Q: The number of foreign tourists is expected to grow amidst ongoing globalization. Have you been taking any measures on immigration examination?
A: With regard to the implementation of smooth and proper immigration examinations, the Immigration Policy Discussion Panel, which is one of the private advisory groups of the Minister of Justice, submitted a report to the Minister in May 2013 entitled “Future Ideal Course of Immigration Control Administration in an Era Welcoming 25,000,000 Visitors to Japan” in which such proposals as the streamlining of immigration examinations for newly entering foreign nationals through the use of automated gates were made. In addition, as to the government as a whole, the Action Program for Realization of a Tourism-Oriented Country was approved by the Ministerial Council for Promotion of a Tourism-Oriented Country in June 2013, and this Action Program called for a system to be established so as to ensure accelerated and facilitated procedures at the time of cruise ships calling at port, and to enable those foreign nationals who are deemed to be low risk in terms of immigration control to be designated as “trusted travelers” and be allowed to use the automated gates. Moreover, the Japan Revitalization Strategy was approved by the Cabinet in the same month, and since the achievement of accelerated and facilitated procedures at the time of the entry examinations for large cruise ships was called for in order to realize a tourism-oriented country, these measures of the government were passed to the Action Program for Realization of a Tourism-Oriented Country 2014, and the Japan Revitalization Strategy revised in 2014.
In order to contribute to the realization of a tourism-oriented country, it is necessary to implement both smooth immigration examinations for trouble-free foreign nationals and strict examinations for foreign nationals with such motives as working illegally in Japan.
Efforts have been made to reduce the waiting time for examinations by assigning “booth concierges” to the examination areas in the airports, and to promote the use of automated gates by more people for smooth examinations; in FY 2014, the number of automated gates across the country was increased from 40 to 70. In addition, immigration officers were sent out to companies, passport offices and other places in order to provide “mobile registration for use of the automated gates” so as to register applicants as users of the automated gates, and publicity measures were proactively conducted with the cooperation of the airport companies and other companies.
Furthermore, with regard to streamlining the departure and return examinations of Japanese nationals, since return examinations utilizing facial recognition technology, which do not require pre-registration in the use of the automated gates, were considered to be effective, test trials of facial recognition technology were conducted at Narita Airport and Haneda Airport during August and September of 2014. Subsequently, in November of the same year, a report on the test trials was submitted to the Ministry of Justice by the Committee for Evaluation of Facial Recognition T e c h n o l o g y i n t h e I mm i g r a t i o n Examinations, the committee composed of outside experts. In the report, although there were still some points requiring consideration, it was deemed that “facial recognition technology has been evaluated as being sufficiently feasible for use in the departure and return examinations for Japanese nationals” and in the future, studies are to be promptly conducted with regard to implementing facial recognition technology in the departure and return examinations of Japanese nationals.
As for streamlining the cruise ship examinations and expanding the scope of foreign nationals eligible to use the automated gates, in accordance with the passing of the Act for Partial Amendment of the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act in June 2014, which includes the introduction of a system of landing permission for cruise ship tourists and the use of automated gates by trusted travelers, it has become possible for foreign passengers of cruise ships designated by the Minister of Justice to be permitted landing through simplified procedures, and foreign nationals who are deemed to be trusted travelers posing little risk in terms of immigration control and those who frequently enter Japan have become eligible users of the automated gates.
Meanwhile, in regard to the system of landing permission for cruise ship tourists, the system is in force from January 1, 2015, and a new framework making trusted travelers eligible to use the automated gates is due to be enforced within a timeframe of two years and six months calculating from the date of promulgation of the Act.