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Saturday, 1 April, 2000, 09:34 GMT 10:34 UK
Japan relaxes rules for foreigners
Fingerprint
Foreigners will no longer have to be fingerprinted
By Juliet Hindell in Tokyo

Regulations relating to foreigners resident in Japan are being relaxed from Saturday.

The most significant change is the end of finger-printing, which many foreigners feel is an infringement of their human rights.

They will also no longer have to register their place of work and the name of their employer.

All foreigners over the age of 16 who stay for more than a year in Japan must register as aliens.

Not only is the terminology offensive to some, but the requirement to give fingerprints makes many people feel they are being treated like criminals.

Japanese people are not required to give their fingerprints on official documents.

Administrative offence

Now foreigners too are being allowed to sign their names instead of inking up their fingers and leaving their mark.

However, they will have to give more information about themselves, including the names of their parents and whether they are also living in Japan.

The change will affect about 600,000 people.

At the moment it is a criminal offence not to carry your alien registration card at all times, but from 1 April, this will be downgraded to an administrative offence.

The validity of an alien registration card will also be extended from a period of five to seven years, and foreigners will not have to give details of where they work.

Foreigners make up just 1.2% of the population in Japan.

While the changes to alien registration may make them feel slightly more welcome, the penalties regarding illegal immigration have been strengthened.

Now illegal entry and overstaying a visa have been made separate offences.

People who are caught and deported will not be allowed back into Japan for five years, rather than one year at present.

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18 Feb 00 | Asia-Pacific
Japan launches new immigration law
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