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No. of highly skilled foreign professionals in Japan remains low


It's been one year since the Japanese government launched a new points-based system giving preferential immigration treatment for highly skilled foreign professionals.

The system was introduced to attract more highly skilled foreign nationals. However, according to the Nikkei Shimbun, the number of applicants is only a quarter of the initial goal.

One Indian man in his 30s expressed his disappointment at the system. He said he cleared all the requirements, including education level and Japanese proficiency; however, his annual salary did not reach the required amount to make him eligible for preferential immigration treatment

The points-based system targets IT and technology engineers, researchers and executives. It is given to applicants when accumulated points, based on salary and education, exceeds 70 points. However, according to a consultant at the Immigration Bureau, young foreign researchers rarely earn high salaries.

One of the appealing benefits of the system is full child-care support, such as permission to invite parents or maids to Japan. However, with the current conditions, an applicant's annual income has to be 10-15 million yen to be eligible for such benefits, the Nikkei reported.  

As of now, the number of professionals who have immigrated to Japan with the points-based system is 434, which is far below the initial target number of 2,000.

Among other nations, Japan is considered to be extremely slow in implementing policies to attract skilled professionals. The Nikkei concludes that in order to attract more professionals, the points-based system has to be reviewed and improved.

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This is rather funny that there is any element of surprise. Not the most welcoming country added to the enormous cost.

11 ( +13 / -2 )

Or just make foreigners feel more welcome here.

7 ( +10 / -3 )

Andreas, yes! Just about everything is hard for foreigners here. While things have certainly improved since I moved to Japan 13 years ago, it remains painful.

Still many landlords don't want foreigners. Some banks still discriminate with their services. Jobs are limited to what you can create on your own or a fairly narrow focus. I can count the foreigners who work for ordinary Japanese companies on one hand from all the people I know here. Regardless of language.

So many people in Tokyo complain of feeling isolated despite making strong efforts to build social fabric around them.

By contrast. Several Japanese I know moved to the US around the same time I moved here. They had no real barriers in work, banking, housing or anything else for that matter. They have build the same kind of social fabric around them that any outgoing American could. No one calls them "Foreigner". Two have become American and are as American as I am in every practical way.

Japan needs to allow foragers to fully integrate here. Until that happens, the best and brightest will go to countries where that is not an issue. And Japan will continue to lose out on talent.

12 ( +14 / -2 )

Tried getting an apartment? How about a credit card?

The list goes on. No surprises here...

9 ( +11 / -2 )

Tried getting an apartment?

In the past, yup, No problem.

How about a credit card?

I've got a wallet full of the things. Only ever use a couple, but I keep getting asked to get more. It's a nuisance.

-19 ( +3 / -22 )

Do the people who contributed to this article have any grasp of real life. Any interaction with the Immigration department starts with you being automatically judged a criminal, and especially this year, the way they interact with the applicants is very despicable. Plus in case you are getting comfortable with your life here, you are reminded of your place when you go for your visa extension.

Actually they use brain games to discourage applicants at the immigration bureau.

And they want more people to come here and experience this.

Immigration bureau bashing aside Skilled professionals come here on specific visas and aside from that they are not allowed to pursue anything else. Plus if they change jobs within their contract period it is still hell. Also researchers and scientists also get unusually hard contractual obligations thrown at them.

Skilled workers tend to stay within their own community and if some experiences end up being unpleasant for someone then the episode gets to spread like wildfire and discouraging others. An example of this can be past episodes where Japanese companies would ask researchers to come to Japan to work and then out of the blue they would just terminate their contracts when the companies realize that they have no more need of their skills or that they have learnt all that they can from that particular individual.

