New registry rules for foreigners proposed

A government panel Thursday recommended creating a new system by 2012 to register foreign residents on a household basis, replacing the current individual-basis system, to better oversee their living conditions.

Japanese nationals are registered on a household basis.

In a report, the panel of experts under the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications also recommended scrapping the current two-tier system in which the Justice Ministry handles immigration and stay permits, while local governments handle registrations of foreign residents, and called for a unified control system.

Based on the recommendation report, the internal affairs ministry will submit a bill for the envisaged foreigner registry system to an ordinary Diet session next year, ministry officials said.

The proposed steps are expected to help improve the welfare, education and other public services for foreign residents, but critics warn it could lead to increased surveillance.

The number of non-Japanese residents has topped 2 million, more than doubling in the past 20 years.