Taiwanese living in Japan can now list “Taiwan” rather than “China” as their nationality under the Japanese government’s new residency management system.
As of Monday, foreigners granted residency in Japan will be issued a resident card, replacing the previous alien registration cards, in line with an amendment to Japan’s Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Law, which was passed in July 2009.
“[I’m] really happy to receive this card, which gives me back my identity as a Taiwanese,” said Lien Ken-ten (連根藤), who on Monday went to the Tokyo Regional Immigration Bureau to apply for the new resident card on the first day the system was introduced.
The 76-year-old, who has permanent residency in Japan and has lived there for 50 years, said the change was the result of years of effort by former Taiwanese representatives to Japan and by several Taiwanese groups in Japan.
Hiroshi Kimizuka, an official at the regional bureau, said the Japanese government’s official stance on Taiwan has not changed despite the change in designation for Taiwanese residents.
Japan has not recognized Taiwan as a sovereign state since 1972, when Tokyo established diplomatic ties with Beijing, leading to Taipei’s decision to sever official relations with Tokyo.
Though the main goal of the revision was to reduce the number of illegal immigrants in Japan, the bureau said the new system was also created to make it more convenient to foreign residents because it would consolidate the work previously handled by various government agencies.
The new resident card gives foreign nationals a maximum stay of five years, instead of three years under the old system, reducing the number of visits people have to make to renew the document.
It also allows cardholders to re-enter Japan within one year without applying for a re-entry permit upon departure, as was previously required.
An estimated 1.5 million foreigners in Japan, such as spouses of Japanese nationals and students, who are granted a stay of more than three months, are covered under the new system, the bureau said.
Implementation of the revised law, which was delayed for three years to allow foreigners in Japan to understand the changes, is not without its critics, who worry about the impact it may have on illegal immigrants who may not be able to leave Japan, according to an Asahi Shimbun report.
They are worried that it will essentially eliminate the existence of those living in Japan illegally, even if they had been recognized under the old system, and deny them essential services, the report said.