5 ( +7 / -2 )

Well, Japanese immigration should revise the way they recognize "highly skilled" certifications, at least for IT. Anybody checked which ones they will consider? Are all stuff very local, and not including the ones the market needs. Personally I hold tens of worldwide recognized IT certifications (some held by limited number of people globally), that allowed me to be hired in specialist roles around the globe (included Japan), but those are not in the list of recognized IT certifications the immigration officer checks (so I could only achieve 60 points, and there was no way to convince them to consider them. After 25 years of career up to CIO level, he asked me to go and take the simplest one as videoterminal operator... No comment). Please note even stuff like Microsoft MCSA, or Cisco were not considered, and those are the ones companies look for when hiring. When defining these classification criteria, Japan needs to engage specialists not bureaucrats, who don't know anything about real market needs!

5 ( +6 / -1 )

**Tried getting an apartment?

In the past, yup, No problem.

How about a credit card?

I've got a wallet full of the things. Only ever use a couple, but I keep getting asked to get more. It's a nuisance.**

Ever done any of these one your own without help from a company or a Japanese spouse? Once you have one creditcard, easy to get others because you have established credit. A foreigner with no J spouse of a decent company who will give them a company card as a very hard time getting a card.

An apartment? I got the old batsu sign less than 10 years ago when trying to rent on my own at one place. You really do not get that your experiences are not the same ones everyone else has. Can you not understand that?

10 ( +13 / -3 )

Ever done any of these one your own without help from a company or a Japanese spouse?

Yes. Spent four years living with another furriner in an apartment before marrying. All my cards are in my own name, never had a so-called 'company card' (whatever one of them is).

You really do not get that your experiences are not the same ones everyone else has. Can you not understand that?

So I get thumbed down for pointing out that not everyone experiences the no-apartment-no-credit-cards phenomenon? Your experiences are not the same as mine. Can you not understand that?

-12 ( +8 / -20 )

With TEPCO, rising taxes, weaker yen, Abenomics, and the general lack of rights we foreigners have here in Japan, is it any wonder that the number of highly skilled professionals remains low? Even I'm leaving. This country has gone way downhill since I arrived 5 years ago. Thanks Japan, may you recover to what you once were. Sayonara!

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Me too, I'm leaving very soon as well thank God. I know many others getting out too, quite an exodus. The only western foreigners left will be the usual sad mob of English teachers stuck here on their piss poor salaries, as they have nowhere else to go. There's no way this country can ever attract good people as it stands. It's all a joke.

2 ( +6 / -4 )


your experiences seem to be unique to you, that is what people do not understand and is why you are once again getting thumbs down on your posts. My friend applied to 20 apartments recently and was turned down in 18 because she is a gaijin. That was the explanation, we will not rent to you because you are foreign. She has lived her for ten years. That is reality. She still does not have her own place.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

I come from a country that uses mass immigration as a stimulus measure. The result has been double-digit unemployment among local young people and cut-throat competition for career-type jobs, even in the best of economic times. Many of the ambitious young people head overseas.

There's a stark disconnect between what big business and the bureaucrats say ("there's a labor shortage!") and what the real people, the boots on the ground, say ("there are no jobs here!")

It's a bad, misguided policy that widens the rift between the 1 percent and everyone else. Japan's labor market is tight enough. Dont make it tighter.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

@Daniele - totally agree with your post, the govt knows zilch about up-to-date technology. Wouldnt you qualify for permanent residence by now? Landlords can legally refuse non-Japanese tenants, nothing you can do except take your hard-earned yen elsewhere. However, it is illegal for hotels to turn you away if they have space. Personally, Ive been refused by landlords a couple of times over the years but always found a better place was happier that I had kept looking. No problem getting a credit card either. If you find it tough, start with large domestic retailers - they practically give their cards away. Most are actually charge cards with a low limit and repaid monthly.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I have no doubt that either you mention you were "Mr. Cleo" and they ran a check on your husband

Then you would be wrong. It wasn't magic, it was just doing what everyone else does, provide evidence of a steady income.

Folks, including Japanese, don't get cards without credit or having a person either cosign for the card or having a spouse with credit.

