Business / Economy

Japan airs concerns over U.S. work visa halt

Kyodo, Bloomberg

Japan has expressed concern to the United States over its decision to halt the issuance of some types of work visas, arguing the move could not only hurt Japanese companies but also the U.S. economy, Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi said Tuesday.

“Japan invests in the United States and builds factories there, procures parts and establishes distribution channels, making an extremely big contribution to employment and the overall economy,” he said at a news conference.

“We have communicated concerns that the visa halt could affect this,” he said.

On June 22, U.S. President Donald Trump signed an executive order suspending until the end of the year the issuance of work visas he claimed “presents a significant threat to employment opportunities for Americans affected by the extraordinary economic disruptions caused by the COVID-19 outbreak.”

They include the H-1B, which is used by highly skilled workers in fields such as technology and finance, and the H-2B for temporary nonagricultural workers, as well as those for exchange workers and those being transferred within a company from abroad.

More than 1,400 workers from at least 308 Japanese companies have been affected, according to a survey by the Japan External Trade Organization.

The visa halt has also drawn criticism from Japan’s largest business lobby. Hiroaki Nakanishi, chairman of the Japan Business Federation or Keidanren, said last month that it “poses a serious problem” to the operations of Japanese companies.

Japan currently bans entry to almost all foreigners traveling from more than 100 countries, but Motegi said the time had come to consider ways of enabling travel, while trying to control the spread of the coronavirus.

“This will be a subject of consideration with various countries including European countries from now on,” he said. The EU and the U.K. have already lifted restrictions on travelers from Japan.

“We are now at the point where we must consider what steps Japan can take,” Motegi added.

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