July 14, 2020 / 12:33 PM / 24 days ago

U.S. business body urges Japan to end 'double standard' re-entry rules

TOKYO (Reuters) - A U.S. business body has asked Japan to eliminate “double standard” re-entry rules and treat all residents returning to the country equally during the COVID-19 pandemic regardless of their nationality.

FILE PHOTO: People wearing protective masks amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, make their way during rush hour at a railway station in Tokyo, Japan, July 3, 2020. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon/File Photo

Japan allows its citizens to return to the country on condition they take a polymerase chain reaction test and observe a period of self-quarantine, while foreigners living in Japan face much higher hurdles for re-entry.

“Foreign residents of Japan ... should not be subject to a double standard restricting their travel, economic and familial opportunities based on nationality,” the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan (ACCJ) said in a statement dated July 13.

Foreigners living in Japan on a long-term basis, such as permanent residents and spouses of Japanese nationals, can re-enter the country if they left Japan before their destination was named as one of the 129 countries from which Japan is banning visits.

But if they left Japan for a country after the ban, the returnees need documentary proof they had exceptional reasons for their trips, such as a funeral or medical treatment, to be considered for re-entry approval.

A spokesman at Japan’s Immigration Services Agency said he had no immediate comment on the ACCJ statement.

Catherine Ancelot, a French interpreter who has lived in Japan for 32 years, said she was indignant.

“I cannot see why permanent residents like me and other long-term residents are being discriminated against by nationality,” Ancelot said.

Shoichi Ibusuki, a Japanese lawyer active on immigration issues, said the measures were damaging Japan’s national interest.

“This is being called ‘Japan risk’ among foreigners living in Japan ... This residence status-related risk has prompted many foreigners to think twice about settling here and to look seriously into moving to other countries,” he said.

Reporting by Kiyoshi Takenaka; editing by Barbara Lewis

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