Japan has announced that from today, foreign students will be allowed to enter the country again. The move, which comes shortly after the parliamentary elections, proves that the country’s immigration policy is being reconsidered.
However, it will not be as easy as people expect. Entry is allowed, but how it will happen in Japan is questionable and is being monitored from different angles.
Finally open to students again
With the exception of Japan Government Scholarships (MEXT Scholarships), Japan is the last among the G-7 countries to reopen the border for students after a virtual suspension of entry due to the epidemic.
Some representatives of Japan’s academic community have condemned the way the government treats those who do not have scholarships and those who personally finance their stay.
For example, Hiroshi Ota, a professor at the Center for General Education at Hitotsubashi University, has been outraged by the situation for the past year and a half.
“International students are treated as if they were just tourists. We really need to change something. Diversity, inclusion – we talk about it, but it’s just a rumor. It’s just a word. It’s not very action-oriented, “said the professor.
In mid-October, Paul Hastings, executive director of the Japan ICU Foundation, presented a petition to the Japanese government to open the border, which was signed by more than 600 academics, professionals, students and others.
Restrictions on entry have tarnished the image of Japanese educational institutions
It said Japan’s travel ban had tarnished global ties and tarnished the image of Japanese educational institutions. Japanese institutions running exchange programs with foreign partners may send their own researchers and students but cannot accept them.
Many members of the academic community therefore assume that the government has undermined the credibility of Japanese universities through this selfish approach.
According to the Japan Association of Private Universities and Colleges, as of May 2019, the number of students entering Japan without scholarships was 299,453, which is about 96 percent of all students, including scholarship holders, who make up only 3 percent (9,220), or 3,451, through agreements with some countries. There were people invited by the government.
According to the judiciary, about 120,000 student visas were issued in 2019, down from 50,000 in 2020 to 7,000 in June 2021.
Student visa holders include a number of Japanese language students, many of whom complete further training in Japan after two years of study.
Data from the Association for the Promotion of Japanese Language Education (Nishinkio), a private, government-accredited agency that monitors standards in Japanese language schools, shows that about 22,000 of them follow some form of postgraduate education.
Border control has led to a decline in enrollment in language schools. A survey of its member schools also found that between FY2019 and FY2020, enrollment in 227 institutions across the country dropped from 41,600 to 224 schools to 24,253.
What happens if the coronavirus spreads again?
Japan is opening now, but an important question arises: “Will the opening be permanent?” Hiroko Yamamoto, president of the Kai Japanese Language School, also asked the question and called for allowing students to continue entering the country as a new wave of infection spread across the country.
At an official news conference announcing the steps on November 5, Cabinet Deputy Chief Seji Kihara stressed that the government would gradually move forward by easing restrictions, but that the country would respond flexibly to the coronavirus or any other deterioration. Under the circumstances
This statement raises concerns among universities, as it could mean that if the transition situation worsens again, Japan will close its borders again. There are also questions about how the government wants to monitor the 370,000 foreigners who want to travel to the country.
Currently, Certificate of Eligibility (COE) holders with entry clearance are processed through three airports: Narita Airport and Haneda Airport in eastern Japan and Kansai International Airport in western Japan. The total number coming from abroad is limited to 3,500 people per day.
In the case of about 50 scientists invited to enter the country at the end of October, this surveillance shows a way that could work. Scientists have been quarantined under extremely strict conditions.
Ota called on the government to guarantee access to all existing COE holders and to allow more airports to address the backlog of entrants.
Acknowledging the need for measures against the coronavirus, he added that the current situation only allows students to enter slowly. “If we do not expedite this process, we cannot expect to maintain the reputation and credibility of the study in Japan.”