The operator of the Uber Eats food delivery service in Japan has stopped new hires of students from overseas, a company representative said Thursday, after facing allegations that it illegally employed overstayers last year.

The hiring freeze, effective Aug. 25, will likely affect many foreign students looking for work amid the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic.

An Uber Eats employee delivers food in Kobe. | KYODO
An Uber Eats employee delivers food in Kobe. | KYODO

A decline in the number of employees could also reduce service quality, despite growing demand for food deliveries amid government stay-at-home requests.

An Uber Eats Japan Inc. representative said it had stopped new recruitment of foreign students because checking their visa status every half year in person and confirming their attendance at schools "requires a lot of human resources," making it difficult for the company to ensure compliance.

In June police referred Uber Japan Co. and two of its former employees to prosecutors for allegedly hiring two Vietnamese overstayers as food delivery staff, in violation of the country's immigration control law.

Foreign students are allowed to work for up to 28 hours per week once granted permission by the immigration agency. As the pandemic has forced restaurants and other providers of part-time jobs to suspend operations or shorten opening hours, many students from overseas are now switching to food delivery jobs to make a living.

Overseas students who registered as delivery staff for Uber Eats Japan before the hiring freeze took effect can continue to work. Foreign nationals who have no restrictions on working hours, such as permanent residents and spouses of Japanese nationals, are not affected by the measure, according to the representative.