Q and A for Medium to Long-term Residents

Revised Immigration Act
Q and A for Undocumented Residents and Refugee Applicants
English Version, Jun.2011

Until now, undocumented residents were able to obtain certificates of alien registration as an official proof of residence.
However, as of July 2012, the alien registration system will be abolished and undocumented residents will no longer have any official identification form.
What will happen to undocumented residents…?


Questions
  1. Is it true that the current certificates of alien registration are being abolished ?
  2. Who is considered an "undocumented resident"?
  3. What is going to change under the revised Immigration Act?
  4. What will happen to my rights that are guaranteed under the current system ?
  5. What will happen to people applying for refugee status ?
  6. What happens if my status of residence is revoked or expires ?
  7. How will the government obtain information about me ?
  8. Does this mean that I won't be able to work anymore ?


Q1
Is it true that the current certificates of alien registration are being abolished?

Yes, it is true. The current Alien Registration Act will be abolished and a new system of residence management will be implemented.

The Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act (hereinafter Immigration Act), the Special Act on the Immigration Control of, Inter Alia, Those who have lost Japanese Nationality Pursuant to the Treaty of Peace with Japan (hereinafter Special Act) and the Basic Resident Registration Act were revised and promulgated on July 15, 2009. New systems introduced by these revised laws are going into effect in July 2012.
Under the new systems, Korean and Taiwanese special permanent residents designated by the Special Act ('zai-nichi') will be issued"special permanent resident certificates." All other foreigners with legal status of residence will be issued with"residence cards ('zairyu' cards)." Local government will issue"residential certificates for a foreign national resident ('jumin-hyo' for a foreign national resident)" for special permanent residents and medium to long-term residents (see Tab. 1).

Undocumented residents will not receive Residence Cards

Undocumented residents, including foreign residents with "no status of residence" (as printed on your certificates of alien registration certificates),will not be issued with residence cards nor residential certificates for a foreign national resident.

Tab. 1 Changes under the revised laws (2012- )
Current
"Alien Registration Act"
Revised Immigration Act and Special Act Revised Basic Resident Registration Act
Special Permanent Residents
(Korean and Taiwanese designated by the Special Act)
Issued with
"Certificate of Alien Registration"
by local government
Issued with "Special Permanent Resident Certificate"
by local government
Issued with "Residential certificate for a foreign national resident"
by local government
Medium to Long-term Residents
(Permanent Residents, College Student, etc.)
Issued with
"Certificate of Alien Registration"
by local government
Issued with "Residence Card"
by local immigration office
Issued with "Residential certificate for a foreign national resident"
by local government
Persons with no status of residence
(overtayers etc.)
Issued with
"Certificate of Alien Registration"
by local government
"Residence Card" will not be issued "Residential certificate for a foreign national resident" will not be issued/eliminated


Q2
Who is considered an "undocumented resident"?

"Undocumented residents" are foreigners living in Japan without a valid status of residence. These include alien residents who have overstayed their period of stay, entered Japan illegally, are on provisional release from detention facilities ('kari-homen'), have permission for provisional stay in Japan ('kari-taizai') or have landing permission for temporary refuge ('ichiji-higo-kyoka').

Overstayers

These are aliens who entered Japan legally with valid status of residence for such as temporary visitor, college student, but exceeded their legal period of stay and therefore lost their status of residence. The Ministry of Justice estimated that there were 78,488 foreigners living in Japan with expired status of residence at the start of 2011. Foreigners who have overstayed their period of stay, like drivers who break traffic rules, are in violation of administrative regulations but have not actually committed any criminal acts.

Illegal entrants

These are aliens who entered Japan without completing valid legal entry procedures, by using falsified documents or by smuggling themselves across the border, for example. The Ministry of Justice estimated that there were between 13,000 and 22,000 illegal entrants residing in Japan at the start of 2010.

Aliens on provisional release from detention facilities

These people are potential objects of forcible deportation due to violation of the Immigration Act or punitive laws, who have been detained in immigration detention centers, but have been given permission for provisional release. The terms of release include the payment of deposit, limits on place of residence and freedom of movement, and a duty to report regularly to the Immigration Bureau. Even if a detainee gets provisional release, he/she is not given a legal residence status, so he/she is still an undocumented resident. In 2009, there were 3,102 aliens living in Japan on provisional release from detention facilities.

Aliens with permission for provisional stay in Japan

These are aliens who applied for refugee status in Japan and fulfilled certain criteria, allowing them to gain permission to reside in Japan temporarily. The terms of this permission include limits on place of residence and freedom of movement, restriction on types of activities, and a duty to report to the Immigration Bureau when requested. The Immigration Bureau may also take the person's fingerprints when deemed necessary. In 2009, only 72 out of 1,028 applicants received permission for provisional stay in Japan.

Aliens with landing permission for temporary refuge

These are aliens who may be refugees and whom the Immigration Bureau has decided should be allowed to land in Japan for temporary refuge. Like the above categories, there are limits on place of residence and freedom of movement during the period of temporary refuge. From 2005 to 2009, landing permission for temporary refuge was granted in only four cases.

