Japan eases permanent visa norms to draw global talent

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Japan is wooing foreign direct investment through a slew of measures such as an easier visa regime and lower corporate taxes, at a time when the proposed visa curbs and other protectionist measures by developed nations, including the U.S., continue to trouble Indian firms.

In a bid to attract global talent, from India and other nations, Japan has said it will soon introduce a new Green Card programme —billed as the fastest such system in the world — and expedite the granting of permanent residency to highly skilled foreign professionals.

The new ‘Japanese Green Card for Highly Skilled Foreign Professionals’ will substantially reduce the period of stay required — before highly skilled foreign professionals can apply for permanent residence — from the current five years to just one year in cases where the applicant secures the required points. Incidentally, there is a fall in native-born population in Japan, a country where foreign workers account for a minuscule 1-2% of its total workforce.

Time period cut

Shigeki Maeda, the Executive Vice President of the Japan External Trade Organisation (JETRO) said that the Japanese government is planning to reduce the time period of five years to 1-2 years provided the applicant meets the qualification norms.

JETRO is a Japanese government-related organisation working to promote trade and investment between Japan and the rest of the world.

Mr. Maeda said currently there is an “investment imbalance” between Japan and India. The investments by Japan in India as at the end of 2015 were $14.1 billion, while investments from India into Japan were worth only $0.074 billion.

He also pointed out that FDI (2015 figures) from India to Singapore ($5.27 billion), to the U.S. ($3 billion) and to the U.K. ($779 million) were much more than to Japan (just $27 million).

He said Japan is looking to attract investments from Indian companies in sectors including IT/ITeS, pharmaceuticals and tourism.

In a bid to send a message that Japan is open to the world, the Japanese government had also said it will make the Points-based System for highly skilled foreign professionals more user-friendly by revising requirements and promoting further awareness.

In the case of significant investors and human resources in growth fields such as IT and regenerative medicine, Japan is looking at expediting applications for permanent residence by highly skilled foreign professionals.

Agriculture reforms

To lure more investments, Japan is also opening up its electricity market and carrying out reforms in sectors such as medicine, medical equipment and agriculture, JETRO said in a presentation to promote investments into Japan.

Besides, there is a plan to reduce corporate real tax rate from 34.62% in 2014 to 29.74% in 2017. To address the issue of language barrier, Japanese laws and regulations will be translated into foreign languages.

The country is also planning to make infrastructure better for foreign residents. Referring to the increase in visitors from India to Japan from around 70,000 in 2012 to 1.23 lakh in 2016, Mr. Maeda said there is huge scope for Indian companies in the tourism sector to open offices and make investments in Japan.

He said while Japan may not be among the easiest markets to gain entry and operate, joint ventures and collaborations with Japanese companies as well as hand-holding from organisations like JETRO can help Indian companies.