Regarding the Revised Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Law

Suzuki Masako
Attorney-at-law (Izumibashi Law Office)

1. Introduction
  During the 197th Extraordinary Diet session held on December 8, 2018, partial amendments for the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act and the Act for Establishment of the Ministry of Justice were passed. The contents of the laws include (1) establishment of the resident statuses for technical intern training (i) and technical intern training (ii), and (2) establishment of the Immigration and Resident Status Control Agency as its main components.

  The following will explain in further detail about the items above.
 

2. Establishment of Technical Intern Training (i) and Technical Intern Training (ii)

1) The significance of the technical intern system
  To counter the serious labor shortages in small to medium and small-sized businesses for industries that face labor shortages, although improvements in productivity and efforts in acquiring labor inside Japan have been made, building a system that welcomes foreign laborers who have skills in a particular field as effective workers (the basic policy of running a system regarding the residence status of technical interns) has been done, and accepting foreign laborers has been recognized as its purpose.

2) What are “technical intern training (i)” and “technical intern training (ii)”?
  Of the newly established statuses of residence, technical intern training (i) is a status for foreigners who are involved in work that requires knowledge or experience in technical skills equivalent to a designated industry. Technical intern training (ii) is a status of residence for foreigners who are involved in work that requires experienced technical skills of a designated industry.

  The designated industrial fields are comprised of 14 categories: nursing care (caregiving), building cleaning (cleaning of multi-floor buildings), materials processing (forges and foundries), industrial machinery manufacturing industry, electric and electrical information related industries, construction, shipbuilding and ship industries, automobile maintenance, airport ground handling and aircraft maintenance (aviation), hotels (lodging), agriculture, fishery, food and drink manufacturing industry, and restaurants (foodservice). The technical intern training (ii) category only accepts construction, and shipbuilding and ship industries.

  Foreigners who acquire the status of residence as technical intern training (i), are generally divided into new foreigners entering the country, or existing foreigners in Japan who have finished their technical intern training or study abroad program. As a general rule, to acquire this status, passing technical skills exams and daily life and Japanese language tests are required. However, foreigners who have completed intern training (ii) will be exempt from these requirements. For this status, the periods of stay are one year, six months, or four months (renewals accepted), with the maximum total of residence being five years. Bringing along family members is generally not allowed, but they are eligible for the support provided by accepting organizations and registered support organizations, which will be described later in this text.

  The periods of stay for the technical intern training (ii) status are three years, one year, or six months (renewals accepted). The level of technical skill will be checked through exams and other methods, but for checking of the level of Japanese, they are not required to take exams again. If certain requirements are met, bringing along family members (spouse and children) is allowed. Foreigners of this status are not eligible for support provided by accepting organizations and registered support organizations.

3) What are accepting organizations and registered support organizations?
  Such accepting organizations, to which foreign residents with special skills and residential qualifications belong are said to be the subjects to implement assistance to provide guidance for daily life before coming to Japan, assistance to find a dwelling place, and to acquire Japanese language needed for technical intern training. Nevertheless, they can entrust the implementation of the assistance to already registered organizations for assistance. (In accordance with the newly planned system, there will be a need for them to be registered by the administration head of the new immigration body to be established).

4) Present status of implementation and schedule
  After April of the current year, a maximum of 345,150 foreign technical interns will be accepted during the five-year span.

  Of the 14 categories mentioned above, caregiving, lodging, and foodservice will have technical intern training (i) examinations held this April. Examinations must be held for these three categories because the previous accepting period for technical interns in caregiving does not meet the required three years for technical intern training (i), and lodging and foodservice were not a part of the training system. Examinations must be held to accept technical interns in April.

  Japanese language examinations are currently held in Vietnam, Philippines, Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Thailand, Myanmar, Nepal and Mongolia. An agreement between the countries will be made by March. Examinations are also planned to be held in Japan, but no details are announced yet.

  Among technical intern training (ii), the examinations for shipbuilding and ship industries are expected to be held from FY 2021. For construction, it is said that with the use of the existing technical skills test, acquisition of the status by this April may be possible.

 
3. Establishment of the Immigration and Resident Status Control Agency
  Another big revision of the law this time is the establishment of the Immigration and Resident Status Control Agency. As it will be established under the Ministry of Justice, it does not differ from the previous Immigration Bureau, but while the Immigration Bureau served as an internal department, this new agency will work as an external bureau like the Public Security Intelligence Agency and the Public Security Examination Commission.

  According to the explanation given by the Ministry of Justice, this new establishment will make the Ministry of Justice’s duties regarding immigration control from a “fair control on immigration” to a “fair control on immigration and residency”. The duties will be: (a) to aim for a fair control on immigration and residency, and (b) to assist the affairs of the Cabinet, regarding designated important policies of the Cabinet about the duties in (a). The head of the agency will be the Secretary of Immigration and Resident Status Control.

  As mentioned in the above, the main purpose of this agency is “control”. According to the media, the newly established Immigration and Resident Status Control Agency will be divided into “Department of Immigration Control” and “Department of Control and Support of Resident Status”. Duties of supporting the daily life of foreigners will be newly added.

  However, the intended purpose of the Immigration and Resident Status Control Agency is to “control” foreigners. In reality, nearly all support on daily life given to foreigners has been entrusted to local governments, and has not been done on a national level. It is uncertain whether the Immigration and Resident Status Control Agency will be able to take responsibility for these duties.
 

4. Summary
  For a long time, Japan has been not accepting immigration of foreign laborers for unskilled labor. However, in reality, Japan does not have a working force sufficient to run unskilled labor independently. Throughout the years, foreigners, such as non-regular residents, Nikkei Sansei (third generation, born in Japan), technical interns and exchange students, have done unskilled labor different from their official purpose.

  This new framework to accept foreigners shows some progress by admitting the acceptance of foreigner laborers to counter labor shortages, which differs from past situations that used foreign laborers differing from the original purpose.

  On the other hand, the system has the title “international contribution”, but there are still many problems with the continuation of technical interns, which already has exceedingly of numerous issues of its own. It is a system that relies on technical interns, and leaves all the duties of aiding technical interns to accepting organizations. It also lacks the removal of brokers from sending countries, which has been an issue linked with the technical intern system for a long time. Another issue is how bringing along family is not allowed, throughout a span of five years for technical interns (i). Furthermore, assurance of human rights for foreigners is exceedingly weak, and interpretation of the resident status, which serves as the base of living in Japan, is left to the wide discretion of the government. No action is taken about the issue of foreigners who have lost their resident status once and are left in inhumane conditions, while the acceptance of foreigners is speeding up. There is no doubt that this is an issue that is exceedingly big, from the perspective of human rights for foreigners.

  The technical intern system is planned to be reviewed in three years. We must see how this new system will be managed, and it will become important to raise our voices.

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