What are the changes?
In a move to make the process of changing, extending, and/or renewing a visa status, the Japanese government has announced that from April 2021, foreign residents will be able to complete these processes online through a computer or a smartphone.
To be eligible, foreign residents must have a valid residence card (zairyu card - 在留カード) number and input this into the system. The government has announced that further steps will be needed to avoid fraudulent applications, though they have not announced what those steps are.
It is possible in the near future that supporting documents will also need to be submitted through the online system. These documents may include official employment contracts or marriage certificates, depending on the individual's circumstances.
Currently, online applications are restricted to accredited companies with a record of hiring foreign workers making applications on the resident's behalf.
Why are the changes happening now?
The changes are being implemented to simplify the process for foreign residents in an attempt to reduce the number of steps and time required to apply for a change in status.
It has also been set up to help reduce people congregating at the immigration centres and therefore, limiting the potential for cluster infections of the coronavirus.
Who will be affected by the changes?
Current foreign residents with a zairyu card seeking a status change in their visas will be affected.
Individuals will include graduates seeking permission to work and those who have married a Japanese national and seeking a change in status.