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Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Re-entry permits soon consigned to history

Foreigners flock for new residence IDs


Staff writer

A large number of foreign residents flocked to the Tokyo Regional Immigration Bureau on Monday, the first day it is issuing new "zairyu," or residence, cards to replace alien registration cards.

News photo
Walk the line: Foreigners apply for new residence cards at the Tokyo Regional Immigration Bureau on Monday. YOSHIAKI MIURA PHOTOS

At 8:30 a.m., more than 100 people had lined up for the applications to obtain a new card, an official at the center in Minato Ward said.

Those who arrived at around 8 a.m. had to wait about two hours. People who didn't bring a head shot measuring 4 cm by 3 cm also had to line up at the photo booths.

Eight regional bureaus, six district immigration offices and 63 branch offices across the nation are now issuing the residence card. Applicants can go to a bureau or office, fill out the application form and receive the card the same day.

"I feel like a part of society," Yang Chunying, 52, a Chinese national, said after receiving her residence card at the Tokyo bureau. "I am glad to have the card because things will be more convenient."

The new immigration control system that began Monday has unified the administrative work on foreign residents under the Immigration Bureau.

While some fear that controls on non-Japanese will be tightened, the government has made it more convenient for law-abiding foreigners by extending visa lengths to five years from the current three, and eliminating the requirement to obtain a re-entry permit before leaving Japan for any period less than a year.

The system is designed to be tougher on illegal residents, however.

Such people have been receiving various public services because municipalities usually don't care about who is here legally or illegally, but this may not last under the Immigration Bureau's watch.

Some 130 people, mainly Asians, held a demonstration Monday against the new immigration control system at Hibiya Park in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo, saying it is overly harsh on illegal residents.

Crowds of non-Japanese may have flocked to immigration bureaus Monday, but foreign residents don't have to obtain a new card right away. Current alien registration cards will remain valid until either they or their owner's visa runs out.

A 37-year-old Frenchwoman who has lived in Japan for 15 years said while in line for an application that she had to renew her re-entry permit and thus might as well apply for a residence card.

A Romanian housewife who has lived in Japan since 1998, complaining about the wait, said she didn't know she could have waited until later.

News photo
Protesters show their opposition to the new immigration control system during a march that started in Hibiya Park in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo.

"My husband had a day off today, so we came together," she said.

German Lara Makowski, 20, said she arrived in Japan last month and had not obtained an alien registration card.

"I got a letter from the Immigration Bureau which asked me to come to a regional bureau July 9," she said. She will be studying at a university in Kobe.

Starting Monday, foreigners arriving in Japan at Narita International, Tokyo's Haneda, Central Japan International Airport and Kansai International are being asked to obtain a residence card at the airport.

Those who enter Japan otherwise will be asked to go to their nearest local immigration office in 14 days after their address in Japan is determined.


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