Japan’s new immigration rules being implemented
Under new immigration rules, Japan on Tuesday began fingerprinting and photographing all foreign nationals who enter the country.
The fingerprints and photos will be checked for matches on terrorist watch lists and files on foreigners with criminal records in Japan. People matching the data will be denied entry and deported.
While Americans covered by the status of forces agreement are exempt from the new procedures, immigration officials are reminding SOFA personnel to have their paperwork in order.
SOFA personnel “should present military ID card and documentation which can verify the person is under the SOFA to the immigration control officer,” the Fukuoka Immigration Control Naha District Office said in a statement Monday.
Anyone who cannot show proper documentation is subject to the new entry procedures, the statement said.
Proper documentation includes military ID, travel orders, leave orders, exit/re-entry permits and embarkation/disembarkation cards, according to immigration officials.
On Tuesday, the new procedures caused little delay or trouble at Naha Airport on Okinawa, said Takeshi Azuma, a spokesman for the immigration office.
“As the first day, everything went smoothly at the airport here,” he said. “Among the passengers arriving this morning, there was only one servicemember, [and that person] had proper documentation,” he said.
There were also about five groups of Americans who were not under the SOFA, he said.
“But they were all familiar with the system, because it has been already adopted at U.S. airports,” he said.
All foreign nationals entering Japan are subject to the new provision of the immigration law, except those under the SOFA, diplomats or other exempt officials, permanent residents and children under 16.
About 70 people gathered in front of the Justice Ministry on Tuesday for a rally protesting the measures.
“I don’t like the government having personal information of mine,” said Rebecca Miller, an Australian student living in Japan since July. “I don’t think they got any rights on my bodily information.”
Officials said the new security measures, while inconvenient for visitors, were necessary.
“There are people who change their names, use wrongly obtained passports, and pretend to be other people,” said Toshihiro Higaki, an immigration official at Narita International Airport near Tokyo.
“The measure also works as a deterrent.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.