Living in Japan

Specified Skills Visa is Now Official: 345,150 Foreign Workers to be Accepted into Japan in First 5 Years

In the early morning hours of December 8th, the Japanese Diet passed a major revision to the Immigration Control Act, codifying into law two new visa residency statuses that will allow a significant increase in the number of blue collar workers accepted into Japan. The two new visa statuses will go into effect in April 2019, with as many 345,150 foreign workers being brought in during the first five years.

This revision is widely considered to be the most important piece of legislation being dealt with in this Diet session, as Japan faces severe labor shortages due to its aging society.

Many of the details of the revision were already made public prior to passage. Below we summarize the main points and highlight what’s new.

Specified Skills No. 1 Visa

  • You must have a certain level of industry-specific skills. This is in addition to the Japanese language requirement to apply for this visa status.
  • You are not permitted to bring your family with you.
  • You can stay in Japan for a maximum of five years under the “Specified Skills No. 1” visa status.
  • It’s possible to switch to the “Specified Skills No. 2” visa from the Specified Skills No. 1 visa, if you have obtained a higher level of specialization during your stay in Japan.
  • It’s possible to switch to from the Technical Intern Training visa status to the Specified Skills No. 1 visa if you meet all the eligibility requirements.

Specified Skills No. 2 Visa

  • You must have an additional level of specialization. Workers staying in Japan on the “Specified Skills No. 1” visa can apply for the “Specified Skills No. 2” visa if they attain higher level specialization in their field.
  • Indefinite length of stay in Japan possible. This is a significant difference from the “Specified Skills No. 1” visa. In principle, workers staying in Japan on the “Specified Skills No. 2” visa may be able to continuously renew their visa status, essentially giving them a way to stay in Japan indefinitely.
  • You are able to bring your family with you. The “Specified Skills No. 2” visa status allows workers to bring family members with them to Japan.

Which industries qualify

There are fourteen industries that qualify to accept workers under the new residency visas:

  1. Nursing care
  2. Building cleaning
  3. Agriculture
  4. Fishing industry
  5. Food & drink manufacturing (including seafood processing)
  6. Restaurant (food and drink service)
  7. Materials industry
  8. Industrial machinery industry
  9. Electronics and electrical equipment industry
  10.  Construction
  11. Ship building/Marine industry
  12. Car maintenance
  13. Aviation (Airport ground handling, aircraft maintenance
  14. Lodging/hospitality

What’s New

  • The revised Immigration Control Act will come into effect in April 2019.
  • In the first five years of implementation, approximately 345,150 people will be accepted under the Specified Skills No. 1 visa status.
  • People staying under the Specified Skills No. 2 status will be able to renew their visa every 1 to 3 years, without a limitation on the number of renewals.
  • For two industries (construction and ship building), implementation of the Specified Skills No. 2 visa will be put off for several years. Depending on how many people will be residing under the No. 1 status in these industries, trials will be done to transition qualifying workers to the No. 2 status.
  • If it is found that labor shortages have been alleviated, the Cabinet may take measures within the year to stop the acceptance of foreign workers under the new residency statuses.
  • The government will establish comprehensive measures, including support for Japanese language education and consultation services, to help foreigners adapt to living in Japan.
  • The Immigration Bureau will be re-organized as the Immigration and Residency Agency.
  • In 2021, the government will conduct a review of the new system to evaluate its implementation and economic effects.

Articles Related to the New Specified Skills Visas

News source: Mainichi Shinbun, December, 8, 2018