Immigration authorities revoked a record 832 visas in 2018, more than double the figure of a year earlier, Justice Ministry data showed Monday.
The most common reason was ceasing to conduct an activity permitted by the visa category. A further 100 people lost their visa because they obtained it by misrepresentation or fraud.
In 393 cases, or 46.5 percent of total, individuals either remained in Japan after their term expired or they failed to apply to change the visa status within three months of ceasing a permitted activity. Among these were 298 students who dropped out of school but did not leave and technical trainees who stopped showing up to work.
People married to a Japanese national who divorced but failed to change their visa also fell under this category.
In all, 218 lost their visas because they were engaged in activities other than those permitted. This figure represented a more than eightfold increase from the 25 cases in 2017. The ministry has launched a crackdown on foreigners suspected of such violations.
Students accounted for the biggest share, with a total of 412 having their visas revoked, many after they were found to be working part-time. Another large group were foreign nationals who traveled to Japan under the Technical Intern Training Program.
Overall, the figures represented a sharp increase from 385 in 2017 and 294 in 2016.
The ministry began keeping such records in 2005. However, it only began publishing the figures by residence status last year.
The ministry can annul a visa for a wide range of reasons, including when an individual obtains residency without disclosing that they were previously denied entry to Japan. Those who fail to report a change of address within 90 days of moving are also at risk.
In many cases, the targeted individuals left of their own accord. In all, 446 people subject to enquiries exited the country before the deportation process could be completed, the officials said.
According to the ministry, there were 2.73 million foreigners in Japan as of December 2018, including 337,000 students and 328,360 with technical trainee visas.
By nationality, Vietnamese accounted for 50 percent of revocations, followed by Chinese nationals at 18 percent and Nepalese at 7.5 percent.
As the number of foreigners choosing Japan as a place to live and work rises, the Justice Ministry is stepping up a crackdown on those who flout the system, said Kazuyuki Motohari, an official with the ministry’s Immigration Services Agency.
Motohari said the system allowing the ministry to annul visas was revised in 2017 to address the growing problem of foreign trainees disappearing from their place of work. He attributed the record high revocations to this change, an amendment to the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act.
“Previously we had to wait three months to take any punitive measures against (missing trainees), but it’s highly likely many of them have found employment elsewhere (by that point),” he said. “There’s no way that this is legal, so this revised system allows us to track them.”
Motohari said the amendment also gave more power to immigration control officers to investigate suspected violations.
And the crackdown will continue. The ministry plans to “exert more control” over people who flout the rules by working more closely with the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, Motohari said. Cooperation could include exchanging data, including employment records held by the labor ministry, and lists of residence cards kept by the Justice Ministry.