National

Virus relief payments to Japanese expatriates may take years

Jiji

Discussions within the government to expand the scope of its coronavirus relief payments to cover overseas residents face difficulties, with some people estimating that the payments may take a few years to complete.

The payments will likely require complicated office procedures to confirm the Japanese expatriates’ residency and prevent making duplicate payments.

Although the government has stressed that it will quickly implement coronavirus-related measures, some people have said that it may take two to three years for the government to finish paying ¥100,000 per person to all overseas residents.

According to the Foreign Ministry, there were around 1.39 million Japanese nationals living overseas as of October 2018.

The government is expected to use that figure and other data if it decides to provide such people with the cash benefits.

The number of Japanese expatriates, however, is an estimated figure based on residence papers, which people have to submit under the passport law.

As no penalties are imposed on people who fail to submit the papers or report changes to them, there is a gap between the data and the actual situation.

According to ministry sources, the ministry had to spend time verifying personal identification when the government evacuated Japanese nationals from the Chinese city of Wuhan between late January and mid-February this year following the start of the coronavirus outbreak, as the number of people who turned in the residence papers did not match the number of Japanese people living in the Chinese city.

“Verifying individual identification for all 1.4 million people will require a vast amount of clerical work,” a senior official at the ministry said. “It will be impossible for short-staffed embassies and consulates to complete (such work).”

Some within the government have voiced concern over possible double payments to Japanese nationals who still maintain their domiciles in Japan and apply for the relief money overseas as well.

If the government chooses to tackle the identity verification process seriously, it may take more time for the relief money to be paid to the expatriates.

Some within the ruling Liberal Democratic Party said that the government should adopt a self-declaration system, even if it means making double payments in some cases.

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