One Form of International Contribution that Supports Globalization of Japan
Organization for Technical Intern Training
1. What activities do you do in Japan? (review of a status of residence)
Aiming to be an immigration officer, I began working at the Ministry of Justice Tokyo Regional Immigration Bureau in October 2011.
The Immigration Bureau, which is one of the internal departments of the Ministry of Justice, is established as an organization that is responsible for immigration control. As the local office, the Regional Immigration Bureaus (including the district offices and sub bureaus) exist in each of the eight regional blocks across Japan. The Tokyo Regional Immigration Bureau, where I was employed, has jurisdiction over the Kanto-Koshinetsu region.
The first department I was assigned to was the Permanent Residence Inspection Department at the Tokyo Regional Immigration Bureau headquarters, and I was mainly responsible for reviewing the renewal of a status of residence of “spouses, etc. of Japanese nationals.” When you hear the word of immigration officer, many of you may think of officers who are checking passports at the airport passport control. Based on the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act (hereinafter referred to as the “immigration act”), the immigration officer’s work is roughly divided into four categories: (1) immigration inspection at airports and ports, (2) examination of a status of residence of foreign nationals staying in Japan, (3) examination of immigration act offenders, and (4) investigation concerning refugee recognition. My first assignment was (2).
When foreign nationals intend to enter or stay in Japan, in principle, they need to go to the Japanese embassy or consulate before entering Japan, acquire a visa according to the contents of activities to be done in Japan, place it on the passport, etc., come to Japan, and receive a status of residence and the period of stay from an immigration officer at the airport. And if they wish to continue staying beyond the granted period, their period of stay will be reviewed at a local immigration office.
For example, to examine extension of the period of stay of a spouse of Japanese national, I needed to figure out if the applicant was engaged in or was going to engage in activities as a spouse of Japanese national from various facts proven based on the information and documents that were submitted. Activities as a spouse of Japanese national is, in a simple term, performing obligations including living together, cooperation and assistance under Article 752 of the Civil Code, but it was not so easy for a third party to determine whether the person is acting as a spouse based on objective data.
There are administrative regulations and review manuals, etc. to promote unified legal interpretation and operation, and so I do not mean that there is nothing that we can rely on at the time of review. However, even these administrative regulations and review manuals do not cover all possible events, and sometimes individual judgment is required for individual factual relationships.
Along with the diversification and internationalization of marriage forms, so-called contemporary marital relationships that are different from the past are arising. As such, we can say that marriage and activities as spouses continue to change in the future, and there are situations where past Japanese social norms are not necessarily applicable anymore. I believe it is important for the administration as well as individual officers to be at all times flexible to respond to such social changes.
2. What is the purpose of entering Japan? (Passport control)
In April 2014, I was transferred to the Narita Airport District Immigration Office and became in charge of passport control.
For immigration examination, to find out people who are likely to illegally or disguisedly stay and to prevent entry of terrorists etc., we conduct a face-to-face inspection with a foreign national who wishes to enter Japan, check the passport/visa and determine if the purpose of entry is false or not. After the review, if we judge that it is necessary to inquire in further detail, the person is handed over to a senior immigration officer who is called a special inquiry officer, to go through an oral hearing procedure in a separate room, where the possibility of entering Japan is determined.
For residence examination, we use the submitted information and documents, while, for the immigration examination, we examine each case based on all the facts that are right before our eyes such as the feel of passports, the behavior and appearance of foreign nationals, and their responses to our questions. Even though we judge using various facts, it is still necessary to have language skills to some extent. As I was feeling that English was my weak point, I studied hard English and Chinese conversation, until I could make some interactions using these languages.
While strict immigration examination is required, prompt and smooth immigration examination is also promoted, since the government established the goal of increasing the number of foreign visitors to Japan to 40 million by 2020 and 60 million by 2030 at the “Tourism Vision Conference to Support Future Japan” in March 2016. To achieve this goal, in recent years, many measures are taken including (a) introduction of facial recognition gates, (b) expansion of the people who can use e-gates, and (c) introduction of bio-carts.
