Govt requires foreign tech students to submit detailed background

The Yomiuri Shimbun

The government has implemented tighter entry screening since this spring for foreign students studying at Japanese universities, several government sources have said.

Universities that accept foreign students must report to the Immigration Services Agency in detail about their academic and career history if their field of study in Japan involves advanced technology that can be used for weapons. The schools must also provide information about any groups or companies that are funding their studies in Japan.

The government may deny visas to people it finds suspicious for the sake of the country’s security.

The measure is aimed at preventing the outflow of advanced weapons-capable technology, with China in mind. The immigration agency will coordinate with the National Security Secretariat (NSS), the Foreign Ministry, the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry and others.

In the past, universities only needed to submit letters of acceptance and students’ resumes showing their last degree earned. The new system requires universities to submit documents on students who study rockets and artificial intelligence, detailing their academic and career history as well as their affiliations and contracts with any group or companies.

On top of that, the immigration agency asks universities to check any financial support from foreign countries, potential relationships between their studies and weapons development and any career plans to join a military-related company after leaving Japan. The agency will ask universities to report such data if necessary.

The government intends to identify in advance students from the so-called seven sons of national defense — a group of Chinese schools believed to work closely with the Chinese military’s weapons development — as well as those who have received large sums of money from foreign institutions for their studies in Japan. The agency will share information on people who are flagged in this way with the NSS and the Foreign Ministry and may refuse to issue visas to students under the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Law if it deems that they have serious problems.

According to the Justice Ministry, about 122,000 foreign students entered Japan in 2019. China topped the list at about 40%, followed by Vietnam and South Korea.

“It is the government’s policy to increase the number of foreign students, but if we fail to eliminate suspicious figures, it could hinder international joint research on advanced technology,” a senior government official said.

The United States and Australia are increasingly wary of China’s strategic use of foreign students to acquire advanced technology. On July 13, Japan, Australia, India and the United States held an online meeting on cutting-edge technologies to confirm the strengthening of cooperation.