Govt plans to allow foreign students to enter Japan

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
A Japanese language class is held online among foreign students who are waiting to come to Japan in Koriyama, Fukushima Prefecture, in December.

The government will likely allow foreign students to enter Japan in stages, after suspending such entries due to the spread of the omicron variant of the coronavirus overseas, government sources said Friday.

The first stage of the plan is to allow about 100 government-sponsored students to enter Japan from February.

After that, the government will carefully consider the timing of entries of such students, while monitoring infections at home and abroad, they said.

At present, the government has suspended new entries by foreign nationals in principle from all over the world, allowing entry only in exceptional cases where there are “special circumstances,” including cases of public interest.

Taking into consideration that international exchange at educational institutions through accepting foreign students serves the public interest, the government has concluded that allowing the entry of foreign students falls under the category of “special circumstances.”

In the first stage, priority will be given to government-sponsored foreign students who are in a tough situation, such as those who have already taken online classes at Japanese universities while in their home countries but cannot graduate or advance without taking in-person classes.

In particular, students in science departments will be given priority, as it is essential to carry out experiments face-to-face.

After entering Japan, foreign students will be allowed to attend their educational institutions after spending 10 days in hotels or other facilities prepared by the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry.

According to the Immigration Services Agency of Japan, the number of foreigners who newly entered Japan under the status of student was 121,637 in 2019, but the number dropped sharply to 9,930 from January to October 2021.

In past years, privately financed students have accounted for about 90% of students from overseas. Regarding the government’s plans to increase the number of foreign students, the government is to prioritize government-sponsored students, and make a decision on privately financed students based on the virus situation and other factors.

The government allowed new entries of foreign students on Nov. 8 after infections had subsided, but suspended it again on Nov. 30 due to the spread of the omicron variant.