The government plans to soon extend the scope of non-Japanese residents eligible for re-entry to the country to include expatriate workers and educators, sources said Monday.
The move is basically on humanitarian grounds and is also designed to help the economy recover. An official decision will be made later this week, according to the sources.
Re-entry will require polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing for the coronavirus, the sources said.
Currently, foreign residents are not allowed to re-enter Japan after visiting a country or region subject to Tokyo’s coronavirus travel ban, even if they have family residing in Japan.
Re-entry is now exceptionally allowed only by those with special and very limited circumstances, such as a need to be treated at a medical institution overseas and a request by a foreign court to appear for a trial.
The Foreign Ministry has received many requests mainly from Western countries to allow the re-entry of expatriate workers, according to a senior ministry official.
About 50,000 to 60,000 expatriate workers are in Japan. Some have been separated from family in Japan since leaving the country, according to the official.
“Overseas, foreign nationals with residency status are permitted to re-enter, so some people say it’s irrational that this isn’t allowed in Japan,” a government source said.
But the government may not allow re-entry for all expatriate workers because a cross-border movement of thousands of people is expected to pose greater risks for spreading the coronavirus, according to the sources.