New status of residence in Japan offers opportunities for foreigners

Kyodo News

Posted at Jun 24 2019 08:58 PM

Overseas workers sat a first ever exam in April to become qualified for Japan's newly introduced "specified skilled worker" status of residence.

"I want to work at reception someday," said aspiring hotel worker Magil Farah Piastro, a Filipino woman who sat the written and practical exam in Nagoya. The 28-year-old received a letter of acceptance for a position at a Japanese hotel in late May.

Born and raised in the southern Philippine city of Davao, Piastro decided to come to Japan after seeing a pamphlet about studying and working in the country.

She arrived at Narita airport near Tokyo along with a friend in October 2017 as an overseas student after just one month studying Japanese. Still new to Japan's climate, Piastro recalls feeling anxious and cold wearing short-sleeves and shorts in the chill when she arrived.

She soon began attending Japanese classes at a language school near her apartment in Nagoya, Aichi Prefecture, while working part-time at an "izakaya" Japanese-style pub after school. She would study for another two hours every day after coming home from work around 1 a.m.

"It was embarrassing as I could barely speak Japanese" compared to her friends, she said. "(But they) were working hard, and I decided to put in as much effort as I could as well."

Not long after arriving, Piastro left the izakaya and began working at a new part-time job. There were days when she struggled, often being yelled at by her new boss.

She endured the workplace for four months before changing jobs once again, this time to a hotel, where the atmosphere was more agreeable. She continued to work cleaning the rooms until finally taking the exam.

Brought up by a father who runs his own construction company, Piastro says her upbringing was "normal."

She worked at a local bank in the Philippines after studying accounting in university. She says she did not decide to move because of any particular objection to her lifestyle in the Philippines, and noted that, since she was her parent's youngest daughter, her mother opposed her leaving.

But people who work abroad are often regarded highly in the community, she said.

"I considered going to the United States because I can speak English, but the terms to be accepted for immigration can be tough," she said of her decision. "I can only be there for a short period, and it's also fiercely competitive."

"Annual income in Davao is about 400,000 yen ($3,700)," Piastro said. "It took me two, three months to earn that amount working part time (here)."

Noting the perks of being in Japan, she said, "I can also learn a new language. I like the nature here, but especially like how kind the people are."

"I already feel sad when I think about having to go back home," Piastro said. The length of her visa is five years.

"Once the issues with my status of residence are resolved, I'd ideally like to work for a bank in Japan," she said.