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Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2011
Immigration changes to come as new law takes effect in July
By JUN HONGO
The revised immigration law will take effect next July 9 and the government will start accepting applications for new residence registration cards on Jan. 13, the Cabinet decided Tuesday, paving the way for increased government scrutiny through a centralized immigration control of foreign nationals.
The amendment will affect foreign nationals who are residing here under medium- to long-term residence status as stipulated by the Immigration Control Act. While some will be exempt from the change, such as special permanent residents of Korean descent, most foreign residents will be required to make a few major changes, including obtaining new registration cards.
The current alien registration cards, overseen by local municipalities, will be replaced with the cards issued by the central government.
According to the Justice Ministry, foreign residents can apply for the new card at their nearest regional immigration office beginning Jan. 13 but won't receive it until July. However, valid alien registration certificates will be acceptable until the cardholder's next application for a visa extension takes place.
At that point, the old card will be replaced with the new residence card, which will have a special embedded IC chip to prevent counterfeiting.
The government claims that centralized management of data on foreign residents will allow easier access to all personal information of the cardholder, such as type of visa, home address and work address, and in return enable officials to more conveniently provide services for legal aliens.
For example, documented foreigners will have their maximum period of stay extended to five years instead of the current three years. Re-entry to Japan will also be allowed without applying for a permit as long as the time away is less than a year, according to the Justice Ministry.
Permanent residents, meanwhile, will have to apply for a new residence card within three years from July 2012. Required materials necessary for an application have not been determined yet.
Medium- and long-term residents newly arriving in Japan will be given an application form for a residence card.
In addition to the introduction of new residence cards, the changes include provisions such as the issuance of a Special Permanent Resident Certificate.