Special Permission for Residence
A.P.F.S. and undocumented foreigners
At A.P.F.S. we have been consulting foreigners in need regardless of residential status. As a result, many “undocumented foreigners” (foreigners who live in Japan without residential status) visit our office and we help them.
The “Special Permit for Residence” is a way of normalizing undocumented foreigners. It means that the Minister of Justice allows residential status for foreigners who have been living in Japan without residential status. A.P.F.S. has consistently been calling for loosening up the Special Permit for Residence.
In the 1980s, the normalization of undocumented foreigners married to Japanese spouses was recognized. Subsequently, undocumented families with foreign born parents came to the spotlight. Since September 1st, 1999, some undocumented foreign families joined forces and in three cases turned themselves in for Special Permit for Residence in union. This action gained sympathy from many journalists, researchers and foreigner supporting organization and as a result 42 undocumented foreigners were provided residence.
Later on, their situation turned worse for example by the beginning of the “Policy for Halving the Number of Illegal Foreigners” in 2003. However, there are still approximately 110,000 undocumented foreigners in Japan even today. Large numbers of undocumented foreign families reaching for every straw come to our office for consultation as their last resort. Why has it been impossible for them to find residence legally? And what kind of people are they really?
Why could not undocumented foreigners reside legally?
Many fathers and mothers from undocumented foreign families came to Japan after the mid 1980s from Asian countries as “foreign workers”. In Japan in the midst of the bubble economy, factories or construction sights, restaurants etc. needed them as labour force and they worked to support the life of their families in their home countries. Since the 1990s, period of stay in Japan have extended, and through marriage and child-birth they have become “mothers and fathers” to children born in Japan with a foundation for their family life in Japan. Yet, there is no residential status in Japan which would embrace them, so unavoidably they have overstayed. Also, since Japanese citizenship acquisition is based on jus sanguinis (the “right of blood”) children do not have residential status either.
What are undocumented foreigners like?
Whatever the case, they are different from “illegal foreigners” and “criminals” painted in the media.
The fathers have been sustaining the base of Japanese society by being engaged in so called 3D (Difficult, Dirty and Dangerous) works many people do not want to do. The mothers, even while they feel problems with Japanese language, actively fulfill their functions such as PTA or neighborhood association and lead a life as true members of local communities.
All of the children were born in Japan, visit public schools and live same lives as Japanese children around them. Since all conversation between them and their parents is carried our in Japanese, they cannot speak the language of their parents’ country. What will happen to these children’s education if the family is forcibly deported now that they are grown? These families demand their residence in Japan, so that they will be able to let their children to continue proper education.