But folks expect foreigners to be able to get cards without credit etc? Why do they merit preferential treatment?

Look, if the argument were Everyone in Japan has trouble getting a credit card/renting an apartment without a sponsor/cosign, I would agree. That's the way things work here. But complaining because you're experiencing the same things Japanese experience??

-5 ( +5 / -10 )

I too have been fairly lucky. My workplace helped me find my first apartment. I eventually managed to get a credit card (Citibank), and over time, managed to build up a good credit rating and then switched to a company which doesn't charge a fee and dumped Citibank. I've also been refused by a hotel over the phone - they said they didn't accept foreigners. Period.

So, I would say that I haven't had too much trouble, but I'm a person who tends to keep to myself and I'm under no illusions about the discrimination that happens here. I just have to ask some of my old colleagues who come from South Asia - they're neither white nor can they pass off as Japanese, so they're already at a disadvantage even before they open their mouths.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

I checked the criteria and could pass the points test if I weren't here already on a spousal visa.

Mostly my professional career is quite rewarding but unemployment terrifies me here. If I look at the recruitment sites or speak with head hunters there are basically no jobs in my field. In Europe or North America by contrast there are a lot of opportunities, combined with good opportunities for career enhancement. In Japan I'm kind of plodding along, earning money and trying to build my reputation. I don't mind doing this for a few more years but tend to continuously expect that to further progress my career I will need to gain more international experience eventually. The lack of any real viable alternatives and this fear deters me from settling permanently or buying a house as I may have to leave any fiscal year.

The big thing that increasingly me concerns me is the social environment. As a single man Tokyo was fun, but now with a family my priorities are changing: I would like a garden or access to nice parks; ease of access to foreign countries and an environment with a sense of history. Tokyo has some good aspects: relatively safe, some good restaurants or shops, but on other things it seems a bit dull and not really well connected. Each time I come back from Narita I can't help but notice the decaying buildings and overall worn look of it all.

In conversations with colleagues I get a similar sense. One, who is currently being headhunted sees some good career opportunities in his area, but his partner refuses to live here simply because the environment is not that good for raising children.

Points by themselves are all well and good, but there a lot of different factors that are related to this: the relatively closed and opaque employment system; overall property environment; connections to other countries and so on.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I don't go around saying "because I didn't experience this, nobody else will experience it".

Neither do I.

-2 ( +3 / -5 )

Then you would be wrong. It wasn't magic, it was just doing what everyone else does, provide evidence of a steady income.

And many foreigners who do just that get rejected because they a) don't have any credit and b) don't have anyone to sign for them. In many cases, your job and how much you have in the bank doesn't matter because.. you're a foreigner. Cleo, did you have credit cards before getting married?

But folks expect foreigners to be able to get cards without credit etc? Why do they merit preferential treatment? See is why you are getting thumbs down. No one is asking for preferential treatment Cleo. They are asking to be considered like everyone else here but the rules favour the locals. If someone doesn't have a spouse with credit, doesn't work for a comany that will get them a card just how do you expect them to get a card? Credit card companies don't work the way they work back home with regards to this.

The Japanese don't expereince it to the same degree "we" do because they have a parent or relative that can sign for them. Honestly, did I really need to explain all that to you?

4 ( +5 / -1 )

did you have credit cards before getting married?

I had one, yes.

See is why you are getting thumbs down. No one is asking for preferential treatment Cleo. They are asking to be considered like everyone else here

... but they want to be excused from the rules the locals (everyone else) have to follow?

If someone doesn't have a spouse with credit, doesn't work for a comany that will get them a card just how do you expect them to get a card?

If someone pops up out of nowhere, no references, no steady job, no credit ratings, no nothing, why would they expect to be given a credit card? No local would get one in those circumstances. Asking to be treated differently is asking for preferential treatment. How credit card companies work in other countries is irrelevant.

-2 ( +5 / -7 )

No steady job? Who said anything about people NOT having steady jobs?

