Visa Crunch

Japanese Govt Cautious About Opening Borders, International Students In A Limbo

The business hours checks in the Tokyo metropolitan region and Osaka Prefecture was abolished on October 25, which is great news for bar-goers and drinkers. As the number of new Covid-19 cases continue to fall, society is steadily returning to normal. However, some limits remain in force, such as those governing foreign national immigration.

Only a tiny number of government-sponsored international students, for example, are permitted to enter Japan. This means that, even if they have been admitted to Japanese colleges, privately supported students, who make up the majority of overseas students, will have little alternative except to remain in their home countries and take online lessons.

Late last month, an NHK news program featured the tribulations of a 22-year-old Spanish lady who had long wished to visit Japan. Student Joana Gubau has always been a fan of Japanese anime and idols. She opted to enrol in a language school after graduating from university in order to pursue her ambition of working in the Japanese fashion industry. She is now studying Korean at a university in the South Korean capital Seoul after being told she could not enter Japan.

Japan is the only country among the seven advanced economies (G7) that does not allow international students to enter the country. As a result, in circumstances similar to Gubau, students have moved their study destination from Japan to another country.

The Ministry of Education and other organizations have been asked by the Japan Association of National Universities (JANU) and the Japan Association of Private Universities and Colleges (JAPUC) to relax visa restrictions for overseas students. The government, on the other hand, has been hesitant to respond.

However, if Japan continues to isolate itself from the rest of the world, even those like Joana Gubau, who may have fallen in love with Japan if given the opportunity, would turn away.

Japan’s reputation as a study destination among overseas students is dwindling, which may have an impact on the country’s capacity to attract smart individuals. As of October 1, around 3,70,000 foreign nationals were unable to enter Japan despite having pre-certification for residency status due to border procedures designed at restricting the spread of Covid-19.

Around 70% of individuals who are unable to travel to Japan are technical intern trainees and international students. Although many nations are easing restrictions on immigration and reopening their economy, Japan remains mostly closed to foreign entrants from all regions.

According to a government source, since January 2020, the Immigration Service Agency has awarded eligibility certificates to 5,78,000 persons, 371,000 of whom have not yet entered Japan. The health ministry is considering loosening the limits, but it is concerned that allowing more foreign nationals into Japan could result in a rise in COVID-19 cases and new viral strains.

Following the legislative election on October 31, the government intends to gradually remove border controls, giving preference to short-term business travellers. Prior to the pandemic, approximately 1,20,000 overseas students visited Japan each year. However, 1,47,000 of the 1,99,000 permitted since 2020 have not entered the country.

“If the immigration restrictions remain in place, we will be unable to continue our operations within a year,” a representative of a Japanese language school stated. “Long-term entrance restrictions would have a significant impact on the domestic economy,” said Atsuo Hamada, a professor at Tokyo Medical University. “It is time to consider reopening with confirmation of vaccination and other precautions,” he said.

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