The current rules require a minimum of five years of residence in Japan, so the amendment will represent a big change to Japan’s immigration policy. The Ministry of Justice began the public comment process on the new rules on January 17th, and plans to implement the new rules through ministerial ordinance by the end of March this year.
At present, foreigners wishing to receive permanent residence status must live in Japan for a minimum of ten years, although the minimum residence period is reduced to five years for "Highly-skilled [foreign] professionals" (高度人材).
Highly-skilled [foreign] professionals are defined as foreigners who receive at least 70 points on the Ministry’s immigration scorecard. The scorecard is based on an assessment of criteria such as professional qualifications, education level, and annual salary.
The Ministry plans to change the rules so that after merely three years of residence a foreigner may qualify for permanent residence, with the minimum period reduced to one year for "Highly-skilled [foreign] professionals" who can score at least 80 points on the Ministry’s scorecard.
The Ministry also has plans to expand the criteria it uses in its immigration scorecard. In the future, foreigners with special skills in information technology (IT), wealthy investors, and graduates from top international universities will receive additional points, making it easier for them to reach the 80 point threshold. The Ministry plans to amend the immigration scorecard concurrently with its scheduled March changes to the minimum residency period.