Cleo, the system favors the locals and that's the issue. More so when most westerns make more than your local. Housewives with no jobs are given credit cards - because of hubby - while a hot shot foreign lawyer couldn't get one without his company helping out. That is an issue.

No, how folks get treated in other countries IS relevant to this discussion. They get treated better in other countries which is why many folks wouldn't bother with Japan. Japan wants highflying business folks but they don't want Japan because of the issues mentioned.

The system of credit and responsibility is very outdated. There is no reason why a foreigner with a steady income should be rejected for a card but it happens here all the time. Just as we get rejected from renting places.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

Who said anything about people NOT having steady jobs?

doesn't work for a comany.... Japanese who are self-employed need to jump through a lot more hoops than those with 'steady' jobs; why should anyone else expect to be any different?

Housewives with no jobs are given credit cards - because of hubby

ie, they have a creditable reference/sponsor.

a hot shot foreign lawyer couldn't get one without his company helping out

A hot shot Japanese lawyer (or any other professional) would use his company as a reference. Again, why expect preferential treatment?

Now, whether the system is outdated and whether it needs an overhaul specifically for the purpose of attracting skilled foreign professionals is another matter. But to say the system is set up for the purpose of favouring the locals and getting one over on the furriners is wrong.

-4 ( +4 / -8 )

I'm a highly skilled professional (or at least I like to think I am), I have a decent job with a decent salary, and I'm not teaching English. I was always treated very politely at the immigration office, once I accidentally overstayed my visa with one day, they politely asked me to write down the reason (I forgot), and everything was ok. I got a visa and a mastercard while I was still a student, without guarantor, wife, or the sort. I needed a guarantor for renting a room, but so did all the Japanese people I know. There are many imperfect things in Japan, there is discrimination against foreigners, but some people just want to see Japan as a malefic society conspiring to make their life miserable, and that they are specifically targeted victims, and then clutch to any hint that it is indeed so. No wonder they hate their lives here

-4 ( +4 / -8 )

Maybe a bit off topic, but these are some things I wish I had known when I first came here about 10 years ago.

Renting apartment is still a problem, until I found out about "UR", they give zero care of who you are, no guarantors, no key-money, no crap rules, just apply and you go! I strongly recommend any foreigners to go through UR for first time apartment renting.

For credit card, if you use the gym often, try go to "Renaissance", they will require you to apply for a credit card with them. If not, then get a mobile phone subscription through NTT docomo, then apply for their NTT card as well. Very simple, just apply and you go!

For banking, simply go to "Shinsei" bank, super foreigner friendly! Recently they acquired Lloyd's remittance service, even simpler if you need to send money abroad.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

My friend applied to 20 apartments recently and was turned down in 18 because she is a gaijin.

I've been turned down about a dozen times, in each case with my company vouching for me. One of these rejections was by a real estate agent who was introduced by my boss, was closely related by marriage to my boss and met me in the presence of my boss. Cleo might say it's because they didn't get along and it had nothing to do with my being a foreigner.

As for credit cards: Who really needs them? I lived here more than a decade without a domestic card.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

Japan missed this boat by 20+years already!

This silly point system is of little significance, chances are the 400+ quoted here were likely applying anyway.

As many have correctly pointed out Japan is just too much of a pain, in the past & certainly from here on in pretty much the only foreigners coming will be young seeking a bit of fun/adventure, some company transfers & those whose home economies are worse than Japan so see it in favourable light.

This point system will at best poach a few bright folks from third world countries sadly.

