In 2021, Japan received 67 000 new immigrants on a long-term or permanent basis (including changes of status), -36% compared to 2020. This figure comprises 48.4% labour migrants, 44.6% family members (including accompanying family) and 1% humanitarian migrants. Around 12 000 permits were issued to tertiary-level international students and 30 000 to temporary and seasonal labour migrants.

Viet Nam, China and the United States were the top three nationalities of newcomers in 2021. Among the top 15 countries of origin, Viet Nam registered the largest decrease (-46 000) in flows to Japan compared to the previous year.

In 2022, the number of first asylum applicants increased by 56%, to reach around 3 800. The majority of applicants came from Cambodia (600), Sri Lanka (500), and Türkiye (400). Of the 12 000 decisions taken in 2022, 16% were positive.

Emigration of Japanese citizens to OECD countries increased by 13% in 2021, to 19 000. Approximately 20% of this group migrated to the United States, 18% to Germany and 7% to Canada.

In February 2023, Japan announced two new immigration pathways to attract and retain talent. First, the “Japan System for Special Highly Skilled Professionals (J-Skip)” will allow foreigners who meet specific income and work experience or academic background requirements to skip the current points-based system and automatically be granted a Highly Skilled Professionals status. Under this, foreigners may change to a status of residence with indefinite duration of stay in Japan after only one year of residence.

Second, Japan introduced the “Japan System for Future Creation Individual Visa (J-Find)”, a job search visa for graduates of prestigious overseas universities. Under the J-Find visa, graduates may search for a job in Japan and prepare to start a business for up to two years and are allowed to sponsor accompanying spouses and children.

The Technical Intern Training Programme (TITP) and the Specified Skilled Worker System (SSWS) are currently under review. The interim report of the government’s advisory panel was published in May 2023 and called for the TITP to be replaced with a new programme that clearly aims, not only to develop, but also to secure human resources labour. To retain foreign workers, it suggests aligning the job categories of the new programme and the SSWS so that they can smoothly transfer from the new programme to the SSWS. The interim report also recommends that employer changes be allowed to a certain degree and that the criteria for certification of supervising organisations be tightened in the new programme. The final report of the panel is expected to be delivered by Autumn 2023.

In June 2023, an amendment to the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act was passed. It is intended to be a well-balanced system that integrally resolves issues under the current act, such as evasion of deportation and long-term detention, through a package of various measures to achieve proper immigration and residence management while respecting the human rights of foreign nationals. This will serve as the foundation for accepting foreign nationals and realizing and maintaining a coexisting society.

Japan continued efforts to digitalise immigration processes, the Certificate of Eligibility (CoE) issued in Japan by the Immigration Services Agency is delivered in electric format starting March 2023. Foreign nationals who wish to enter Japan as a mid-to-long-term resident need this certificate as a first step before applying for a visa in the country of origin. The digitalisation of the CoE removes the step of mailing the CoE hardcopy to the immigrants in the country of origin, which streamlines and reduces the costs of the immigration process.

In July 2022, Japan concluded a Memorandum of Co-operation (MoC) with Lao PDR on the Japanese Specified Skilled Worker System. Lao PDR is the 15th country to sign a MoC since the launch of the programme in 2019.

In March 2022, Japan established an emergency pathway for Evacuees from Ukraine, who are allowed to stay in Japan temporarily under a “designated activities” status of residence. By April 2023, 2 402 individuals from Ukraine had arrived in Japan.

Further information: www.mhlw.go.jp/english | www.isa.go.jp/en | www.moj.go.jp

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