Nov 1. 2021
Current status and prospects of Border Enforcement and Quarantine Measures related to Technical Intern Training Program and Specific Skilled Workers
We summarize, as JITCO, the current situation and prospects for resuming international traffic in Technical Intern Training Program (hereafter TITP) and Specified Skilled Worker (hereafter SSW) based on the open source information released by Japanese related ministries and media.
Expectations are rising for the resumption of international traffic, but it is often pointed out that immigration and quarantine regulations are extremely complex and changeable, so difficult to understand. Therefore, we try to explain the current situation, from three scopes;
(1) Immigration Restrictions, (2) Quarantine Measures, (3) Vaccination Certificate.
＊Refer to attached material
Currently, prevalent is “Denial of Permission to Entry”.Foreign nationals who have stayed in any of listed 160 countries/regions within 14 days prior to the application are denied to enter Japan based on the Article 5, paragraph (1), item (xiv) of Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act. Among 18 traditional countries sending TITP / SSW to Japan, exemptions apply only to China, Vietnam, and Laos, but these three countries are included in another category where special visas issued in the past under “residence tracks and business tracks” are suspended as well, in effect, no new business related visas are to be issued in principle. As an exception to all these restrictions, it is said that entry is permitted only under “Special Exceptional Circumstances” ,but almost no exceptions have been allowed in TITP or SSW. The government-led activities such as Nursing Care under EPA have begun to resume, at this stage.
(2)Quarantine Measures (strengthening measures)
Even entry admissions given, the next step, Quarantine measures are complicated as well. They have changed almost every month, even in every two weeks. Although not widely reported, the required measures differ depending on the type of COVID-19 variants. When entering Japan from abroad, PCR test negative comes first, then forced quarantine at a government-designated facility. This quarantine has three patterns, so called, 10-days course, 6-days course, and 3-days course are well told by the newspapers. However, important element stated here is that those measures are for the arrival from “Designated Countries/Regions in response to COVID-19 Variants of Special Treatment on Border Measures.” Since 27th September 2021, this Variants of Special Treatment do not include Delta, which is already prevalent in Japan. The target of this Special Treatment are Mu, Lambda, Gamma and Beta variants. In countries related to TITP, the Philippines has been designated as “6 days quarantine at a government-designated facility” before moving to Voluntary quarantine of 8 days. It is presumed that this comes from the issues that Gamma variants were detected in the country and the Mu infection of Filipinos who traveled to Hong Kong. The quarantine system maintains 10-days forced quarantine despite the fact that there is no country designated. This proves that the Japanese government is still quite nervous about the invasion of these new Variants of Special Treatment on Border Measures. With regards to other variants including Delta, 3-days compulsory quarantine at designated facility is obliged. In this way, when looking ahead to the relaxation of immigration restrictions in the future, it can be said that although the infection of Delta in Japan is subsiding, it does not directly lead to the relaxation of immigration restrictions. But, with regards to exact timing of reopening, it seems that the government will soon announce the response. The government policy has recently changed significantly. On 9th September, it was said that it would work on a gradual review of border measures, and at the former Prime Minister’s press conference on 28th September, he said the government will actively consider measures to ease the restrictions. This policy seems to have been followed by the new cabinet, and a similar statement was made by Chief Cabinet Secretary in his press conference on 18th October.In addition, on the 15th, you may recall that the outline preparation of the basic policy for COVID-19 countermeasures were shown. In the future, the relevant ministries and agencies will work out more concrete measures based on this outline and start implementing in concrete terms in November. The outline did not include the direction of easing immigration restrictions, but if the current trend of COVID-19 inside and outside Japan continues and the degree of threats such as Mu variant becomes clear, it is hoped and anticipated that some indication of change will come out in November.
Then, how would the government proceed if there is any relaxation? According to media, since immigration regulations were tightened in earlier this year, the total number of entrants per day, that is, the total number of both Japanese and foreigners entering Japan, had been limited around 2,000. For this purpose, the government has set a guideline for number of passengers per air flight. This continued until June. But in July and August, due to Olympic and Paralympic, the total number of entrants exceeds 3,500 a day. Then, in September, the policy was changed, and the total number of entrants is currently restricted to 3,500 per day. In the future relaxation, it is anticipated that this total number will be expanded as a first step. And, if we follow the example of last year, instead of abstract expression of “Special Exceptional Circumstances”, we suppose that more concrete expression of “Business Related People” will be allowed for entry including TITP, SSW and “Short-term Commercial.”
With the higher total number allowed, there will basically be no or less limitation by country origin, but quarantine measures and issue of vaccination certification may remain. As for priority, last year’s example was suspended visa holders and those with residence permits. Due to daily visa processing capacity, those priorities might be announced on websites of Japanese embassy and consulate in each country. Should voluntarily quarantine measures for certain days continue, the shortage of accommodation might cause some bottleneck, as domestic policy to support travel industry expands.
(3)Valid Vaccination Certificate
Handling vaccination certificates is very sensitive diplomatic issue. The Japanese authorities have approved 3 types of vaccines for domestic distribution and only 4 types (with the addition of Indian-made AstraZeneca (Covishield)) as a Valid Vaccination Certificate issued by agreed countries. Thus, those who have been vaccinated with other vaccines will not be given preferential quarantine treatment at the border. However, entry to Japan would not be denied. In the other hand, considering the long-term stay and the effective period of vaccination, it may be a limiting factor that boosting with same vaccine cannot be arranged during the stay. We suppose it is necessary to study the suitability of cross-vaccination.