Visa Crunch

Japanese Government Face Backlash From International Students Over Border Closures

The Japanese government is still facing criticism, as international students and welfare groups demand a timeframe for re-entry “as quickly as possible.”

“The current border policies are not helping to keep Omicron out since most people in Japan can go in and out, but a minority are stuck in limbo,” Davide Rossi, the head of Japanese agency Go! Go! Nihon told.

“If it’s okay for citizens to go out and then re-enter Japan, why is it not okay for new entrants such as international students, workforce, and spouses or dependents?” he continued.

Stakeholders are dissatisfied with the slow pace of changes in policy, and people have “lost trust in Japan,” according to experts. In an editorial at the beginning of the year, Nikkei Asia indicated that renowned academic institutions in the US such as Johns Hopkins will not be sending any more undergraduates in the spring as a part of student exchange programs.

Without the high level of interest in exchange programs from outside, Japanese universities may suffer greatly; Rossi cites a “number of cancellations” of programs across the spectrum.

“Changes in destinations for other countries such as South Korea are very high right now,” said Rossi.

A student from Acre in northwest Brazil, Anas Cordeiro de Medeiros, 28, was scheduled to take her course in Japan; instead, it was taught totally online. Cordeiro, like many other students, has been “live for information that I never get” for the past two years.

“I have already booked and rebooked my ticket more than one time, having memories the melody of the airline’s telephone service,” Cordeiro said in an open letter to the Prime Minister of Japan, Fumio Kishida, and all the “decision-makers on Japan’s borders”.

“What most students are looking for is for the government of Japan to make a clear plan for welcoming students and letting us know about this decision,” said Cordeiro.

“For me, the worst part of living in this limbo is the lack of information – we can’t program ourselves for anything because we never know when we will finally be able to fulfil our dream of going to Japan, or how much longer we need to wait,” she added.

She has finally completed her courses and is aiming to travel to Japan for her graduation in mid-March.

An exception is a group of 87 students who have been granted entry into Japan a Twitter page called @StrandedOutJPN, which was founded by a group of students tweeting about the continued restriction, is apprehensive about what this may imply for students.

“Since even the government recognizes that almost 150,000 students have been waiting to enter Japan – many since 2020 – the 87 exceptions mean very little for solving the issue,” the group told.

“It’s true that they may have impelling reasons to be in Japan, so have most of us,” it added.

Rossi agrees that making an exception for only 87 students is a “slap in the face” to the thousands who have been “wasting money, time, and energy” while waiting for the matter to be resolved.

Another challenge confronting Japan’s overseas students is the limited number of graduate positions accessible in Japan, as well as the time frame in which they can apply for and get hired.

After eight months in Japan, she discovered that the majority of her classmates had already secured a job after graduation while also discovering that the backlog meant that many people applied for opportunities shortly after arriving in Japan.

Whereas the struggle for students seeking employment at the end of their studies in Japan persists, getting in remains the most difficult challenge for overseas students.

According to Rossi, Japan is the only G7 country and possibly the only OECD country that does not allow long-term students to come and has no words or plans for them. Other OECD countries, such as China and New Zealand (which plans to open their borders to overseas students on April 30), have yet to do so.

“I still sincerely hope that other students can join to pursue their studies,” Cordeiro said.

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