Ministry of Justice proposal aims to let foreign students stay in Japan after they finish school and work their way up the professional ladder.

Last month, the Japanese government announced new visa regulations for foreign students in Japan that make it more difficult to work while studying in the country (though the primary aim is to make sure “students” are actually here to study). However, it looks like it might soon become easier for foreign students to work in Japan after they’re done with school.

A key consideration in determining foreigners’ eligibility for work visas in Japan is the level of work they’ll be doing. Generally, the higher up the hierarchy of an organization you go, the easier it is to obtain permission to work in Japan. The logic is that higher positions provide higher pay, and if you’ve got healthy finances, you’re less likely to need government assistance to make ends meet while living in Japan.

The catch-22, though, is that if you’ve just finished school and are starting your professional adult life, odds are you’re going to be working an entry-level job (that’s why they call them entry-level jobs, after all). While those kinds of stepping-stones don’t cause major problems for Japanese citizens, the Ministry of Justice says they make it heard for foreign students in Japan to remain in the country after graduation, since the lower-level jobs are less likely to satisfy the requirements for a work visa.

In 2016, for example, out of the 12,000 foreign graduates of four-year Japanese universities, the majority quickly returned home, with only 40 percent remaining in Japan for work. “These students came to Japan, learned the language and also the good points of the country, but then were forced to return home,” lamented a Ministry of Justice spokesperson (it’s unclear what portion of the 60 percent which returned to their home countries did so voluntarily versus out of necessity when unable to secure a visa).

Because of that, the ministry is now considering lowering the criteria of what qualifies as visa-eligible positions. For example, under the current system, foreigners who came to Japan, studied animation, and were offered jobs as animation assistants in the anime industry would not qualify for work visas, thus precluding them from ever working their way up to the higher level positions necessary to maintain their status as residents of Japan. Foreigners who came to Japan to learn about restaurant operations and then found work as restaurant waitstaff, as opposed to managers or chefs, would face a similar problem.

The Ministry of Justice is currently debating the possibility of making such entry-level positions eligible for work visas, having come to the conclusion that in order to keep foreign students in Japan once they become productive members of society is, naturally, to give them the opportunity to become productive members of society. Should the relaxed work visa requirements win approval, they could go into effect as early as next spring.

Source: Yahoo! Japan News/Asahi Shimbun Digital via Otakomu
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