Lower House passes bill revising foreign residency rules

The Lower House passed bills Friday making it easier for the Justice Ministry’s Immigration Bureau to keep tabs on foreigners who have overstayed their visas as well as others residing legally in the country.

A new form of identification, called a “zairyu” (residence) card, will replace alien registration cards, with the information on them kept by the Justice Ministry.

Foreign residents will be listed on the Juki Net resident registry network, a computer network linking municipalities that contains demographic information of Japanese residents.

Visas, typically good for three years, will be extended to five. Also, foreign residents will no longer be required to obtain re-entry permits if they return to Japan within a year.

On the other hand, the punishments for failing to report one’s address and other personal information will become harsher. In order to curb fake marriages, the bills give the justice minister the authority to revoke the spousal visas of those who fail to conduct “activities spouses normally do” for six months. Special consideration would be given to spouses who live separately because of mitigating circumstances, including abuse.