The Japanese government will develop a smartphone app to easily identify forged residence cards for foreigners in an attempt to crack down on violations of visa laws, government officials said.

The app, aimed at potential employers of foreign workers, will read data stored in the IC chips embedded in the cards and confirm whether the data matches information listed on the cards such as name and residential status.

The government aims to introduce the app by the end of 2020, the officials said.

The number of foreign residents has been increasing every year, reaching some 2.83 million at the end of June last year, up from about 2.03 million at the end of 2012, according to the Immigration Services Agency.

The number of arrests resulting from holding or using forged residence cards has been rising too, reaching 620 in 2018, up about 1.6-fold from the previous year, according to police.

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Residence cards list information of holders including names, birthdates, nationality, residential status and period of stay.

Forged residence cards are often used to get jobs other than those permitted by the type of visa held or to remain in the country beyond the permitted period. In some cases, they are used to sign housing loan contracts.

While the hologram on the surface of the cards has been counterfeited, so far there has been no case of the IC chips being faked, the agency said.

The envisaged app would allow a residence card's IC chip to be read just by holding a smartphone over the card. The government earmarked some 130 million yen ($1.2 million) in its extra budget for the current fiscal year for development costs.

The agency has already made public the specifications for devices to read data on the cards' IC chips, but few companies have introduced scanning devices due to the difficulty of developing them on their own.

The agency hopes that medium and small-sized companies will utilize the new app when they hire foreign workers.

More foreigners are expected to live in Japan under a new visa system launched in April last year to cope with a labor shortage.

The government expects up to 345,150 foreigners to acquire a newly created resident status that grants the right to work in 14 sectors such as construction, farming and nursing care for up to a total of five years.