Japan's immigration agency announced Friday it will offer permanent residency to fourth-generation foreigners of Japanese descent who fulfill certain language requirements under a new program it plans to launch later this month.

The change will allow such descendants and their families to live indefinitely in Japan as the country seeks to nurture individuals familiar with both their ancestral and Japanese cultures.

Photo taken on Dec. 20, 2021, shows the Ministry of Justice in Tokyo. (Kyodo)

Under the current system, introduced in 2018, Japan has been allowing fourth-generation Japanese descendants aged 18 to 30 to work in the country under a designated activities visa, limited to a five-year stay and excluding family members.

But as of the end of 2022, only 128 such people were residing in Japan, far below the government-set cap of 4,000 per year, with the largest number coming from Brazil, followed by the Philippines and Peru. Many Japanese people emigrated to those countries in the 19th and 20th centuries.

The new policy extends the age limit to 35 for those with conversational Japanese abilities.

After five years, the immigrants can transition to permanent residency if they achieve N2 level in the Japanese-Language Proficiency Test, which is considered sufficient for business communication.

The amendment also permits them to bring their spouses and children to Japan.

In addition, the new program eases their requirement for having supporters, usually family or friends, to assist them in their daily lives and report to the immigration agency how they are adjusting.

The new program makes supporters' involvement optional after three years in Japan if the immigrants are working in line with the program's objectives.

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