Allow Foreign Students and Workers to Enter Japan!

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In response to the novel coronavirus Japan has implemented a travel ban which restricts foreigners from entering Japan who have been present in 129 countries in the 2 weeks prior to their entry. Japanese nationals are exempt from this ban, and are allowed to leave and re-enter Japan as long as they undergo PCR testing and self-quarantine for 14 days. 

Unfortunately, the ban currently also applies to foreign persons with residence status in Japan, including permanent and long-term residents. Though some exceptions have been made on humanitarian grounds for foreigners with resident status to be able to leave for special situations such as the funeral or illness of a family member outside of Japan. Japan’s entry ban is still stricter than any other G7 country. 

While it is good that the government has eased the restriction to make allowances for the special circumstances of foreign residents, there are no allowances for foreigners with student or work visas. Students and workers who found themselves outside of Japan at the time of the ban’s implementation are now stranded abroad unable to continue or start their work and studies. 

Let me use myself as an example. In February, I got a job offer and started the visa process to enter Japan. I received my Certificate of Eligibility but the embassy stopped processing visas the same day because of the coronavirus situation. As a result, I’m not able to enter Japan for my job. At first, I thought it would be temporary so I started working part time because I anticipated leaving shortly for my new life in Japan. Since the repeated extension of the ban, I have been forced to seek full-time employment in the US to support myself despite already having a job in Japan. I have had trouble locating a full time position in the US because of the significant rise in unemployment due to shutdowns of businesses. The current job market is very limited. This is frustrating because I have employment in Japan but cannot actually start work. The effects of the travel ban have negatively impacted my future and damaged my livelihood. 

Not only has this affected me professionally, but also personally as my partner is a Japanese national and I have been unable to see him for 4 months. I’m very fearful because I don’t know when I will be able to see him again. 

Many other people find themselves in situations similar to mine where they cannot enter Japan to start new employment or studies. Students and workers are caught in a limbo, with overwhelming uncertainty regarding their future. There is very limited information regarding any kind of timeline for easing of restrictions. Students are unsure if they will be able to start their classes in the fall and workers worry about losing employment.

I made this petition to encourage Japan to open their borders to foreign workers and students. The same precautions such as PCR testing and mandatory 14 day self-quarantine used for Japanese nationals could be applied to those entering with work/student visas. Obviously, the more people who travel the more resources will be needed for testing to ensure coronavirus cases are not imported. But the number of workers and students is not high in comparison to the normal number of tourists that typically enter Japan. The Japanese government should distinguish between tourists and people wishing to enter for school and work, and allow the latter to enter.

Finally, while I believe the restriction should be eased, in the meantime even giving a tentative timeline for when borders might open would be very helpful to people trying to plan their futures. 

Thank you for reading, I hope that if you empathize with me and others trying to enter Japan that you will take the time to sign! 

Hannah & Yuki