The Japanese government is set to make foreign nationals under the age of 18 and born and raised in Japan eligible for special permission for residency provided their cases fulfill certain requirements, sources familiar with the matter said Thursday.
Under the plan, the justice minister will be able to use discretion in granting residency to the minors, who would be subject to deportation. The government is also considering expanding the permission to their families, the sources said.
Justice Minister Ken Saito is expected to announce the change as soon as Friday.
Data from the Immigration Services Agency showed that at the end of 2022, there were 4,233 foreign nationals in Japan refusing to be forcibly deported. Of them, 201 were born in Japan and aged below 18.
Many of the affected children, who attend Japanese schools and predominantly speak Japanese, find themselves without residency. This status inhibits them from obtaining health insurance cards, thereby limiting their access to adequate medical treatment.
The current rules also restrict them from leaving the prefecture where they reside, and there have been calls to offer them humanitarian consideration.
Until now, the immigration agency had only granted special stay permissions under specific circumstances, such as when a child was born and raised in Japan and had a designated caregiver if their parents could not provide for them.
With the revision, their residence with their family will likely be allowed if certain conditions are fulfilled, including the parent not having a history of serious crime, the sources said.
Japan's system for special permission to stay does not have clear criteria. Among those considered for it are individuals married to a Japanese national and those with children attending school in the country.
In some cases, refugee-status applicants are granted permission out of humanitarian considerations.
According to the immigration agency, during the five years through 2020, it awarded the permission to an average of 1,400 people annually.