Around 30,000 foreign students have arrived in Japan since March when the government eased COVID-19 border controls, education minister Shinsuke Suematsu said Tuesday.

The government estimates around 110,000 overseas students were waiting to enter Japan as of last month after being kept out for roughly two years by the country's strict border restrictions.

It aims to accept all those waiting by May, and the minister said progress toward that goal is "generally going well."

Japan's long-running and stringent border controls drew fierce criticism from impacted students and academics ahead of the April start of the school year.

In late November, Japan effectively imposed an entry ban on nonresident foreign nationals to limit the spread of the highly transmissible omicron variant of the coronavirus.

But Japan's measures were later relaxed to allow businesspeople, students, and returning Japanese nationals and foreign residents to enter. The border remains closed to tourists.

The daily cap on overseas arrivals has been increased in phases — up to 7,000 from 5,000 on March 14 and to 10,000 from Sunday.

The government has prioritized foreign students by allocating them empty seats on weekday flights into Japan.