Justice Ministry to clear up guidelines for special residence permits

The Justice Ministry will clarify its guidelines for awarding special residence permits to encourage illegal immigrants, fearful of deportation under the current vague standards, to turn themselves in.

Justice Minister Eisuke Mori said Friday the revisions would spell out the “positive” and “negative” factors that are taken into consideration for granting special permits that allow otherwise illegal foreigners to stay in the country.

The ministry’s vague and seemingly arbitrary process of granting special permits has been a target of criticism from groups supporting foreign nationals and lawyers.

Those who have overstayed their visas may be unsure if they qualify for the special permits, so they refuse to step forward and risk deportation.

On Wednesday, the Diet passed a bill to revise the immigration control law and introduce a new program within three years that will benefit legal foreign residents but isolate those here illegally.

Currently, an estimated 130,000 foreigners are residing illegally in Japan.

Under the new guidelines for the special permits, one of the biggest positive factors is if the foreign resident is living with biological children who have been in Japan for 10 or more years and are currently attending elementary, junior high or senior high school.

People with children in junior high school or higher levels of education have often been granted special residence permits. The scope will effectively widen under the new guidelines.

Another main positive factor is if the applicant is suffering from a serious illness, or has kin suffering from illness, that requires treatment in Japan.

Other factors that would work in favor of the foreign resident are residency in Japan for 20 years or longer and if the resident surrenders to authorities.