Japan plans to start easing entry restrictions for non-resident foreign nationals in March 2022. The education minister says he intends to pave the way for the arrival of foreign students waiting to study in Japan.
Prime Minister Kishida Fumio announced on Thursday that Japan will ease border controls on new foreign arrivals. He also said the daily cap on entries will be raised from the current 3,500 to 5,000. That number includes Japanese citizens.
The restrictions have left foreign students, who want to study in Japan, in limbo.
The government first introduced the pandemic entry restrictions in April 2020. In May of last year, foreign recipients of Japanese government scholarships were allowed to enter the country. In November, rules were further eased to accommodate other foreign students.
However, the measure only lasted for three weeks, due to the emergence of the Omicron variant. Tokyo responded to the highly transmissible variant by effectively shutting its borders to new foreign arrivals.
When the entry rules were eased last November, the education ministry decided to use the dates on the foreign students’ Certificates of Eligibility to determine the order in which their entry forms would be processed. A Certificate of Eligibility is one of the official documents required to obtain a Japanese visa in some of the visa categories, such as work or study. This time, the ministry says the dates on the certificates will not be used.
Foreign students are giving the decisions mixed reviews on social media. While welcoming the end of the travel ban, one wrote that “a lot of questions remain.” The person asked whether students will be able to enter Japan before April when the new school year begins.
Another student wrote that she received her Certificate of Eligibility in May 2020. She said it is unthinkable that her application will not be given priority this time. She wrote, “Not so many people can wait this long.”
Japan’s education minister Suematsu Shinsuke spoke to reporters on Friday. He said he believes easing the rules will be the first step toward allowing foreign students to arrive. Suematsu said the students have been waiting anxiously. But he added that more time will likely pass before all the students can enter Japan.
The minister acknowledged that many challenges remain. He indicated that his ministry will keep Japanese educational institutions well informed about the new rules. He added that the ministry will cooperate with other government offices to keep the process moving forward.
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