The government is set to grant “long-term resident” status to fourth-generation Japanese immigrants who meet Japanese language proficiency and other conditions in the hope of tapping a lucrative potential worker resource centered in Latin America, sources said.
The visa status would allow applicants to work in Japan over an extended period while living with their family members.
According to the sources, the government will solicit input on the issue from the public as early as autumn with the aim of effecting the change by the end of the year.
The government created a system in 2018 to allow fourth-generation Japanese immigrants to study Japanese language and culture while working in Japan on a “designated activities” visa.
But they are required to return to their home countries after a maximum of five years’ stay in Japan, in principle, and are not allowed to bring their family members with them.
While the government had expected to take in 4,000 people annually, only 128 were staying in Japan under this framework as of the end of 2022, according to the Immigration Services Agency. Eighty-four were from Brazil.
Five groups of Brazilians of Japanese descent called on the Japanese government to review the system in a written request submitted in September.
They said forcing fourth-generation Japanese immigrants to effectively remain separated from their families for five years was a human rights issue.
The groups called for allowing them to switch to long-term resident status within two to three years after coming to Japan.
The government revised the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Law in 1990 to grant long-term resident visas to second- and third-generation Japanese immigrants and their family members to deal with a labor crunch resulting from the booming economy.
Under the government’s plan, fourth-generation Japanese immigrants would be allowed to switch to long-term resident status after a five-year period if they meet conditions, such as passing the N2 level of the five-level Japanese-Language Proficiency Test, the sources said.
The second-highest level requires test-takers to understand “Japanese used in everyday situations,” such as newspaper articles and daily conversation.
The government is also considering raising the age limit for fourth-generation Japanese immigrants to around 35, the sources said.
Currently, applicants must be between 18 and 30 when they come to Japan.
The five groups of Brazilians of Japanese descent had called for eliminating the age limit, or at least raising it substantially.
Angelo Ishi, a professor of sociology at Musashi University in Tokyo, said fourth-generation Japanese immigrants have felt disheartened at the prospect of working in Japan without being accompanied by their family members.
“A drastic review of that restriction is necessary if the government seriously intends to open the door more widely,” said Ishi, a third-generation Japanese-Brazilian who researches issues surrounding immigrants.
Source: The Asahi Shimbun