Children without valid status of residence

These include children born in Japan to undocumented residents, children living in Japan who have lost their valid status of residence, and children who have entered Japan without a valid status of residence. Although there is no official estimate of the number of children in this category, it is probably a significant number.

Recognition of refugee status and special permission to stay

If you are granted refugee status ('nanmin-nintei') or special permission to stay ('zairyu-tokubetsu-kyoka'), you become a legal resident.

Fig.1 Change in the number of overstayers by nationality (place of origins)


Q3
What is going to change under the revised Immigration Act?

When the revised Immigration Act is implemented, the current Alien Registration Act will be abolished. Until now foreigners staying in Japan for more than 90 days could obtain certificates of alien registration even if they are undocumented residents. However, under the new registration card system, cards will only be provided to medium to long-term foreign residents staying in Japan legally (that is, those whose period of stay is longer than 3 months).

Foreign residents who currently carry certificates of alien registration with the words "no status of residence" will be required to return their certificates to the Immigration Bureau within three months of implementation of the revised law (scheduled for July 2012).

You will no longer have official means of identification.

Under the revised law, foreign nationals will be able to enter their local governments' basic resident register and will receive "residential certificates for a foreign national resident." However, residential certificates for a foreign national resident will only be provided to medium to long-term residents, special permanent residents, "aliens with permission for provisional stay in Japan" and "aliens with landing permission for temporary refuge." All other undocumented residents will not receive residential certificates for a foreign national resident.
Consequently, most undocumented residents will have neither residence cards nor residential certificates for a foreign national resident, and will therefore have no official means of identification from either the central government or their local government office.

Fig.2 Undocumented residents and alien registration


Q4
What will happen to my rights that are guaranteed under the current system?

The government has said in the Diet that there will be essentially no change to guaranteed rights after the revised Immigration Act is implemented.

Guarantee of most basic rights

At present, the most basic level of rights is guaranteed even to undocumented residents. These include, for example, the right to education, the right of mothers and children to receive health care and medical services, and various laws and regulations concerning workers' rights (see Tab. 2). In addition to these basic rights, the current system also guarantees many other rights including the right to trial, the right to freedom of expression, and the right not to be discriminated against based on race or other factors.

Need for proof of residence

However, when you have utilized government services in the past, the local government offices have judged whether or not you are a local resident "based on your alien registration" with the local government. Under the new system, there must be some alternative method of determining your residence. In some cases, local governments have accepted public utilities receipts as proof of the residence of undocumented residents.

Supplementary provisions to the revised laws

When these issues were taken up at the Diet, supplementary provisions were added to the revised Immigration Act and revised Basic Resident Registration Act, and a secondary resolution was adopted.
The resolution seeks the cooperation of local governments with the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications and the Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare in implementing steps to ensure that the rights outlined in Tab. 2 should continue to be guaranteed after the revised laws comes into effect.

Tab.2 The current application of laws and government services for undocumented residents
System Application to undocumented residents Overview
Labor Standards Act Protection of most basic labor rights
Labor Union Act Guarantee of right to participate in labor union activities
Minimum Wage Law Guarantee of a minimum wage
Industrial Safety and Health Act Workplace safety
Industrial Accident Compensation Insurance Insurance for workplace injuries or illness
Employment insurance × Support for the unemployed
Health Insurance × Insurance for private injuries or illness
Public Assistance × Guarantee of the basic standard of living
National Pension Plan Support for the elderly, disability pension, and survivor pension
Employees Pension Insurance Support for the elderly, disability pension, and survivor pension
School Education Right for children to school education
Mother and Child Health Handbook Support for pregnancy and childbirth
In-hospital childbirth care Monetary support for childbirth
Medical aid for premature infants Medical care to premature infants
Medical care for disabled children Care for children born with disabilities
Rehabilitative medical care Care for adults with disabilities or chronic illnesses (for example, patients on dialysis or people with HIV)
Tuberculosis treatment Including compulsory isolation
Mental health care Treatment for schizophrenia, depression, and other chronic mental illnesses
Medical care for children with chronic diseases Financial assistance for treatment of certain chronic diseases in children such as cancer, while using the information gained to measure the establishment and prevalence of different methods of treatment
Preventative vaccinations Japanese encephalitis, polio, tuberculosis, measles, rubella, and so on
Medical care for those who contracted disease on journey Provision of in-hospital treatment for those who have no registered address or place of work, and no guardians
Unpaid medical costs compensation system Limited in municipalities that offer this program
○=Applies ×=Does not apply  △=May apply depending on the local system


Q5
What will happen to people applying for refugee status?

Refugee applicants who have valid status of residence allowing them to stay in Japan for more than three months will be treated like other "medium to long-term foreign residents." They will receive residence cards and their local government will provide them with residential certificates for a foreign national resident.
On the other hand, refugee applicants with permission for provisional stay or landing permission for temporary refuge will receive residential certificates, but will not be provided with residence cards.

