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Japan Immigration

Tokyo to prevent foreign hires from displacing Japanese workers

New work visa laws include stronger protections for foreigners

Foreign workers at a construction site in Japan's Aichi Prefecture.

TOKYO -- Japanese employers can hire foreign-born workers on the condition that they retain current employees doing the same job, according to forthcoming government rules meant to address concerns about recently passed work visa legislation, Nikkei has learned.

The provision is a response to fears that the amended immigration law could potentially lead to foreigners taking jobs away from Japanese citizens. The rules will be issued within the current fiscal year ending in March.

In addition, companies will be required to keep tabs on foreign employees and create a working environment that would discourage them from fleeing their jobs. The rules prohibit companies from dealing with malicious labor brokers who, for example, demand security deposits from workers. Businesses will also need to be able to provide support to foreign workers in a language they understand.

Criticism of the poor conditions faced by many foreigners working in Japan under the technical intern trainee program prompted another rule that foreigners must be paid the same as Japanese peers or better. If a foreigner is unable to afford a trip back to his or her home country, the company will be required to cover the costs. The rules also stipulate that support will be provided to transition foreign-born workers to new jobs if the company they work for goes bankrupt.

The government will require foreigners to be 18 or older to qualify for the new work visas, which will be introduced in April. To receive the first category of the visa, the applicant must demonstrate both the required work skills and enough Japanese-language proficiency to perform the job.

The visas grant maximum residency of five years, with renewals required every four months, every six months or annually. A second category, granted to highly skilled workers, can be renewed indefinitely, at six-month, annual or three-year intervals.

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