Planning for new visas faces delays

JIJI, Kyodo

The central government is unsure when it will complete all of its preparations for two new visa categories, with preparatory work unlikely to be concluded before the new permits are introduced April 1.

There have been delays in concluding notes on cooperation with China and seven other countries from which workers are expected to arrive, officials said.

On Friday, the government held a meeting of officials from relevant agencies at the Prime Minister’s Office.

Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Kazuhiro Sugita instructed participants to step up preparations so that Japan can start the new system without any hitches.

He also requested that an expanded version of the government’s comprehensive support measures for foreign workers be drawn up as early as June.

Two visa categories will be granted to foreign workers with specific skills. Most of the workers to be accepted from April will fall under the first type of visa for those with lower levels of skill.

Under this category, foreign nationals who have passed skill and Japanese-language tests will be allowed to work in Japan for up to five years.

Fourteen industries, including nursing care and agriculture, are preparing to accept workers under that visa type.

The government estimates that, between the two visa types, up to about 340,000 foreign workers will be accepted over the coming five years.

It represents a major policy shift for a country that has basically granted working visas only to highly skilled people with professional knowledge such as doctors, lawyers and teachers.

At the meeting, officials from the Foreign Ministry said the first round of Japanese-language tests for applicants will be held in Manila on April 13 and 14.

Representatives of the Justice Ministry said it has completed briefings on the visa categories in all of Japan’s 47 prefectures and posted explanatory materials for recipient companies on its website.

Participants also said the English and Japanese versions of guides on life and work in Japan will be posted online in April.

Still, the government is facing a delay in concluding notes of cooperation over the new visa system with other countries. It aims to complete deals with eight more nations by the end of this month — Vietnam, Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Thailand, Myanmar, Nepal and Mongolia.

So far, Tokyo has only concluded an agreement with the Philippines.

Officials said Japan is uncertain when it will be able to conclude the notes with some of them, such as China and Vietnam.

Work to create foreign-language materials for foreign nationals who will work under the new categories has also been delayed.

The Justice Ministry does not know to what extent preparations have been made for opening the planned 100 consultation centers on the issue nationwide.

“We haven’t had enough time since the beginning,” a ministry official said. “We can’t say preparations have progressed smoothly.”