Can refugee applicants enter the national health insurance program?

Refugee applicants can enter the national health insurance program only if they have a status of residence that allows them to stay for over a year or if the period of permission to stay is less than a year but it seems likely at the time of entry that the person will remain in Japan for more than a year. Accordingly, there are many refugee applicants who won't be able to receive national health insurance. In these cases, all medical costs must be shouldered by the individual.

Elementary and junior high school education remain free of charge

Children can attend elementary and junior high school free of charge whether or not they have a valid status of residence. However, because school is not compulsory for them, there may be cases where families don't receive information about entering the education system. In these cases, the family must request information directly from their local government office.

Guarantee of rights for refugee applicants without valid status of residence

The various rights outlined in Tab. 2 will continue to be guaranteed to all foreigners without status of residence, including refugee applicants. Accordingly, even if an applicant has no valid status of residence, he/she will still have various labor rights and will be able to receive government-sponsored maternal health care services. For example, a refugee applicant would be able to receive monetary support for in-hospital care when giving birth.

Tab.3 Effects of the revised Immigration Act on refugee applicants
Status of residence Residence Card Residential certificate for a foreign national resident National health insurance Right for children to school education
Valid status of residence Period of stay over 3 months
Period of stay under 3 months × × ×
No valid status of residence Permission for provisional stay in Japan ×
Permission for temporary refuge ×
Others × × ×

Fig.3 Status of residence of refugee applicants at the time of application


Q6
What happens if my status of residence is revoked or expires?

Even if you come to Japan with a valid status of residence, you may lose that status if your status of residence is revoked or if you forget to extend your period of stay.

Invalidation of a residence card and deletion of a residential certificate for a foreign national resident

If your status of residence is revoked or expires, your residence card will be invalidated and must be handed in to the Immigration Bureau within 14 days. If you fail to hand it in within the specified period, you may have to pay a fine of up to 200,000 yen.
In addition, the Ministry of Justice will notify the local government that you have lost your status of residence. The local government will then delete your name from its basic resident register.


Q7
How will the government obtain information about me?

Under the revised Immigration Act, there are provisions allowing the government to continuously keep track of information about medium to long-term foreign residents. However, this system of information collection will not apply to undocumented residents.

Because undocumented residents reside in Japan in violation of administrative regulations, i.e., the Immigration Act, public officials generally have a duty to report undocumented residents to the Immigration Bureau. However, in cases where such a report would be contrary to the purposes of the specific office or administrative agency, the officials are allowed to compare the relative costs and benefits of reporting the undocumented residents to the Immigration Bureau and "make an specific decision of whether or not to do so on an individual basis."

Schools and labor standards management bureaus

Based on the above reasoning, schools refrain from reporting undocumented resident children to the Immigration Bureau. Similarly, labor standards management bureaus don't report undocumented workers who make complaints about labor law violations.




Q8
Does this mean that I won't be able to work anymore?

Under the newly revised laws, foreigners without a residence cards or a special permanent residence certificates will no longer be able to work and make a living in Japan.

The Immigration Bureau is utilizing the information from citizens by email, telephone and fax to crack down on undocumented residents. In addition, under the new law, even medium to long-term residents will be required to carry their residence cards at all times.
Medium to long-term residents will have to present their residence cards whenever they look for an apartment, sign up with a mobile phone, open a bank account, or carry out any similar activities in their daily lives.

Duty to check for recognition/nonrecongnition or conditions of working per status of residence

In addition, to prevent employers from employing foreigners unknowingly who lack permission to work, the revised law requires all employers to check residence cards of potential employees and to confirm "whether they are permitted to work." If an employer hires a foreign worker without such permission, the employer may be punished.
As a result, under the new systems, foreign nationals without residence cards or special permanent resident certificates will no longer be able to work and make a living in Japan.



In other words, under the revised law...

Penalties for residing in Japan without a valid status of residence are not necessarily meant to increase in severity. However, implementation of the residence card system and the foreigner resident registration record system will "structurally" exclude you from Japanese society, essentially making them invisible.

This is a big minus for Japanese society
Through the present day, countless undocumented residents have contributed to Japanese economy and supported our way of life by performing tasks at dirty, dangerous and demeaning worksites, (i.e., "3D" jobs), while making their ways in Japanese society.
Laborers who work hard for the sake of their families and society, parents who pray for their children's happiness, children with dreams of the future, refugee applicants who have escaped from persecution in their home countries and have come to Japan… All of these "undocumented residents" have their own distinct experiences and backgrounds, but all of them are trying their hardest to build a life for themselves in Japan.

"Undocumented residents", who are victims by Japanese government's unrealistic immigration policy, haven't committed any criminal offense while they are criminalized based on their violation of the Immigration Act, an administrative regulation.

The fundamental ability to "live together ('kyo-sei')" in local community has nothing to do with a person's lack of citizenship or lack of a status of residence. These misguided laws prevent Japanese citizens and foreign residents from living together in peace.