The government on Thursday eased visa regulations to expand the scope of foreign students allowed to stay on and find jobs in Japan, in response to calls from business and academic circles.

The Immigration Services Agency of Japan said the government will allow students who have completed studies at state-designated technical schools to work in fields that are not necessarily closely related to the areas they majored in.

The new measure is expected to increase the number of foreign students staying on in Japan to work by around 3,000 a year, the agency said.

Previously, many foreign students, even if they had acquired a certain degree of technical and Japanese-language skills at technical schools, had to return to their home countries after failing to find workplaces that match the skills or knowledge they have acquired.

The state-designated technical schools will offer special programs, including practical training at companies, the agency said.

In addition, the government also widened the scope of foreign students who can stay on in Japan to work under the "designated activities" visa, another residential status that allows employment in even wider areas.

The visa was previously only for students who have graduated from universities or graduate schools.

It now can be issued to students with high Japanese skills and educational achievements equivalent to a bachelor's degree, including those who have completed a four-year program at a designated technical school.

According to a Japan Student Services Organization survey taken in fiscal 2021, of some 2,000 foreign students enrolled at technical schools in the country, around 75 percent said they wanted to work in Japan.

The new measures come after a government panel proposed in April last year making it easier for foreign students to find jobs in Japan.

"We hope that students who have a certain degree of specialized skills and have deepened their understanding of Japan will work (in the country)," an agency official said.

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