residency in Japan is having five years of work experience in the country. But according to the sources, those working under the new proposed visa status — which will be available to individuals with considerable knowledge or experience in areas where human resources are lacking in the nation — will not be able to cite time spent under this status as working time when they apply for permanent residency.

The new visa, along with another type intended for individuals with more seasoned skills in areas similar to those under the first type, is aimed at making up for labor shortages in certain job categories, and will open the door to more foreign blue-collar workers.

In the meantime, the ministry is still considering how to handle time spent working in Japan under the second type of visa, the sources said.

Last week, the government submitted to the Diet a bill that would revise related laws to establish the two new visa types in April.

Under the bill, those who fall under the first category will receive renewable visas for periods ranging from one to five years, for a combined total of five years, but will not be allowed to bring their families with them. The second new visa type will also be renewable, pending necessary checks, for as long as one’s employment contract is renewed. It will also let the recipient bring their spouses and children to the country.

Both statuses require applicants to have adequate Japanese language proficiency to get by in daily life. Those in the first type can apply to change their status to the second type, if they fulfill the requirements.

In Friday’s first meeting of the Lower House Committee on Judicial Affairs, Justice Minister Takashi Yamashita said the bill, if passed, would enable employers suffering from serious labor shortages to secure staffers who can immediately contribute to the workforce.

Those applying for permanent residency under the ministry’s guidelines must fulfill requirements including good behavior, having adequate assets and skills to live in the country, and 10 or more years residing in Japan including at least five years under work visas.

The time under the first new visa type will be counted toward the residential requirement, but not the working period requirement.

The bill to introduce the visas has already been deliberated in Lower and Upper House budget committees, where opposition lawmakers criticized the legislation for lacking clarity on details — including which industries would be within scope for the new visas and how many people were expected to come to Japan.

“We will proceed with preparing the environment and compile a comprehensive set of measures by the end of the year toward realizing a society in which Japanese and foreigners can coexist,” Yamashita said.

Yamashita repeated Friday that the new systems are not meant to promote immigration, noting that they will not directly lead to permanent residency.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a news conference that the Justice Ministry is currently considering how the new visa types will be handled when considering applications for permanent residency. He said the decision on approvals will basically continue to rest with the justice minister in consideration of the situation surrounding each application.