Statement on the Commencement of the Resident Card and the System of the Basic Resident Registration for Foreign Nationals
Amendments to the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act (“the Immigration Control Act”), the Residential Basic Book Act (“the Resident Registration Act”) and the Alien Registration Act, which had been enacted in July 2009, came into force today.
On the one hand, this enforcement introduced: the abolishment of the foreign resident registration system; the obligation to carry a Resident Card at all times which is newly issued by the government (the Ministry of Justice) except special permanent residents, and the obligation of speedy notification relating to domicile for those who are permitted to stay in Japan for more than three months; the obligation of notification of the affiliated organization for those with resident statuses for employment and for studying; the obligation of notification of matters such as divorce for those with resident status of a spouse or a child of a Japanese national; and also criminal punishment in case of failure to provide these notifications. On the other hand, special permanent residents and those who are permitted to stay in Japan for more than three months are now listed as a resident on the Basic Resident Register which a local government manages.
The amendments have some positive aspects, such as using the Basic Resident Register as the basis for the provision of public services by listing foreign residents on the Basic Resident Register along with Japanese nationals, and abolishing the obligation to always carry a Special Permanent Resident Certificate, which replaces the former Certificate of Alien Registration, for special permanent residents. However, the revision of the laws also reinforces control over the residence of foreign nationals by strengthening the obligation of notification concerning various matters and excluding foreign nationals without any status of residence from the Basic Resident Register.
In order that the enforcement of the amendments to the laws does not violate the rights guaranteed to foreign nationals by the Constitution and international treaties of human rights, the points below should be taken into consideration.
1. The strict requirement of notice relating to divorce and change of address has made it easier for the government to identify the facts of divorce and separation. Along with this, the system is in place whereby the status of residence will be revoked in cases where a foreign national with the status of spouse of a Japanese national or a permanent resident has failed to continue to engage in the activity corresponding to that status for six months or more. However, even if a separation continues, the system should not be used to revoke the status of residence in cases where such foreign national escapes from domestic violence (DV) or where a culpable spouse asks for a divorce. The government’s criteria for the use of the system should be clarified, so that those cases are excluded from the applicability of the system because of “justifiable reasons” stipulated in the law, and that the applicability of exceptions based on domestic violence should not be defined too narrowly.
Furthermore, even in cases where resident statuses such as “Spouse or Child of Japanese National” cannot be maintained or renewed due to separation or divorce, there must be clear operational guidelines on the application of the system, including the guarantee of resident status during the process of dissolution of marriage such as arbitration and litigation, and granting a status of stable residency such as “a long-term resident” with consideration of a record of length of stay in Japan and other matters, so that such foreign national may not be forced to be left in a disadvantageous position.
2. The revision provides that, excluding those who are granted permission for provisional stay in the process of application for recognition of refugee status, foreign nationals without any residential status are not listed on the Basic Resident Register which is the basis for the provision of public services. However, even without any status of residence, access to public services should not be denied to those who maintain the permission of provisional release for an extended period of time with reasons such as ongoing process of application for special permission to stay or for recognition of refugee status. Additionally, in light of Article 28 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and Article 12 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and others, foreign nationals in general, without any permission to stay and not being listed on the Basic Resident Register, also have the right to public services without any discrimination when it comes to guarantee of the right to receive emergency medical service, maternal and child health, and education, which the government also mentioned clearly in the deliberation of the amendments.
In response to this, the requirement to examine measures enabling the reception of public services by a local government is stipulated in the Supplementary Provisions of the revised Immigration Control Act for those with permission of provisional release for a certain period of time and in the Supplementary Provisions of the revised Resident Registration Act for those without permission to stay. Although the Ministry of Justice currently provides information regarding those with permission of provisional release to local governments, it is left to the judgment of a local government as to how it provides public services to those without permission to stay as well as to those with permission of provisional release. The government should thus thoroughly publicize to local governments that they should provide without any discrimination certain public services which should be guaranteed for all foreign nationals.
The JFBA requests that the government, as mentioned above, not utilize the system to jeopardize marriage and stable residence of those such as a spouse of a Japanese national, and that it should immediately take measures to realize the rights guaranteed also for those without permission to stay. Along with this, from a perspective of guaranteeing the rights of all foreign nationals and establishing a society of multiethnic and multicultural coexistence, it also calls for the commencement of a review of the measures which reinforce the control of residence of foreign nationals stipulated in the amendments, including the abolishment of the obligation to carry a Resident Card at all times and the expansion of coverage of the Basic Resident Register.
The JFBA also calls on local governments to continue to provide services with the principle that the enforcement of the amendments never makes any changes in the rights guaranteed for foreign nationals even without permission to stay.
July 9, 2012
Japan Federation of Bar Associations