Japan is set to revise its working program for fourth-generation foreigners of Japanese descent and offer permanent residency to individuals who fulfill certain language requirements, immigration agency officials said Tuesday.
The change to the program introduced in 2018 and aimed at helping develop human resources familiar with the cultures of their home countries and Japan comes following low uptake and calls to ease its conditions on the maximum age and period that holders are eligible to reside in Japan.
Under its current provisions, fourth-generation Japanese abroad aged 18 to 30 are eligible to work in the country under a designated activities visa. The maximum period of stay is five years, and their families are not allowed to join them.
Second- and third-generation descendants, the children and grandchildren of those who emigrated from the country, are eligible for long-term stays, including permanent residency, following consideration of special circumstances by the minister of justice.
The revisions mean fourth-generation individuals, who have lived in the country for five years under the visa, can upgrade to permanent residency if they possess business-level Japanese linguistic ability, such as that needed to pass the second-highest level of the Japanese-Language Proficiency Test.
Other changes include allowing the spouses of the participants and their children to live with them.
Restrictions on age will also be relaxed. Fourth-generation individuals aged 18 to 35 will be allowed to enter Japan for the first time under the program if they have conversational speaking ability.
The government had anticipated the program would bring in around 4,000 people a year, primarily from countries like Brazil and Peru, where many Japanese people immigrated in the 19th and 20th centuries. However, a total of just 128 people had entered as of the end of 2022.
Successful applicants for the program also need a supporter to assist them in their daily lives and activities. The revisions will increase the number of people supporters can be responsible for from two to three.
An official at the Immigration Services Agency of Japan expressed hope the new system will help fourth-generation descendants "settle in Japan and participate in society for a long time."
After hearing public comments on the proposals, the agency intends to revise the current program.