More foreign students submit refugee status applications

A total of 7,586 foreign people submitted an application for refugee status in Japan in fiscal 2015, which is 8 times more than a decade ago. Among them, 1,413 were students who applied for the refugee status that is about 20 times more than 5 years ago.

According to foreign students and representatives of Japanese language schools, some students who come here to study submit the application for refugee status outside Okinawa for the purpose of working in Japan after they go missing. They can obtain a status of residence for a few years and legally work in Japan while waiting for the response for their application.

The number of foreign students who have gone missing and become illegal residents is now up to more than 5% of the total.

According to the Ministry of Justice Immigration Bureau, there are currently three Japanese language schools in Naha that are referred to as “improper schools” that more or less operate on the premise that they can offer student visas to anyone enrolling regardless whether they really study. The bureau publishes the list of “improper schools” once a year, and this year there are 21 schools on the list. Nine of the schools are in Tokyo, four in Fukuoka, and three in Naha.

The immigration rules specify that foreign students must not engage in other activities than permitted under the student status, like working more than 28 hours per week permitted by the Ordinance of Enforcement of the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act. However six months after submitting the refugee application, they can work without any limitation while waiting for their case to be decided by the Ministry of Justice.

Calculating by the minimum wage in Okinawa, the annual salary with a student visa is about a million yen. The annual cost for entrance and tuition fees in a Japanese language school are typically between ¥600,000 and a million yen, which would make living without extra funds of income nearly impossible..

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