Japan to Launch New Visa Track for Highly Skilled Foreigners

The Japanese government is launching a new and simplified system to grant highly skilled professional visas to workers from other countries, in an effort to attract overseas talent.

According to the Immigration Services Agency, the government plans to grant visas to foreign applicants and introduce treatment for those that are eligible, with some of the main criteria being an annual income of ¥20 million, equivalent to $151,000 and a master’s degree, VisaGuide.World reports.

Under the government’s current points-based system, points are collected based on categories, including academic, employment backgrounds and annual income. This system was considered overly complicated as the global race to acquire skilled workers became more robust.

At present, applicants with points that reach a certain level will be granted a visa for highly skilled professionals, which is granted for a five-year period. After a three-year stay period, the candidate can acquire a visa for an indefinite stay in Japan.

Furthermore, highly skilled professional visas can be granted for three types of activity such as advanced academic research, advanced specialized or technical activities, and advanced business and management activities.

The new measure will enable applicants with advanced academic research to receive a five-year visa if they have a master’s degree and annual income that surpasses ¥20 million and more, or an employment record of ten years.

Those applying for advanced business and management activities will receive five-year visas if they have an employment record of five years and more, as well as an annual income of ¥40 million or more.

Moreover, those being granted five-year visas under the facilitated requirements will also be eligible for a permanent visa after being residents in Japan for one year, compared to three prior to this measure.

The new measure was concluded in February, following statements of Prime Minister Fumio Kishida that reforms were required in order to attract highly skilled professionals to Japan, aiming at establishing one of the best systems in the world.

In the current system, which was introduced in 2012, over 34,726 people received Japan’s five-year visa by June last year, and 16,131 of those were already living in Japan as of that month. Visas for highly skilled professionals in Japan can be issued for advanced academic research, specialized or technical activities and business management activities.

Despite the COVID-19 situation, a total of 1.82 million foreign workers were registered in Japan between January and October last year, up by 5.5 percent compared to 2021 levels. However, last year’s data show that the year-on-year increase was considerably below the 13.5 increase registered before the COVID-19 pandemic occurred.

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