Foreign residents are exempted from part of the driving examination process and allowed to convert their domestic driver’s license to a Japanese one. But of late there have been a number of arrests involving the illegal acquisition of a Japanese license through the abuse of this “conversion system.” With the number of foreign workers increasing in Japan, the number of conversions to Japanese driver’s licenses is also on the rise, hitting about 40,000 a year. Police are cracking down and busting brokers who help foreign residents obtain a Japanese license illegally.
In November 2018, the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) arrested a Nepalese in his 40s for the alleged violation of the Road Traffic Act (illegal acquisition of a driver’s license). The man had been staying in Japan on a dependent visa and working part-time at a demolition work site. According to the police, he allegedly acquired a Japanese driver’s license in 2017 after getting an exemption from a portion of the driving license exam through the submission of a forged Nepalese driver’s license to Samezu Driver’s License Center.
The police investigation discovered that the Nepalese had requested two countrymen, siblings in their 30s, to arrange for him to acquire a forged driver’s license. This February the police arrested the two as accomplices.
Since November 2018 the MPD has arrested more than 10 Nepalese, including the two siblings, for acting as brokers in the acquisition of fraudulent driver’s licenses and the application for conversion to the Japanese license. Those who applied for the conversion to the Japanese license were in their 20s to 40s and told police they “needed a Japanese driver’s license to make a living in Japan.” Authorities are investigating the cases as they suspect the “fraudulent application business” is widespread.
According to the MPD, the number of foreigners in Japan who obtained the Japanese license through this conversion system rose to 39,814 in 2018, an increase of about 1.6-fold from 2014. A growing number of foreign workers as well as foreign technical interns are believed to be behind this phenomenon. Many of them are from China, South Korea and Brazil, but the number of Vietnamese workers is also on the rise.
“The number of foreign workers will continue to grow,” said a senior MPD official. “We need to keep them well-informed about Japanese laws.”(Abridged)