• Kyodo

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The main reason children of foreign residents in Japan become stateless is parents who are unaware of necessary paperwork, a government survey showed Tuesday.

This is the first such survey to be conducted by Japan’s immigration agency amid an increase in children without nationality. The survey found 232, or 76.1%, of 305 children who were born between 2016 and 2020 and without nationality before turning 1 year old were stateless as a result of their parents not providing authorities with required documentation.

Tokyo does not adopt the principle of birthright citizenship, and when foreign nationals have children they are required to register the birth at an embassy or other diplomatic establishment with the submission of documents such as passports in order for the child to gain nationality.

Of the 232 children for whom documents were not initially submitted, 188 had acquired nationality as of April this year.

Being stateless in Japan does not preclude residency status, but such people may face disadvantages such as not being able to obtain a passport or a certificate of being single — a document required in some circumstances to register a marriage.

With a surge in the number of foreign students and workers in Japan, the number of stateless children has been on the rise in recent years.

As of the end of 2020, there were 211 stateless children in the country under 5 years old — up from 54 in 2015. The total number of stateless people in Japan, including adults, hovered at around 500 to 600 between 2015 and 2020.

The Immigration Services Agency said it aims to provide detailed information and advice for foreign nationals regarding what documents they need to submit to their embassies to obtain nationality for their children.

Sixty-three of the 305 stateless children, or 20.7%, became stateless because some countries such as Brazil require parents to return home in order to complete paperwork to register their child's nationality.

The survey also found that five children became stateless because of U.S. rules for residence history regarding the registering of children born on or after June 12, 2017, to unmarried couples involving an American national.

Under the rules, the American father or mother is required to have lived in the United States for at least five years, two years of which must have been after turning 14.

A total of three children were stateless as their parents did not have a nationality.

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