Japan lifts visa restrictions for foreign dentists, nurses

The Justice Ministry on Tuesday revised an ordinance concerning residence visas, lifting a set of restrictions for foreign dentists, nurses, maternity nurses and health workers who have Japanese state qualifications.

The step, which abolished limits on the number of years and the extent of areas in which they can work in the country, was taken on the grounds that Japan needs to accept a broad range of foreigners with specialized skills as it copes with a declining birthrate and rapidly aging population.

The revision allows foreign nurses and health workers without permanent resident status to continue working in Japanese medical institutions beyond the designated number of years. It also paves the way for foreign dentists to open their own clinics in urban areas and work at private clinics.

Until now, the ordinance limited the number of years foreigners could work under medical practitioner visas after obtaining Japanese state qualifications to six years for dentists, seven years for nurses, and four years for maternity nurses and health workers.

It also only allowed foreign dentists to work as long as they were doing clinical studies at university hospitals and to work beyond the designated number of years only while practicing in remote areas designated by the justice minister.

Abolishing the work visa restrictions was one of the agenda items cited in the government’s fourth basic plan on immigration set in March. Japan already lifted six-year working limits for foreign doctors in June 2006.

Foreigners registered under medical practitioner visas including doctors are gradually increasing, totaling 95 in 2000, 114 in 2002 and 220 in 2009.