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Wednesday, Feb. 18, 2009

Justice Ministry looking to take over foreigner ID cards

Staff writer

The Justice Ministry has drafted a bill to abolish the current system for Alien Registration Cards handled at the local level and instead directly manage data on registered foreign residents using a new ID, members of a Liberal Democratic Party panel said Tuesday.

A copy of the bill has been obtained by The Japan Times.

The government is expected to submit it to the Diet during the current session, which runs until June unless the prime minister dissolves the Lower House beforehand for an election.

According to the draft, the ministry will issue a new "zairyu" (residence) card to replace the current alien card to provide better services for foreign residents.

In one benefit for foreigners, the bill also would extend the duration of visas to five years from the current three.

Some foreign residents have already raised concerns that the new card could allow greater monitoring by the central government.

But Lower House member Taro Kono, who is on the LDP panel looking into the idea, said the new system would allow the government to properly manage data on foreign residents, which would benefit them as well.

Foreign residents would have to report changes in their addresses and other personal data to the Justice Ministry, in some cases via the mayor of their city.

Currently, alien registration cardholders are not punished if they fail to report moving from one municipality to another, Kono pointed out.

"A municipality where a foreigner moves to cannot provide public services unless it is advised of the new address. The new system will benefit foreigners, too," Kono told The Japan Times over the phone Tuesday.

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The Japan Times

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