US

Apr 01 2019

Two New Work Visas Introduced for Semi-Skilled Foreign Nationals to Address Labor Shortages

Japan

At a Glance

  • The Immigration Bureau has introduced two new work visas, the Specified Skilled Worker 1 and Specified Skilled Worker 2, for semi-skilled workers in 14 industries identified as currently experiencing labor shortages. 
  • To qualify, applicants must prove that they possess the required skills and sufficient knowledge or work experience in the relevant industry.
  • Previously, there were no work visas available for semi-skilled professionals.

The situation

The Immigration Bureau has introduced two new work visa statuses for foreign nationals entering Japan as semi-skilled workers in industries identified as currently experiencing labor shortages.

A closer look - Specified Skilled Worker 1 visa

  • Eligibility. To qualify, applicants must have completed the Technical Intern Trainee  program; or have a relevant experience in the specific field and pass a qualifying test relevant to the field as well as a Japanese language proficiency test equivalent to N4 level (daily conversational) or above. The government plans to conduct explanatory seminars about these tests in mid-April.
  • Validity. The Specified Skilled Worker 1 visa is granted with an initial validity period of one year, six months or four months, and can be renewed for a maximum stay period of up to five years.
  • Eligible industries. There are 14 designated industries for the Specified Skilled Worker 1 visa: nursing care, building cleaning service, casting, industrial machine manufacturing, electric and electronic information, construction, shipbuilding and marine equipment, automobile repair, aviation, hotel, agriculture, fishery, food and drink manufacturing and food service. The list of designated industries will be reviewed after two years to determine if labor shortages still exist based on reports from each government ministry in charge of the industry.
  • Sponsoring dependents. Specified Skilled Worker 1 visa holders may not sponsor dependents.

 

A closer look - Specified Skilled Worker 2 visa

  • Eligibility. To qualify, applicants must hold a Specified Skilled Worker 1 visa and pass a higher-level qualifying test in the specific field; or must be a highly-skilled worker who can directly pass the higher-level qualifying test on the specific field.
  • Validity. The Specified Skilled Worker 2 visa may be granted with an initial validity period of three years, one year, or six months, and will not have a limit on the number of times it can be renewed, giving the holder a pathway to permanent residency.
  • Eligible industries. The two designated industries for the Specified Skilled Worker 2 visa are construction, and shipbuilding and marine equipment. The list of designated industries will be reviewed after two years to determine if labor shortages still exist based on reports from each government ministry in charge of the industry.
  • Sponsoring dependents. Specified Skilled Worker 2 visa holders may sponsor their spouse or children as dependents.

 

Impact

Specified Skilled Worker visa holders can change employers without affecting their visa and will be assured the same level of wages comparable with their Japanese counterparts. An academic degree or work experience of more than 10 years is not required from applicants, unlike the requirements for applicants for highly-skilled visas.

Before the creation of these visa statuses, there were no work visas available semi-skilled professionals in Japan.

Background

  • The new work visas were introduced to address labor shortages, especially the construction industry, which has recently experienced extreme labor demands.
  • The visas are also intended to grant more rights to visa holders to prevent employer abuse, as has recently occurred in many industries in Japan.
  • Lastly, the government’s intent for the new visas is to prepare for the anticipated influx of work visa applications due to the upcoming 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.

 

Looking ahead

The government’s continued relaxation of its immigration policies should encourage the migration of qualified foreign workers to Japan. Additionally, the new regulatory measures are expected to discourage employer abuses.

The government’s plan to upgrade the Immigration Bureau into an Agency with wider regulatory reach may bring more work visa-related process and rule changes. This may eventually result in a system that is more responsive to labor market needs.

This alert is for informational purposes only. If you have any questions, please contact the global immigration professional with whom you work at Fragomen or send an email to [email protected].