Revised Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act

1. Introduction

   This revision of Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act (here in after called (Immigration law) announced that it was started working to revise in October, 1998, by the Ministry of Justice. In December, 1998, the Ministry of Justice proposed some acts as concrete revised provisions of Immigration law such as the creation of a new Criminal Offence called "Unlawful Stay", and extension of the period of refusal re-entry into Japan for people who was deported. In March of this year, the revised provision was admitted by the Cabinet, and introduced in the Diet. Because APFS held the movement to disagree with the revision such as attending assemblies held inside the House, there may be a lot of people who remember about the deliberation by the House of Councilors.
At the end, the revised Immigration law was passed at the plenary session of Congress and is going to be enforced on February 18th, 2000.
   The concrete contents of revised Immigration law have not been announced in English or in the other mother tongues, so inquiries to APFS have continued, being worried whether regulation against undocumented foreigners became stricter, or being imposed heavier penalties on undocumented foreigners. When the Immigration law was changed for the worse in 1990, the newly-establishment of the "Crime for the Promotion of Illegal Works", which was taken in the regulations toward owners who employ undocumented workers, was told among undocumented workers to be applied instead of the owners. And because of this wrong information, undocumented workers thronged to Immigration Bureau, which was at Oote-machi in those days, hoping to go back to their home countries before being punished. I am going to explain briefly how the revised immigration law will influence undocumented foreigners.

2. The Creation of a new Criminal Offence called "Unlawful Stay"

   Immigration Bureau provides 27 kinds of qualifications of residing based on the residing purpose of foreigners when the Bureau accepts foreigners in Japan. For example, when they study in universities or vocational schools, they are admitted qualification of residing as "study abroad", when they work in Japan using peculiar knowledge of foreigners, they are admitted qualification of residing as "international business, human knowledge" or so on. And when they are given the qualification of residing, based on the qualification, it is also decided how long they can stay in Japan. I predict that, at present time, many of foreigners who are undocumented, and who entered Japan before June, 1990, have qualification of residing called "4 - 1 - 4", which admit 15-day or 90-day-residing, and who entered Japan after June, 1990, have qualification "short term stay", which admit 90-day-residing. Like this, people who were admitted certain qualifications when they entered Japan and who have resided in Japan beyond the term which was admitted are called "illegal residing" by Immigration Bureau. About the "illegal residing", there has been the penalty which is decided as "imprisonment up to 3 years, or fine up to 3 hundred thousand yen." So, if foreigners who have stayed and worked in Japan beyond the admitted term appear to Immigration Bureau and take procedures to go back to their countries by themselves, they go back to their countries taken repatriation as administrative disposition. If the overstay of a foreigner is considered as very vicious, Immigration Bureau file a complaint against the foreigner and he or she needs to have a trial and takes steps as stated later. However, if foreigners who overstayed in Japan for more than a year are arrested for violation of immigration laws and prosecuted, under the existing circumstances, most of the time, they are prosecuted and go to a trial. The judgement is usually 1-year-and-a-half imprisonment with 3-year-suspension. When the judgment is settled, guards from the Immigration Bureau are waiting in the court and take the overstayer into custody, then detains him or her. After this, investigation of violation is given and deported soon. At this time it is possible to object for the person who is into custody but the objection is not admitted usually.
   The newly-created criminal offence called "Unlawful Stay" in this time is the new penalty for foreigners who have entered Japan illegally, not for foreigners who have entered Japan legally. The ways to enter in Japan illegally are, for example, entering in Japan from Korea by a fishing boat or something without obtaining permission for entry from the Immigration Bureau, or entering in Japan using the other persons' or false passport. Up to now, if foreigners who entered in Japan illegally as stated before, have stayed in Japan for three years since they entered Japan, the period of prescription runs out, and criminal punishment cannot be imposed on them. Of course, they can be target of repatriation as administrative disposition as the same with overstay. The Ministry of Justice newly-established criminal offence called "unlawful stay" so that they can always impose punishment on foreigners who entered Japan illegally. As a result, foreigners who have entered Japan illegally, as long as they stay in Japan, can be imposed punishment, "imprisonment up to 3 years, or fine up to 3 hundred thousand yen."
   As stated above, because of the creation of a new criminal offence called "unlawful stay", foreigners who entered Japan "legally" and have overstayed their visa beyond the expiration date are not applied to the penalty. However, there are penalties applied to foreigners who stay in Japan over the expiration date on the visa in current immigration laws and these do not changed. Please be careful especially those who have entered Japan illegally because this revision is aiming for those foreigners. And understand exactly that there are regulation of penalty from the before toward foreigners who have "overstayed" in Japan, and the revision of the immigration laws in this time does not make any new penalty.

