Japan to Tighten Foreign Student Visa Screening as of April to Cut Down on Overstayers: List of Countries

The Immigration Services Agency of Japan has made public that as of April, it plans to apply stricter standards for student visa applications submitted by nationals of eighty countries in an effort to deal with the growing issue of visa overstayers. This would be one of the biggest rule changes applied by the agency in the last thirty years.

The stricter standards are currently applied to citizens of seven countries. The change in immigration rules is meant to make it more difficult for people to enter Japan under the pretext of studying, but with the intent of overstaying their visa to settle in Japan and work. As Japan faces a major labor shortage, the Immigration Services Agency is working to promote greater employment of foreigners under the Specified Skills Visa, which was introduced in April 2019.

Current situation: Stricter standards for 7 designated countries

Currently, student visa applicants from seven countries are required to submit additional documentation when they apply:

  1. China (excluding Hong Kong and other select regions in China)
  2. Viet Nam
  3. Nepal
  4. Sri Lanka
  5. Myanmar
  6. Bangladesh
  7. Mongolia

The immigration services agency requires applicants from these countries to submit a number of additional documents with their application for a student visa. Nationals from these countries are also subject to stricter screening, in general:

  1. Certificate/diploma showing the highest level of education attained.
  2. Documentation showing bank account balances of relatives in their home country who will be providing them with financial support while they are studying in Japan.
  3. Documentation proving the student’s relationship to their parents/relatives.

Issue of Visa Overstayers

Not all visa overstayers who entered Japan on a student visa are from the seven countries designated for stricter screening.

As of the beginning of 2019, there were about 4,700 people residing in Japan who had overstayed their student visa. In 2015, this number was about 2,800, an increase of about 1.7-times.

The majority of overstayers overall (not just from the student visa category) come from just three countries: Viet Nam (3,065), China (1,074), South Korea (148).

List of 80 countries designated for stricter screening

For the April rule change, the immigration services agency created a list of 118 countries where economic conditions are relatively good, so that the chances of students overstaying their visa in order to work are lower.

Applicants from a separate list of 80 countries designated for stricter screening, however, will have to submit additional document (as described above).

The biggest change is that student visa applicants from China will no longer be required to submit additional documentation.

Student visa holders in Japan are allowed to work up to 28-hours a week and according to Ministry of Labor statistics, about half of them do part-time work. They currently account for about 19% of a total of about 318,000 foreign workers in Japan.

Stricter visa screening could have a significant effect on the retail and restaurant sectors, where employers rely heavily on student workers.

The countries below have been designated by the immigration services agency for stricter student visa screening as of April 2020:

  1. Afghanistan
  2. Angola
  3. Bangladesh
  4. Benin
  5. Bhutan
  6. Bolivia
  7. Burkina Faso
  8. Burundi
  9. Cambodia
  10. Cameroon
  11. Cape Verde
  12. Central Africa
  13. Chad
  14. Comoros
  15. Cook Islands
  16. Democratic Republic of the Congo
  17. Djibouti
  18. East Timor
  19. Egypt
  20. El Salvador
  21. Eritrea
  22. Eswatini
  23. Ethiopia
  24. Federated States of Micronesia
  25. Gambia
  26. Ghana
  27. Guinea
  28. Guinea-Bissau
  29. Haiti
  30. Honduras
  31. India
  32. Indonesia
  33. Ivory Coast
  34. Kenya
  35. Kiribati
  36. Kyrgyzstan
  37. Laos
  38. Lesotho
  39. Liberia
  40. Madagascar
  41. Malawi
  42. Mali
  43. Mauritania
  44. Moldova
  45. Mongolia
  46. Morocco
  47. Mozambique
  48. Myanmar
  49. Nauru
  50. Nepal
  51. Nicaragua
  52. Niger
  53. Niue
  54. Pakistan
  55. Papua New Guinea
  56. Philippines
  57. Republic of the Congo
  58. Rwanda
  59. Sao Tome and Principe
  60. Senegal
  61. Sierra Leone
  62. Solomon Islands
  63. Somalia
  64. South Sudan
  65. Sri Lanka
  66. Sudan
  67. Syria
  68. Tajikistan
  69. Tanzania
  70. Togo
  71. Tunisia
  72. Uganda
  73. Ukraine
  74. Uzbekistan
  75. Vanuatu
  76. Vatican
  77. Viet Nam
  78. Yemen
  79. Zambia
  80. Zimbabwe

Source: Nikkei newspaper, February 9, 2020