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Saturday, July 7, 2012

Readers pose questions on the new residence card system

Staff writer

The Japan Times has received several questions about the new foreigners' residence card system from readers. Below are key issues they raised:

What are the implications for permanent residents?

Other than having to go to their local immigration office to obtain residence cards by a specific date, the implications for permanent residence permit holders are pretty much the same as for holders of working or other visas.

How might the change impact people in Japan on 90-day visas seeking to stay longer?

The new immigration control system does not change anything concerning temporary visit visas. Those who enter on 90-day visas will still be able to apply to switch it to six-month visa. Also, conditions under which the Immigration Bureau will allow switching from a temporary visit visa to other types of visas will not change.

I heard foreign residents will be able to obtain "juminhyo" residence registry forms. What will the benefits be?

Foreign residents are currently not registered under the same residence registration network Japanese fall under, but effective Monday, legal foreign residents, after obtaining new residence cards, will be able to obtain the same juminhyo as Japanese nationals. The juminhyo is different from the new residence card each foreigner must carry.

One benefit of joining the residence registry is that one registry form will contain identification information not just for the person registered but other members of the family, an Immigration Bureau official said.

Foreigners who obtain residence cards have their personal information automatically entered into the residence registration network. If the holder were to move and register a new address, the local municipal office will automatically register that person's social health insurance, pension and other public services, an Internal Affairs Ministry official said.

The new residence cards are supposed to make things easier and more fair, but will foreigners really benefit?

This is hard to say. The short answer is residence cards will make it easier for the Immigration Bureau to oversee foreign residents.

The new system will make things more convenient, for example, by providing five-year visas instead of the current three. And re-entry permits will no longer be necessary if a foreign resident is not away from Japan for more than a year.

However, activists argue the new system may violate the privacy of law-abiding foreigners as the Immigration Bureau will automatically know, for example, who takes more than 14 days to report an address change.

I plan to extend my visa. How can I obtain a three- or five-year visa and when can I change my alien registration card?

You can go to a local immigration office starting Monday.

The maximum visa duration the Immigration Bureau will allow will be five years, but the visa duration will be at the discretion of the bureau, an official said.

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