3. "Extension of the Period of Refusal of Re-entry into Japan"

   Up to now, when a foreigner who have "stayed illegally" in Japan go back to their countries with any kind of reason, the person will not be allowed to re-enter Japan "for one year from the day of his or her deportation from Japan." This is written down in Article 5 of the Immigration law. In brief, under the existing laws, foreigners who has deported from Japan because of their "overstay" cannot be allowed to re-enter Japan until one year past from the day of the deportation. It means that if undocumented foreigners who have married Japanese or foreigners who has stayed in Japan legally, need to go back to home countries and appear to the Immigration Bureau. They cannot re-enter Japan for at least one year. Because of the revision of the Immigration law this time, the extension of the period of refusal of re-entry into Japan extended the refusal period to 5 years from one year. Immigration Bureau states that this extension is to prevent the increase of the people who re-enter Japan after deportation. However, to apply this law to people who need to come to Japan again for the living together with family or for the cure of illness is too severe.
   Also under the existing immigration law, "people who have violated the law of Japan or of the other countries and have sentenced to more than a year imprisonment or applied to corresponding punishment to above stated" is refused to re-enter into Japan "for ever" (the charge of permanent residence・refugee section of Immigration Bureau). Actually, there was a case that a foreigner who had gone to trial because of only the violation of the Immigration law, was given the decision, which was year-and-six months-imprisonment with three-year-suspension, have been refused re-entry into Japan even if he or she has married Japanese and the period of the suspended sentence has expired. If a person is not be punished during the period of the suspended sentence, the person is considered not to be given a judgment itself, but the existing immigration law refuse re-entry of foreigners who have deported, for ever even if they reflect on "overstay" and consider as not being given a judgment itself. Recently, because of activities of some citizen's groups, there are foreigners who have entered Japan being given special permission for entry by the Minister of Justice even if they are applied to the refusal of re-entry.

4. Conclusion

   We must regard the revision of Immigration Control Act this time as the first step which the Ministry of Justice - the Immigration Bureau is going to make controlling foreigners who live in Japan even stricter, and change the Japanese society to controlled one. It is obvious from the fact that "Wire tapping Law" or " Law to Fight Organized Crimes" are being discussed together. However, the revision of laws related with undocumented foreigners are as stated above, and especially for the undocumented foreigners who have overstayed does not change at all. When laws are revised, there is very little information for especially foreigners, so sometimes this causes big confusion. The broadly explanation about the revision of law this time is stated above. Although there are many foreigners who are worried that a large number of undocumented foreigners are arrested and given heavy punishment from 18th of February in next year by the revised law of this time, the fact is stated above. Also revised law of this time has a supplementary resolution, which consider enough "bond of family".
   Anyway, do not decide whether going back to your countries or not based on various kinds of rumors or information. Do contact with APFS or other supporting NGO in each community and judge precisely based on correct information. APFS are planing to held a gathering to understand easily about the revised laws for APFS members inviting lawyers and others before the revised immigration laws enter into force on 18th of February in 2000.
   Also in this revision, there are not only criminal offence called "unlawful stay" and extension of the period of refusal of re-enter into Japan, but also the change about the period of validity of permission to re-enter Japan. Under existing laws, when foreigners who have qualification of reside leave Japan, if they have "permission for the re-entry" from the Japanese government, they can re-enter Japan without getting new visa. The period of permission has been a year, and will be possible to get three years of permission of re-entry with the same status visa in this revision of law. Other than this, there is revision of abolishment of fingerprinting. Please contact to APFS office about more details.

September 23, 1999
Asian People's Friendship Society
(A P F S)

go to the INDEX page go to the HOME page go to TOP of this page