Newly established visa status that attracts work-ready foreigners

April 2019, the reformed immigration act was finally put into force and newly added visa status, “Specific skills” is given to foreigners.

Japan’s labor population decline caused by decreasing birthrate and aging population is in the serious stage. According to the ministry of internal affairs and communications, the total population took a downward turn after the peak of the population as of 2008. Japan’s total population is expected to go below 100 million in 2050.

In order to put a brake on this serious situation, the Japanese government counts on potential foreign labors in compensation for decreasing and aging population.

The visa status, “Specific skills” was created in the background that the Japanese government recognized the necessity of new visa status to collect work-ready foreign labors when focusing on the particular field to be recognized that it is urgently needed to retain employees because of suffering from serious manpower shortage.

The Immigration policy has taken a stance not to give foreign labors a working visa to compensate for manpower shortage but to give foreign labors a student visa to let them learn Japanese style working method and technologies as intern students for a short term.

So, there has been no visa status so far that enables foreigners to work as manual labor in Japan. The immigration bureau of Japan has only promoted highly skilled foreigners in a certain specialized field, who have the potential of contributing to the Japanese economy and given them an endorsement as “working visa”.

The types of visa status that allow foreigners to work in Japan was only limited to a person who has an academic background and a white-collar worker or an engineer.

Of course, working visa issuance to foreigners comprehensively takes influences on lives of Japanese citizens by increasing foreign workers into consideration but for foreigners, the keywords of “specialized”, “technical” surely made them feel difficult to acquire a working visa.

Currently, the Japanese government will accelerate foreign labors acceptance pace by easing the condition of the visa status that allows a foreigner to work as manual labor

Recent years, I often witness foreigners walking up and down the street in the homogeneous country, Japan. Actually, the number of foreign labors in Japan has increased year by year. However, the current foreign labors acceptance pace cannot put a brake on the economic decline by decreasing population in Japan. Japan’s manpower shortage is an urgent problem to be solved.

Accepting foreign labors is a very important mission to solidify the sustainable economic infrastructure to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with other advanced countries. Easing the condition of the conventional visa status that grants only highly skilled foreigners with an academic background is the first step to break down the problem of the economic decline by decreasing population. Including the condition that enables foreigners to work in Japan as manual labor is the simplest solution for this.

Two types of the visa status, “specific skills”

There are two types in the visa status, “specific skills”, which is No. 1 and No. 2.

The Japanese government expects to accept about 340 thousand foreign labors for over 5 years from April 2019 for the industries that suffer from serious manpower shortage by “Specific skills No.1” and “Specific skills No.2”

Specific skills No.1

This is the visa status for foreigners who have an appreciable extent of knowledge and experience to a certain specific industry.

The description of “specialized” and “technical” having been used as requirements for working visa entitlement so far has expanded to the description, “an appreciable extent of knowledge and experience”, which tells us the attitude of the government that it will openly accept foreign labors.

“An appreciable extent of knowledge and experience” is an experience and knowledge which is needed to be active as a work-ready employee. Those who apply for this visa status need to pass an exam (specific skill proficiency test) for every single industry, conducted by a competent authority. (If you completed the technical intern No,2, this test will be exempted)

The point of difference between the original working visa and this “specific skills” visa is that foreign workers are allowed to do the additional tasks that are usually recognized to be done by Japanese. This is a really good advantage of an employer who hires foreigners. Of course, additional tasks shall be half or less than the entire assignments

Moreover, the point of difference between the technical internship visa and this “specific skills” visa is that “specific skills” visa enables foreigners to change their job in the same industry. Technical internship visa doesn’t allow visa holders to change their job. Thus, accepting an organization is bad enough to send foreign labors to an extremely harsh labor site, problems of foreign labor’s disappearance and illegal stay have increased.

“Specific skills” visa that allows applicants to change the work expands the opportunity for foreigners to work in Japan. This is a good advantage for foreign workers.

Basically, “Specific skills” doesn’t allow you to take along a family with you, and a maximum period of stay in Japan is 5 years

Specific skills No.2

This is the visa status for foreigners who have skillful knowledge and experience to a certain specific industry.

”Specific skills” No.2

”Specific skills” No.2 allows you to take along a family with you and there is no limitation of the period of stay in Japan. If you desire to stay longer in Japan, you can change the visa status to “permanent visa”. This is the aspect that people criticize that Japan finally steps into the start of establishing the immigration state.

14 industries that the government issues the visa, “specific skills”

Currently, applicants shall have experience in designated 14 industries.

