BY MAGDALENA OSUMI
Immigration authorities quietly published criteria that will allow some foreign residents to re-enter Japan despite a coronavirus-induced entry ban covering 111 countries, a restriction that has left many foreign residents stranded abroad.
In a note in Japanese and English and buried in a document published Friday evening on its website, the Immigration Services Agency listed specific examples of medical issues and family-related circumstances that will allow foreign residents stranded overseas to return to Japan regardless of their visa status. While immigration officials had said they have been allowing re-entry on humanitarian grounds, Friday’s announcement is the first that clarifies such special circumstances.
It said that people who have been separated from their family due to the restriction will be allowed to re-enter, while foreign residents who departed with children enrolled in Japanese educational institutions, who are now unable to attend classes, will also be given permission to return.
The circumstances will also cover people who are undergoing treatment, slated to undergo surgery or give birth at a Japanese medical institution; people who left Japan to undergo surgery or give birth abroad; and those who left the country to attend a relative’s funeral or visit a family member in critical condition.
Permission to re-enter will also be given to those who left to appear in front of a court overseas as a witness.
Those who are considering leaving Japan for a country that is already on the re-entry ban list will be allowed to return if they are leaving to visit a relative in a critical condition or to attend a relative’s funeral. Those who need to undergo surgery, including re-examination, or are set to give birth to a child abroad will also be allowed to re-enter. The special circumstances will also cover people who have received a witness summons from a court outside of Japan.
Previously, under the ban, only foreign residents with permanent residency, long-term resident visa holders, and spouses and children of permanent residents or Japanese nationals were eligible to re-enter in principle, provided they left Japan before the country they are visiting was put on the restricted list. A list of countries subject to the entry ban, now totaling 111, was first announced on April 3 and was subsequently updated on April 29, May 16, and May 27.
The re-entry restriction has been met with criticism especially from Japan’s international community as it has left many foreign nationals stranded abroad or unable to leave Japan. Many foreign nationals have complained that they had been informed by immigration officials that humanitarian grounds only apply to permanent residents, long-term residents and spousal visa holders.