I just cant see this coming to much of anything

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Japan is a homogeneous society and therefore does culturally act in a biased way against non-Japanese. That is a fact that any of us who have lived here a while know well, at least those of us grounded in reality. If you want to compare the Japanese system to the US immigration process, hands down the US system is horrific. After 9-11 it became a nightmare. But culturally acceptance of non-Americans is not an issue in the US, at least not most of the time. The country is populated by immigrants, unlike Japan which is 98% one type of people. Of course we all are here as we have managed the hurdles thrown our way. The benefits far outweigh the challenges for us, otherwise naturally we leave.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Skilled professionals from first-world countries have very little reason to come here. In their own countries, they can have a nice house with a bit of green and great lifestyle. And kids are in a kind of paradise. Then look at how ugly, cramped, cheap and cruddy the landscape and lifestyle is here.

Time and time again I've seen the shocked disbelief on the faces of American and European friends who come to visit me in Tokyo. Outside of a few big commercial buildings and areas in a couple of cities, it's like a corrugated-shack shanty-town life, or endless big prison-block mansions coated with bathroom tile next to busy roads. There's junk and jarring industrial or depressingly rundown third-world urban sights everywhere...cold fluorescent tubes showing through cracked and dirty windows, rundown abandoned properties next to new cheap thin uninsulated prefab rabbit-hutch homes that smell like chemicals, tiny dirt and cement parks next to roaring diesel-fume freeways.

The countryside to which I fled for a "better life" for my kids looks like white-trash areas of Kentucky. There are piles of plastic and metal junk in fields everywhere, abandoned farm equipment and old rusted vehicles seeping fluids into ditches, sagging old prefabs all over the place, and half the population looks and acts like the Japanese equivalent of movie-type inbred Appalachian hillbillies. A lot of them drink a giant 2L plastic handle of shochu every day.

What skilled professional in his/her right mind would choose this lifestyle for their family? We'll be leaving in a year or two.

7 ( +9 / -2 )

Excellent comment!

0 ( +3 / -3 )



I too left the city for rural environ, where I am is pretty good & extremely convenient for my line of work & I have a few more ideas up my sleeve to improve on things..................BUT

Yes there is shabby buildings in all stages of decay, its utterly depressing, why on earth local govts don't FORCE owners to take care of their land/buildings is beyond me, its an utter disgrace!

If owners cant maintain their holdings they should be warned, then fined, then the land/buildings MUST be confiscated & put on auction starting at one Yen!

Then maybe something productive heaven forbid might happen around this country well on its way to a MASSIVE ghost town.

What is transpiring right in front of us is beyond the pale imo!

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Yes there is shabby buildings in all stages of decay, its utterly depressing, why on earth local govts don't FORCE owners to take care of their land/buildings is beyond me, its an utter disgrace!

I blame the housing market for this one. No one wants a second hand home here. Houses are worth nothing, land is worth everything. Why continue to pay for up keep when no one will buy it? Rip it down and rebuild. I see it all the time where I live. It is sad, disgusting and says so much about a) the quality of housing and b) the materialism here

0 ( +3 / -3 )

Ha ha Badmigraine - perhaps you're describing Kyushu!? Your post made me laugh out loud - pretty accurate unfortunately.

If this article mentions that only 400 or so people used this points system, why even bother - what a joke.

It could be taken seriously if tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of highly skilled foreign workers were coming in -

Japan, love it or hate it, hasn't changed much over the years - unless you have a Japanese spouse, there's a very good chance you don't have a future here.

2 ( +3 / -1 )


I hear you man, but where I am from there are these things called By-Laws, helps keeps things from going to hell & a hand basket! People NEED to maintain things, you cant just let things go to hell, become dangerous run down POS!

This is a massive blight country wide & I stand by what I said , its an utter disgrace!

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Who, as a skilled professional. coming here of the plane, not someone who now knows the place ans is established, would want to live in a high tech slum? Poor facilities for children the 'International Schools' are third rate at best, poor environments for children to grow and play in and a society that is difficult to become accepted by never mind involved with. Plus, there is Dai Ichi. Move here? One word: Dubai.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

Japan suffers from serious brain-drain.

