Revised visa regulations aim to help interns unable to return home and who need a job in Japan.

Japanese residency visas are generally tied to having a specific educational, professional, or familial reason for living in the country. One category is the technical intern visa, which allows foreigners to live in Japan while doing a practical training program with a Japanese company, often in the manufacturing or engineering sectors.

The technical intern visa is sort of a cross between a work visa and student visa. It has lower requirements for preexisting education/professional experience than a standard work visa, and one of the system’s goals is to help promote economic and educational development in less-developed nations as participants, many of whom come from other parts of Asia, take the skills and knowledge they acquire in Japan back to their homelands.

▼ “So long Japan! Thanks for teaching me how to use an industrial press, and also for the sushi.”

However, the coronavirus pandemic has left many former technical interns whose programs have finished stranded in Japan, as travel restrictions or other pandemic-related reasons prevent them from returning to their home countries. The government estimates that roughly 24,000 foreign residents find themselves in that situation right now, and being stuck in Japan obviously means they’ll need to earn money to pay for living expenses.

One restriction of the technical intern visa, though, is that holders are only allowed to work within the field designated in their initial visa application. That severely limits their employment opportunities, especially during an economic downturn like the one that’s going on now. On Tuesday, though, Japan’s Immigration Bureau announced that starting in September technical intern visa holders whose intern programs have ended will be legally able to work in other fields as well.

The move comes after a similar concession was made in April. However, at that time only technical interns who had been released before the completion of their programs were allowed to work in other fields. From September, though, that freedom will be extended to include those who have finished their entire programs, with the Immigration Bureau designating 14 sectors, including construction, agriculture, and food service, as eligible.

“It is extremely important that we create an environment in which [technical interns] can reside in Japan with peace of mind,” said Minister of Justice Masako Mori, whose ministry also has authority over the Immigration Bureau. “I want us to work hard to provide close support to [foreign residents of Japan].”

The ministry also announced that it will be establishing a Foreign Resident Support call center in September, with guidance offered in 14 languages on job hunting, residency queries, and coronavirus related concerns via toll-free telephone.

Sources: NHK News Web, Nihon Keizai Shimbun
Top image: Pakutaso
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