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New foreigner resident cards program starts

Date Posted: 2012-07-13

Japan's Justice Ministry said Monday the issuance of new resident cards for newly arriving eligible foreign nationals has been delayed at immigration offices nationwide due to a system glitch.

Nobody’s sure where the problems lie, but the Justice Ministry is investigating. The trouble occurred at the Immigration Bureau's 69 eight regional bureaus, six district immigration offices and 63 branches, including one at Narita International Airport. The Japanese government began issuing the cards on Monday, but long delays quickly set the process beyond the several minutes projected for issuing each new resident card.

The Japanese government began issuing the cards following the enforcement of the revised immigration control and refuge recognition law, which scrapped the previous special registration system for foreigners. The new cards allow foreigners to stay in Japan for up to five years, compared with the previous limit of three years. The cardholders can also obtain residence certificates from municipal governments, something that had been issued to only Japanese before.

Foreigners arriving in Japan at Narita International, Tokyo’s Haneda, Central Japan International Airport and Kansai International are being asked to obtain a residence card at the airport. Those who enter Japan elsewhere will be asked to go to the nearest local immigration office within 14 days, after their address in Japan is determined.

Until the new system began going into effect this week, authority to control foreign residents was split between the Immigration Bureau run by the Justice Ministry, and by municipalities. The Immigration Bureau is now the sole responsible office, and will know names of registered residents, addresses, visa expiration dates and other personal information. The Immigration Bureau will also track approaching visa expiration dates. The ‘zairyu’ residence card replaces the old alien registration card.

Current alien registration cards are valid until expiration, or until extensions or changes to visas are required. Permanent residents age 16 or older who do not need a visa to stay in Japan will have to get a residence card by July 8, 2015. Permanent residents younger than 16 who don’t need a visa will have to get one either by their 16th birthday or July 8, 2015, whichever comes first.

Illegal residents who don’t report to local immigration offices will have the option of being deported or awarded special permission to stay. The other choice is not to report themselves to local immigration offices and, for all intents and purposes, give up whatever social benefits they’re now receiving. Authorities say some illegal residents may be granted health insurance and other benefits by individual municipalities. Foreign residents should have their residence cards with them at all time, or face a maximum ¥200,000 fine.

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