The xenophobia seems to've been well-covered above, but it really is a problem, esp w/ professionals, whose goal is to get good at something, rise in their field, get money/ respect etc. To them silly j-xeno stuff is childish and not worth putting up with if it is not outright hurtful. Young ppl who want to "experience" a new culture are the only ones who will be so forgiving of that nonsense enough to say.

But there are other reasons-

*j groupism is something that really takes time to grok, and to manage/ work with effectively. If you are already a professional you may not want to "start at the beginning" and learn that system,

*up-dn relations: everything in jpn is geared to the young guy/ new guy being all "yessir yessir" and doing meaningless work or bowing to others' opinions just cuz they are older, again, many other cultures, esp if already a self-respecting "professional" in somthing may not want to go thru being the "cute young child-guy" and may want to have ideas valued for their real value not their seniority.

*Of course the langugae barrier is just very very big for everyone but Koreans, Mongols and Chinese.

For these reasons, they not only have difficulty getting foreign pros, but also J researchers get sucked out to American/ other universities all the time. It is not just the vast cash available to do their research, but the lack of such hierarchy that enables them to just do what they want with less nonsense.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Without a spouse or a guarantor Japan is a difficult country in which to function.

The Japanese are still wary of renting to foreigners and that is the same now as it was 50 years ago. The rights are foreigners are basically zero as they aren't any anti-discrimination laws here.

What sort of attractive environment is that?

And to be blunt the opportunities for career advancement are just not open to foreign professionals here....

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

After reading some of the comments above i'd like to say, As a new immigrant from Taiwan to USA, I can tell you that other than getting a bank account, USA treats us foreigners almost the same as Japanese do in many aspects such as changing between jobs, find a housing etc.

I give credits to Japan gov. for at least issuing point based visa even before an applicant actually found a job in Japn. Do you guys know how USA H1b visa works? First of all you need a job offer from an E-verified company who would sponsor you (in other word, pay for your H1b legal fees and abide restricted H1b laws) AND assume that company would give you offer by April 1st (the first day H1b visa applications accepted, and the very first day the annual quota exhausted) and willingly to wait for you to start working from Oct 1st. There will be 6 months waiting period from the date your company filled your application till the date you actually can start to work legally. Think about how many companies would like to hire you over hiring Americans.

Also, being a H1b visa holder, all the jobs that you get paid with, that company will need to file a separate H1b. Your job title has to be relevant to your degree and your job should pay you as the same as other Americans (according to the wage rate from Labort Dept.). By law, all H1b visa holders have to obtain a job at all time or else you are out of status. There is no grace period for any H1b holder remain in USA without a job. And if you are lucky to get your next job while working on current job, your next employer has to file your H1b again.

Shall I continue to tell you how difficult to obtain a green card through an employer? Well, I know some Indian guys who filed their employment based green card at the time their kids were under 10 years old but now kids are over 21 but still waiting in line for green card. Not to mention after a dependent over 21, that dependent is no longer eligible to obtain a green card through a H1b visa holder; s/he has to maintain his/her own status (F1 or so) to stay in USA.

It even frustrated those highly skilled professionals when they see illegal Latinos pay 500 bucks to be a legal residence through Dream Act. Most of the H1b/H4 family pay thousands or even tens of thousands in legal fees prior to obtain their green card. Paying 500 fines and then get a residence for illegals is like slapping the face of all immigrants and telling us how stupid we are to follow the laws.

My point is, people in every countries are all afraid that immigrants might take their jobs. We all do. Japanese are and so do Americans, of course my country too.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I'm just curious at one commenter above who said he has been in IT field for over 25 years holding various high demand certificates but can only score 60 on point based visa. In my opinion, The point based system is quite lenient to IT compare to business professionals. Being an IT professional I assume you should at least a bachelor degree, which is 10 points. For have been working over 10 years you should get 20 points. As years of experience and high demand certificates holder, it shouldn't be difficult to have salary exceeds 10 million yen annual, which is another 40 points. 70 points in totally easily. I wonder how is it possible that with your IT background you only s orde 60.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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