These industries are recognized to suffer from serious manpower shortage with even continuous attempts and efforts to improve productivity.

  • Nursing care
  • Building cleaning
  • Forges and foundries
  • Industrial machinery manufacturing industry
  • Japanese Electrical Electronic & Information industry
  • Construction industry
  • Shipbuilding industry
  • Automobile maintenance industry
  • Aviation industry
  • Hotel industry
  • Farm industry
  • Fishery
  • Food manufacturing industry
  • Restaurant industry

Currently, “specific skills” No.2 will accept applicants with experience in construction and shipbuilding industry. Basically, people with the background of other industries except for these 14 industries are not applicable at the moment.

The government has a policy to accept maximum 350,000 foreigners for 5 years at the 14 industries.

The acceptable number of foreing labors in each industry
Nursing care 60,000
Building cleaning 37,000
Forges and foundries 21,500
Industrial machinery manufacturing industry 5,250
Construction industry 4,700
Japanese Electrical Electronic & Information industry 40,000
Shipbuilding industry 13,000
Automobile maintenance industry 7,000
Aviation industry 2,200
Hotel industry 22,000
Farm industry 36,500
Fishery 9,000
Food manufacturing industry 34,000
Restaurant industry 53,000

The standard and obligation for Japanese employers to hire foreign labors

After the additional visa, “specific skills” was put into force in April this year, Japanese companies interested in hiring those foreign labors have increased day by day.

Seminars about foreign labors acceptance, held by the competent authority, were full of audiences.

These are quite good to know if the authority will introduce the strict regulation on acceptance companies to let them realize the fair treatment of foreign labors in the work environment. The following lists are about the treatment standard for foreign labors, which acceptance companies shall keep.

  • Employment contract concluded with foreigners shall not have discriminatory treatment. (For example, foreigner’s salary shall be paid eaqual to or more than Japanese)

  • An acceptance organzation shall not violate labor laws within 5 years.
  • An employer shall have a support system of foreign labors. (For example, a company shall support every single thing in the language that the foreign labor can understand as much as possible.)
  • An employer has a appropriate plan to support foreigne labors. (For example, a company shall have an orientation plan for foreigners to instruct Japanese lifestyle)

These standards will force Japanese acceptance companies to guarantee that the treatment and assement of foreign labors shall not differentiate from that of Japanese. Salary, working content, and other treatment must not be discriminatory.

Likewise, when supporting foreing labors, Japanese staff are required to use the language that the foreign labor can understand easily even if he/she doesn’t reach level 4 of the Japanese proficiency test.

Acceptance companies are also obliged to establish support system for foreign labors. The followings are concrete example of support contents for foreign laborss.

  • Living guidance before coming to Japan
  • Transportation service to the airport
  • Contracting apartment
  • Living orientation during the period of stay in Japan
  • Advisory to foreigner’s complaint and worries
  • Japanese language acquisition
  • Information provision to municipal procedures
  • International exchange promotion
  • Job change support

However, tackling with this support system takes on a strict financial burden to small acceptance companies. Currently, the governemnt origanized the support system of foreign labors to enable those companies to outsource foreigner’s support tasks to a registered support organization, established by newly reformed immigration act.

The requirements that you work in Japan under the visa “specific skills” No.1

To work in Japan under the visa status, “specific skills” No.1, you need to satisfy the following conditions.

  • Pass the exam of “specific skills No.1” conducted by the competent authority
  • Receive “specific skills” No.1 visa at the same time you completed the technical internship program No.2 (for from 3 years to 5 years)

However, the Japanese government clearly differentiate foreign labors acceptance pattern between passing the exam and completing the technical internship program depending on the industry.

For example, the government expects to accept foreign labors by the results of the examination regarding the nursing care industry, restaurant industry, hotel industry, which “specific skill proficiency examination” was introduced for the first time.

In contrast, industries such as construction, manufacture, farming that has accepted foreign labors positively as one of the internship programs so far, are expected to accept them as the second condition.

The start season of “specific skill proficiency examination” all depends on the industry but 3 industries of nurse caring, hotel, the restaurant has already started the examination antecedently. “Specific skill proficiency test” for other industries are expected to start the autumn season this year.

The counries which applicants can take “specific skill proficiency examination” examination

For the time being, “specific skill proficiency examination” is planned to be carried out in the following 9 countries.

  • China
  • Vietnam
  • China
  • Myanmar
  • Indonasia
  • Thai
  • Nepal
  • Cambodia
  • Mongol

The Japanese government plans to increase the countries that accepts conducting the examination.

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