National

Justice Ministry overturns deportation order for gay Taiwanese man without visa

by Magdalena Osumi

Staff Writer

In a rare move, the Justice Ministry has revoked a deportation order for a gay Taiwanese man who remained in Japan illegally after overstaying his visa, apparently giving consideration to his longtime partnership with a Japanese national.

The man had been suing the government over the denial of special permission to reside in Japan. He has now decided to withdraw the suit.

Last week, the ministry’s Immigration Bureau granted the man a one-year resident visa after the Tokyo District Court suggested that it review the order, his lawyers revealed Friday. Japan does not have a specific visa status for LGBT foreign nationals in relationships with Japanese people.

“I hope this decision will help change the situation, and will help step up LGBT-inclusive efforts,” Yasushi Nagano, an attorney representing the man, told a news conference in Tokyo on Friday.

To their knowledge, this was the first case in which a non-Japanese person was granted special permission to stay in Japan in consideration of a relationship with a Japanese partner of the same sex, Nagano and other lawyers said.

The partnership was the point of dispute in the man’s case.

The Taiwanese man, who requested his name be withheld over privacy concerns, received a deportation order in 2016 because he had no valid visa status.

Over the past 25 years, the man has been in a relationship and has lived with his Japanese partner in Chiba Prefecture. But as Japan does not recognize same-sex marriage, he has not been eligible for a spousal visa.

In March 2017, he filed a lawsuit with the Tokyo District Court claiming that the government’s decision to deport him violated Japan’s immigration law. He claimed he should have been granted special permission because his sexuality was the only factor preventing him from receiving a spousal visa.

According to Article 50 of the law, the Justice Minister has the authority to grant a special residence permission in opposition to the denial of such a permit by the Immigration Bureau, depending on circumstances that led to the violation of visa rules.

The man, who is in his 40s, met his partner in Japan in 1993 on a short-term visa. He decided to remain in Japan despite knowing that his visa expired in April 1994.

The man did not turn himself in out of fear of being denied permission to work, as he supported the couple financially, his lawyers said. He claims he could not return to Taiwan for various reasons, including ruptured family ties. Both men have been diagnosed with HIV.

Taiwan’s government last month proposed a draft law that would allow same-sex marriage, which if passed would be a first in Asia.

“Over the past 25 years, I had no other choice but to live with the person I love in hiding, as same-sex partnerships have not been accepted socially,” the man said, adding that he was grateful for the ministry’s decision. “If we had been allowed to marry, our lives would have been different.”