It’s a long-known fact that Japan is facing acute population decline which could devastate the country’s economy. A report commissioned by the government in 2012 stated that, without policy change, by 2110 the number of Japanese could fall to 42m, i.e. just a third of its current population.
Currently, around 2% of Japan’s population is foreign and the United Nations estimates that unless its fertility rate increases, Japan would need to permit the entry of about 650,000 immigrants a year to stabilise the situation.
Given the country’s notoriously anti-immigration stance it looks unlikely that Japan will open the floodgates to outsiders anytime soon, however, a revision to the Immigration Law was recently passed enabling highly skilled foreigners to gain permanent residency (PR) in as little as three years (opposed to 5-10 years for most foreigners).
Eligibility is still based on the points system which was introduced in 2012 whereby foreign professionals engaged in three categories of work are eligible for “preferential immigration treatment”:
- Academic research activities
- Specialised/technical activities
- Business management activities
You need to score 70 or more points based on the following criteria (full breakdown):
- Academic background – higher level degree is better
- Professional career – longer is better
- Annual salary (above 3m yen) – higher is better
- Age – younger is better
- Education (bonus) – degree or other qualification gained in Japan is better
- Language abilities (bonus) – N1 or equivalent level is better
Permanent residence status is indefinite and allows any paid activity. Spouses may also work in Japan, and their parents and domestic helpers will be allowed to join them. It also makes things like getting a credit card or a home loan far easier.
It sounds like the new rules will be in a “trial” period until the 2020 Olympics. Pessimistically it could just be a political manoeuvre to curry international favour and, like with the Internet freedom for Chinese users after the Beijing games in 2008, be curtailed as fast as it had been opened.
The revised law will not come into effect until April 2015 but if you think you might be eligible then it’s worth contacting an Immigration Lawyer or the Immigration Bureau directly. If you have any further information please leave a comment below.