Remember that the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games will be held in 2020. It is one of the challenges of the immigration control administration to achieve seemingly contradictory two goals, at a high level, of making strict immigration examination including prevention of terrorism and smooth immigration examination to promote a tourist-oriented country.
3. Temporary assignment to the Organization for Technical Intern Training
I was temporarily assigned to the Organization for Technical Intern Training in July 2017.
The technical intern training program is a program designed to transfer skills, technology and knowledge to developing countries and provide support for human resource development so that Japan can fulfill its role as an advanced country and promote harmonious development with the international community. Specifically, through the system, the Japanese government grants a status of residence of technical intern training to the people who are responsible for economic or industrial development in developing countries, and gives them opportunities to acquire skills, expertise and knowledge through OJT in Japan and apply them after returning to their home countries.
This system had been implemented based on the immigration act and its ministerial ordinance, but contrary to the purpose of the system, it was misused as means to secure inexpensive labor force that could compensate for human labor shortages in Japan. As a result, there were many incidents of violation of immigration act and labor related laws as well as human rights violations including abuse of technical intern trainees with low wages.
In order to improve the situation and secure proper operation of this system in accordance with its purpose, it was fundamentally revised. Various regulations that had been regarded as requirements for the status of residence of technical intern training in accordance with the immigration act were compiled, and, as a result, as the fundamental law of the system, “Act on Proper Implementation of Technical Intern Training for Foreign Nationals and Protection of Technical Intern Trainees” (hereinafter referred to as the “technical intern training act”) was enacted and came into effect on November 1, 2017.
Furthermore, based on the technical intern training act, the Organization for Technical Intern Training (hereinafter referred to as the “organization”), which is an organization approved by the government, was established. It was entrusted the core role by the Minister of Justice and the Minister of Health, Labour and Welfare, which are the competent ministers, in the operation of the new system including certification of technical intern training plans, acceptance of permission application submitted by supervising organizations, guidance and supervision for intern training providers, and response to inquiries/consultation from technical intern trainees.
The organization has its main office in Tokyo and 13 regional offices and branches across Japan (Sapporo, Sendai, Mito, Tokyo, Nagano, Toyama, Nagoya, Osaka, Hiroshima, Takamatsu, Matsuyama, Fukuoka, and Kumamoto).
The technical intern training act allows excellent intern training providers that satisfy certain evaluation criteria to accept more technical intern trainees than usual (expansion of the maximum number of people). They can also extend the technical intern training period up to five years per intern trainee instead of regular 3 years (Technical Intern Training 3). This is based on the idea of giving incentives to excellent intern training providers for offering appropriate training programs and protecting technical intern trainees. It is a new system that did not exist in the previous technical intern training program based on the immigration act.
Implementation of the system based on the technical intern training act has just started. It is a system that directly connects Japanese technology known for its craftsmanship with the international community. The traditional technical intern training program was abused and severely criticized as modern slavery for its violations of labor related laws and human rights. Given this situation, I believe that Japan’s future image in the international community will depend on the implementation of this system.
It is important to have legal knowledge and skills of law interpretation. But based on my working experiences at various places, I believe that it is equally or more important to have knowledge in multiple fields and have flexibility and ability to acquire various knowledge in multiple fields.
Although my words are simple, I hope they will be useful for people who intend to become administrative officers in the future.
- Ryota Mori
Organization for Technical Intern Training
- Ryota Mori was born in Mie Prefecture. He graduated from Mie Prefectural Yokkaichi High School.
He graduated from the Department of Law in the Faculty of Law, Chuo University in March 2007.
He completed the course provided in the Chuo Law School in March 2010.
He began working at the Ministry of Justice Tokyo Regional Immigration Bureau in November 2011.
He was temporarily transferred to the Organization for Technical Intern Training in July 2017.
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