The Justice Ministry announced Tuesday that it will introduce an online application system for visa renewals from July 25 in a bid to simplify visa-related procedures.

The online application system, which will only be available for use by agents or officials from organizations where foreign residents work, not the visa-holders themselves, can be used to apply for permission to extend foreign residents’ period of stay. It can also be used to obtain a re-entry permit to simplify immigration procedures for foreign nationals who temporarily leave the country.

The online service can also be used to apply for permission to engage in activities other than those permitted under the previously granted visa status. Such an application needs to be submitted along with the application for permission to extend the period of stay.

The system can be used free of charge and around the clock.

The announcement comes as Japan is trying to attract more foreign workers to cope with an acute labor shortage due to its aging population.

The ministry will start by accepting online applications for visa renewals for employees including highly skilled professionals, university professors, researchers and interns working under the government-sponsored technical trainee program.

However, diplomats, short-term visitors and those under the new visas that will be introduced on April 1 are not eligible to apply for their residence permit online.

The ministry said it would grant permission to use the system to employers or affiliates that accept foreign nationals on condition that they have not been punished for violating immigration or labor laws within the past five years.

Such firms and organizations are also required to prove they have accepted foreign nationals in compliance with the country’s laws and regulations over the past three years.

Starting Friday the ministry will begin accepting registration requests from those who plan to use the system. Applicants are also required to submit a list of foreign nationals in the organization applying for permits.

The ministry hopes the system will help simplify visa application procedures as the applicants will not be required to visit immigration bureaus to submit related forms and in some cases can receive residence cards in the mail.

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