Tokyo, May 21 (Jiji Press) — The number of visas issued by the Japanese government has been increasing markedly, on the back of the government’s vigorous efforts to ease visa requirements for developing and other countries.
Relaxing visa requirements is seen as an important diplomatic measure, after government spending for official development assistance roughly halved from the fiscal 1997 peak of 1,168.7 billion yen due to severe fiscal conditions, people familiar with the matter said.
Since fiscal 2011, the ODA budget has remained at around 550 billion yen, according to the Foreign Ministry.
Meanwhile, the number of visas issued turned upward in calendar 2014 and rewrote the record high for the fifth straight year in 2018 at 6,952,804, quadruple the 2013 level.
Constantly upgrading the numerical target for foreign visitors, the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has been eagerly expanding the scope of eligible visa applicants.
Earlier this year, the government started issuing multiple entry visas to Qatari and Colombian nationals and simplified multiple visa application procedures for Chinese and Indian nationals.
Also behind the visa issuance growth are increasing requests for easing visa requirements during negotiations with other countries, a Foreign Ministry source said, suggesting that such steps greatly support Japan’s diplomatic efforts.
Under these circumstances, the ministry and the Japan Tourism Agency are eager to boost visa issuance. On the other hand, the National Police Agency and the Justice Ministry do not favor sharp rises in the number of visitors to the country, due to concerns over deterioration in public security and an increase in illegal workers.
The gap between the two sides led in many cases to partial relaxations of requirements, such as granting visas only for wealthy people and tourists, people familiar with the matter said.
Since such partial easing complicates related visa paperwork for officials at Japanese embassies and consulates, complaints have arisen about manpower shortages and overwork, an informed source said.