Nearly 350 of the first group of foreigners applying for Japanese resident status under the country's new visa system to work in the food service industry passed a qualification exam, an implementing body said Tuesday.
The Organization for Technical Skill Assessment of Foreign Workers in Food Industry said 347, or 75.4 percent, of 460 examinees cleared the language and skills tests held in Tokyo and Osaka last month.
(Japanse language and skills tests held in April.)
The successful candidates are expected to start working possibly from July, according to the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries which oversees the food service industry.
The food service sector, which includes restaurants and catering, is among 14 sectors designated by the government for foreigners to work with a resident status called Specified Skilled Worker No. 1 which grants a stay for up to five years.
Japan introduced the new visa status on April 1 to cope with a chronic labor shortage due to the country's rapidly graying population and declining birthrate, marking a major policy shift from its traditionally strict immigration rules.
Over the next five years, the government expects up to about 345,000 foreigners to acquire the No. 1 status to work in the 14 labor-hungry sectors such as accommodation, nursing care, construction and farming.
Of the 347 successful applicants, 203 were Vietnamese, 37 Chinese and 30 Nepalese, the organization said.
The second exams for food service jobs are scheduled for late next month in seven cities across Japan accepting up to 2,000 applicants.
The government expects up to 53,000 foreigners with the new resident status to work in food service industry in the next five years.
Around 140,000 foreigners have already been engaged in food service work in Japan, according to the ministry.
Proficient workers in the construction and shipbuilding fields can further extend their stay by earning the No. 2 status, which allows holders to bring in family members and has no limit on the number of times they can renew their visa.