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New "Gaijin" ID Cards

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Special permanent foreign residents in Japan will be obliged to carry a different resident status card instead of the current alien registration card, according to a Justice Ministry proposal. The ministry has outlined its proposal on the amendment to the Immigration Control Law and related bills to the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s Judicial Affairs Division.

Under the proposed bills, cards for special permanent residents will be issued to about 430,000 Korean and other foreign residents in Japan, which they will be obliged to carry as their identification cards.

Re-entry procedures for such residents will be relaxed as much as possible under the proposed bills, such as by exempting them from the need to obtain re-entry permits if they have stayed abroad for two years or less. They will also be allowed to leave Japan for up to six years, instead of the current limit of four years.In a related move, the government is planning to introduce a new registration system for medium and long-term foreign residents inJapan — in place of the current alien registration system — by providing them with resident status cards issued by immigration authorities.

Under the new scheme, information on medium and long-term foreign residents will be incorporated into a system similar to the resident registry system managed by each municipality. The limit for their stay in Japan will be extended from the current three years to up to five years, and their re-entry procedures will be relaxed.

The draft bill also includes provisions to imprison or deport people who forge the envisaged cards. The government plans to submit the bill during the current Diet session, according to sources. The new residence cards will carry the foreigner’s name, date of birth, gender, nationality, address, status of residence and period of stay. The cards will be issued to aliens staying in Japan legally. The cards will enable authorities to detect illegal stayers by checking whether they possess the cards. 

To reduce the time and paperwork involved in renewal procedures, the draft bill calls for extending the period of stay to five years for aliens who are currently allowed to stay in Japan for up to three years.

The draft legislation also includes a provision to create a new status of residence for aliens coming to Japan on the government’s foreign trainee system. It stipulates that the Minimum Wages Law and other labor-related laws will be applied to such foreign trainees.

The foreign trainee system is aimed at transferring Japan’s technical expertise to other countries. Under the system, foreign trainees participate in workshops and training programs at companies for up to three years.

However, the system has been criticized because some companies take advantage of these trainees by making them work excessively long hours for low pay. For the first year of their stay, the foreign trainees are not officially recognized as laborers, and therefore they fall outside the reach of labor-related laws.

Meanwhile, the status of residence for international students will no longer be divided into “college students,” who attend a college or advanced vocational school, and “pre-college students,” who attend a high school or Japanese language school. Under the envisaged new system, the two categories will be integrated to allow foreign students to skip procedures to change their status of residence when they go on to higher education.

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