JAPAN – Criteria Eased for Highly Skilled Foreign Professionals
On 24 December 2013, the Justice Ministry of Japan eased the requirements for highly skilled foreign professional status to encourage more foreign nationals to apply for the under-used scheme.
- The minimum qualifying salary has been reduced to JPY3 million for applicants of any age, and scrapped altogether for academic research.
- Income from an overseas employer will now count towards the minimum qualifying salary requirement.
- Applicants whose planned stay is below one year will also be entitled to apply for this status.
- More points are now awarded for a high level of Japanese language proficiency, an MBA, or a degree at a higher education institution in Japan.
- More points are now awarded for working for a small or medium-sized organisation which receives financial support to assist with innovation.
- More points may also be awarded for applicants working in companies which spend at least 3% of total revenue on experimental and research activities.
- More points are now awarded for advanced academic research activities.
- The minimum salary required to sponsor a dependent parent to move to Japan has been reduced, from JPY 10 million to JPY 8 million (approx. USD 77,000); and the minimum salary required to sponsor a domestic worker has also been reduced, from JPY 15 million to JPY 10 million (approx. USD 96,000).
- The income of the highly skilled professional’s spouse now counts towards the minimum salary requirement for sponsoring parents and domestic workers.
Under the points-based system, introduced in May 2012, foreign nationals may be given preferential immigration treatment according to their skills, experience and salary. Applicants scoring more than 70 points have access to special visa status, including the right to work regardless of visa status, an extendable five year stay, work permission for a spouse, a fast track to permanent residence and the right to sponsor parents and domestic workers for immigration.
However, the route has been criticised for failing to attract enough highly-skilled workers, with only 700 applicants as of September 2013, compared with the 2000 qualifying workers targeted by the Ministry of Justice at launch.