Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Mr. Ugarte, your papers please

This is absolutely not a solution in search of a problem...because a better trained, more culturally sensitive and more alert police force and a serious attempt to shut down training and education visa abuse by mid-sized and small-sized firms cannot stop infrequent but highly publicized incidents of homicide, prostitution, drug dealing and burglary nearly as well as a broad application of language skills testing.

Later - A Bloomberg report has a put a positive spin on the story. However, as I discuss with the very honorable Janne Morén in Comments, the government is putting the cart before the horse, bringing up a language requirement before discussing any liberalization of residence.


Jan Moren said...

Agree with your comment - as far as it goes. Language criteria does nothing for those issues (or a host of other ones). Having a police force that is not viewed as just another uniformed far-right group by many foreign residents would be a better first step.

But this was about long-term resident visas, not "entertainment", "cultural activities" or spousal visas. A resident visa really is a bit different. It is an acknowledgement that you're not just visiting, not just here for a job, but really taking root. It is invitation for you to become a permanent fixture in your community and in Japan.

And as such, well, I don't think a language requirement is bad at all. Being able to at least manage basic communication is a crucial part of becoming part of the community, and if Japan would set such a requirement it would not be the first.

And remember that you would typically need minimum seven years - and often longer - in the country to become eligible so it's not like a reasonable language requirement would be particularly burdensome. You'd have to live completely apart from your Japanese-language surroundings (and not try to study at all) to not pick up a fair bit. And if you have no interest in that, then a permanent residency visa really isn't for you.

MTC said...

Mr. Morén -

Longterm residence visas do not exist outside of those granted a) spouses and minor children of Japanese citizens or b) refugees. As these two types of persons stay in Japan at the government's invitation, the proposed language requirement could not possibly apply to either.

長期滞在を希望する外国人へのビザ (Chōkitaizai o kibōsuru gaikokujin no biza) can only be referring to working or study visas--which I have in the post said need to be under much more strict control--control which, it should be noted, is already codified by law.

Proposing a language test is a confession that the officers of the law are not doing their jobs.

As for longterm residence, there may someday be a visa for "persons wishing to live in Japan just for the simple joy of living in Japan"--but that day has not yet arrived.

Jan Moren said...

I believe it is actually not required that you be married to a Japanese national (or child of one) to gain a long-term resident visa - though, as the criterion is along the line of "significant connection to Japan", at least the vast majority of those granted are to people who are married, that being by far the most common way to be significantly connected. Note that "long-term resident" is a different visa category from "spouse" - being married does not give you long-term residency.

And both Bloomberg and the Japanese-language link seem to clearly speak specifically of long-term residency and nothing else, not spouses, study or other limited term visas.

MTC said...

Mr. Morén -

滞在 (taizai) does not mean "residence." It means "stay" with the presupposition that the person has a home somewhere else.

居住 or 駐在 or plain vanilla 住む means "residence" or "reside."

Komura is very precise in his choice of words (he passed the bar exam on his first try when he was still an undergraduate). If he wanted to emphasize residence, he would have used the technical term.

Anonymous said...

Granted, the steps may be being taken backwards, but do you think it's possible that Komura is hinting at setting up a framework through which immigration could be expanded?
Could this be a way of doing what he knows to be necessary while allaying fears before they become an impediment to allowing greater immigration? In other words, set up certain basic minimums, then propose allowing more people to enter and settle or even trying to attract more immigrants.

Anonymous said...

As a citizen of the world who traveled in more than 25 countries, I can tell you Japan is among the easiest ones where to get a visa. Not only that, there are few ID controls on the streets (go to France and you'll know what I mean), it's easy for foreigners who arrive as tourists to find a visa by teaching English (I know the trend is monving in the opposite direction since NOVA, though), the people at the Immigration center in Tokyo are usually polite and work quickly (go in any other country, it's always scary), you have so many exhange programs that I know at least 2 of them that would allow me to go back to Japan whenever I want for at least a year (but my 3 years visa is still valid though I did quit the country last year -- and I did not have to renew it). In France, you have to renew your papers every semester. They are now planning to not allow spouses to join their husbands/wives if they don't learn French. In the US... well, forget about trying to get a visa (except a Visa card/Master Card) for that country, it's impossible -- and the Nazis waiting for you at the borders are so scary that you just hold your brief when they check you). Let's not even mention places like Russia, where you still need to fill forms to descrive anything you are going to do on day one of your arrival. The poor countries are very strict, but this is for other reason. Great Britain, perhaps?
The Japanese want the gaijin to learn Japanese? First, it won't work. Second, they will need more and more gainjin-san to work for the Silver generation. That they don't want to admit it is their problem.

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MTC said...

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