Chinese man gets Japan's 1st skilled worker visa with no time limit

© Kyodo News

A 35-year-old Chinese man has become the first person to be granted a resident status that effectively allows foreign blue-collar workers to stay in Japan indefinitely, the infrastructure ministry and a supporting organization said Thursday.

Weng Fei, an employee of a construction company in Gifu Prefecture, central Japan, obtained Wednesday the Specified Skilled Worker No. 2 status under a policy introduced by Japan in April 2019 to attract foreign workers and address the country's severe labor shortage.

The system allows foreigners with certain Japanese language and vocational skills to apply for a resident status called Specified Skilled Worker No. 1, which grants working rights in 14 sectors, such as construction, farming and nursing, for up to five years.

Proficient laborers in two sectors -- construction and shipbuilding -- can further extend their stay by earning the Specified Skilled Worker No. 2 status. It allows holders to bring in family members and has no limit on the number of times they can renew their visa.

Weng, who first came to Japan in 2010 as a technical trainee to work at his current construction company, was granted the Specified Skilled Worker No. 1 status in 2020.

He later obtained grade 1 in the technical skills test, a national system to certify vocational abilities, meaning he has high-level skills in his field of work needed for positions other than managers.

He had worked as a site supervisor, and this experience was recognized when permitting him to upgrade to the No. 2 status, according to the supporting organization and the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism which oversees the construction industry.

Miki Sawamura, vice president of the Cooperative of Eco Project, a labor union actively supporting foreign workers, based in Gifu city, said the achievement was "the result of the employer's efforts to create a comfortable working environment for foreigners."

"In order to address the labor shortage, I hope the construction sector will work to improve the treatment of foreigners," Sawamura said.