TOKYO -- Japan will let young descendants of Japanese nationals who emigrated abroad work in the country if they meet certain language and other requirements, the Ministry of Justice said Monday.
The new program will be open to fourth-generation ethnic Japanese ages 18 to 30. To qualify, applicants must speak basic Japanese and have a sponsor, such as a family member or employer, to handle the immigration paperwork and provide support. Those accepted will receive "designated activities" visas letting them live and work in Japan for up to five years.
Around 4,000 of these workers will be accepted yearly. Applicants are expected to come largely from countries with large ethnic Japanese populations, such as Brazil and Peru. The ministry plans to start the program by the end of March after a public comment period through Feb. 21.
The measure aims to promote exchanges with people of Japanese descent abroad. But some warn that it may become a backdoor source of cheap labor.
Under current law, second- and third-generation ethnic Japanese can live and work in the country freely as "long-term residents" or otherwise. The fourth generation may stay in Japan long-term only if they are unmarried minors living with a third-generation parent, and even then they are barred in principle from working.
Some 364,000 Japanese Brazilians and Japanese Peruvians were residing in Japan at the end of 2007. But by the end of 2016, the number had dropped to about 222,000 owing to the economic effects of the global financial crisis and the 2011 Japanese tsunami. Some have criticized the country's visa policy as a tool for adjusting labor market pressure.