NILS Fukuoka Times

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What’s Happening Now in Fukuoka & Japan in August 2020


Japan to ease entry restrictions for foreign students – Nationwide

Japan has decided to ease entry restrictions for foreign students, imposed to curb the coronavirus, possibly within this month, government sources said Saturday. Japan also plans to fully lift the re-entry ban on foreign nationals who hold resident status as early as next month, according to the sources.

The restrictions for foreign students will first be eased for those sponsored by the Japanese government and the relaxation is expected to be later expanded to self-supporting international students. All foreigners will be required to take polymerase chain reaction tests and prove that they are not infected with the virus when entering Japan, the sources said, adding that they will also be requested to stay in self-isolation for two weeks to monitor their health.

Japan currently denies entry from 146 countries and regions. The denial of re-entry for those with resident status has drawn strong criticism particularly from the country’s expatriate community, as it effectively prevents them from traveling abroad and returning. Many other countries that have imposed travel bans do not discriminate between citizens and foreign residents in granting re-entry. Most foreign students usually come to Japan in the spring and fall, when the school calendar in the country begins. But many of them could not enter Japan this spring as the government sharply increased the number of countries designated for entry restrictions in early April, in response to the global pandemic.

Besides foreign residents, who are allowed to re-enter Japan under certain conditions, the relaxation of the restrictions has so far only applied for those on business trips. The Japanese government has recently decided to accept business travellers from 16 countries, including Thailand and Vietnam.

The Tokyo government’s alert for the pandemic remains at the highest of four levels, meaning “infections are spreading,” although some health experts have suggested that a resurgence of infections already hit its peak in late July.

Over 2 mil people used Japan’s travel subsidy campaign in 1st month – Nationwide

More than 2 million people have used Japan’s travel subsidy campaign since it kicked off in July in a bid to revive a domestic tourism industry hit hard by the novel coronavirus pandemic, the country’s top government spokesperson said Monday. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said there have been 10 reported cases of infections at hotels and other lodging facilities registered with the Go To travel campaign, which was launched on July 22.

Under the program, the government covers part of the cost of domestic tourist trips. However, the campaign was thrown into disarray before it was launched when the government made the decision to exclude travel to and from Tokyo and by residents of the capital in response to a spike in infections. The exact number of people using the campaign was not released Monday and the government tally does not take into account people taking more than one trip.

Despite concerns that the campaign could lead to a rise in infections, Suga said the government will continue the program, while taking into account the views of health experts as and when needed to prevent the spread of the virus.

According to the government, 16,703, or only about half of the eligible lodging operators, have registered with the program as of Thursday, with some of them shying away from registration due to the complex process to claim benefits and the problems of informing travel associations and other parties of the number of guests they have received. With many small- and medium-sized lodging operators opting not to register, the Japan Tourism Agency has extended its deadline, originally set for Friday.

Under the 1.35 trillion-yen ($12.7 billion) tourism push, the government will eventually subsidize up to half of a person’s travel expenses, including accommodation and transport fees. Initially, it provides discounts worth 35 percent of total costs. The remaining 15 percent will be covered by coupons to be issued after September for food, shopping and other travel activities offered at destinations.

Japan to allow stranded foreign tech interns to switch jobs – Nationwide

Japan will allow foreign trainees who are unable to return home amid the coronavirus pandemic even after their technical internship programs have ended to switch jobs and stay in the country from early September, the government said Tuesday. The Immigration Services Agency said around 24,200 foreign trainees were stranded in Japan as of Friday and the number of such interns is expected to grow, either due to travel restrictions in place globally due to the pandemic or workers unable to afford the airfare home.

In April, the agency made it possible for foreign interns who lost their jobs due to the impact of the novel coronavirus to find jobs in industries other than originally designated. The government-sponsored program established in 1993 is intended to promote international cooperation by imparting skills and knowledge in Japanese industries to developing countries. Trainees are only allowed to work for up to five years in designated fields under the current regulations.

As part of efforts to support the virus-hit foreign trainees, the government decided in April to allow those who are stranded here to work in the same field for an additional year by granting them a visa for “designated activities.” Now they will be able to find jobs in other industries as it is difficult for them to land new jobs in the same sectors amid the deteriorating economic conditions in Japan, according to the agency.

From Sept 1, the Foreign Residents Support Centre in Tokyo will offer a free hotline service for those who have problems because of the virus pandemic, the agency said. The telephone consultation service will be available in 14 languages, including English, Vietnamese and Chinese, and offered from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays at 0120-762-029. The centre opened last month to give foreign nationals in Japan advice on employment, visas, laws and humanitarian issues.

Most of the foreign trainees under Japan’s technical internship program are from other Asian nations. At the end of last year, Vietnamese accounted for more than half of the total at 218,727, followed by Chinese at 82,370, Filipino at 35,874 and Indonesian at 35,404, according to the Justice Ministry.


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