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Record 22,000 foreign students switched to work visas in 2017: Justice Ministry

TOKYO -- The Justice Ministry changed the resident statuses for a record 22,419 foreign students studying in Japan last year to allow them to work full-time in the country, ministry officials said on Oct. 10.

The figure was an increase of 2,984 over the previous year. However, the ratio of applicants granted the visa type change dropped from the well over 90 percent seen in past years to 80.3 percent in 2017. The 8.5-point drop from 2016 was the second such decline in a row.

Of those who were granted status of residence changes, 45.5 percent (10,196 people) had completed bachelor's degrees, 24.4 percent (5,477) completed graduate programs, and 21.7 percent (4,869) graduated from vocational schools.

According to the Justice Ministry, the number of vocational school students as a percentage of all foreign students has been rising as vocational school enrollment swells, and that the percentage of all successful visa change applications made up of grads from these institutions has risen slightly.

However, the sharp decline in the ratio of successful status change applications is also apparently due to swelling ranks of foreign vocational school students. Unlike graduates of university or post-graduate courses who have studied a wide range of subjects, with vocational school grads the Justice Ministry focuses more on the relationship between what they have studied and their work duties.

"There are some cases where what the students have studied does not match their work," a ministry official pointed out.

There are also some cases where the applicants' Japanese proficiency is insufficient.

Those from Asia accounted for 95.5 percent of students who were granted changes in their statuses of residence. Of them, 46.1 percent (10,326) were from China and 20.7 percent (4,633) were Vietnamese, while those from Nepal accounted for 9 percent (2,026). The number of those from Vietnam and Nepal has increased four-fold as compared to two years ago.

Of these granted changes in their visa statuses, 91.4 percent (20,486 people) obtained the status of engineers or specialists in humanities and international services, 3.2 percent (712) got business manager visas, 2.8 percent (626) got the status of professor, and 1.1 percent (254) received medical service visas.

Eighteen got the status of nursing staff, established in September last year.

Many of those who were granted changes in their visa statuses began working in such fields as translation and interpretation, sales and marketing, and overseas business.

(Japanese original by Takeshi Wada, City News Department)

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