Sunday, January 24, 2010

Bad PR

I mentioned some time ago that I was optimistically applying for a permanent residence visa. I got the rejection today, a few days inside their 6 month guideline, which consisted of the single sentence "あなたのこれまでの在留実績からみて,永住を許可するに足りる相当の理由が認められません。" or "Your achievements to date are not reasonable grounds to grant permanent residence".

Perhaps it's a useful reminder that after nearly 9 trouble-free years here the bureaucracy still views me as just a visitor to be tolerated for the time being, rather than the sort of person that they might like to settle here in the long term. And perhaps not entirely surprising, since my employer views me in much the same way. But based on the list of successful and unsuccessful applicants, it seems to me they have been unduly harsh (eg see Case #27 on that list, also #38).

There is talk of some reformation of the immigration process, but I am not holding my breath. The revolving-door approach towards foreigners (by all means come here for a few years, but make sure you don't stay too long) pervades not just immigration, but employment contracts too, so it will take more than changes to the immigration system to change things significantly.


crandles said...

Ah but there is a difference between nearly 9 trouble free years and 9 nearly trouble free years. Your blogs criticising Japan's failure to implement anti-racist policy has obviously not gone unnoticed ;-)

Hank Roberts said...

Isn't there a proverb to the effect that the native nail that stands up will be hammered in, but the foreign nail that sticks up will be extracted?

James Annan said...

It's just the arbitrary decision of the bureaucrat who happened to handle my of the greatest weaknesses, but also sometimes strengths, of the Japanese system is the way they handle things on a "case by case basis" without clear guidelines.

And it's not as if I'm actually being kicked out, just kept on the short-term visitor track. If I stay here for another few years here I *think* the decision should be automatic, though nothing is certain here.

EliRabett said...

Eli thinks Jules would have better luck because her formal position is higher than yours. However, completely unbidden, allow Eli to give you the same advice he gives to folks in the US: Hire a lawyer who deals with the immigration people on a daily basis. If you did this already, never mind

Unknown said...

The issue of immigration aside (though it makes a big difference), the jobs of Japanese nationals are as insecure as those of foreigners in our institution (the "frontier" part of JAMSTEC).

The far cause of the situation is the general employment policy of the Japanese government during the last decade. Salaries are considered costs that shoud be avoided in order for a company to have a good reputation (i,e. high stock price). Now people regret the extreme policy choice in the private sector. But, when it comes to usage of tax money, the frenzy to cut "labour costs" has become even harsher.

And the former Science and Technology Agency, even though it has merged with the Ministry of Education, does not seem to have a notion of 'career path' (perhaps except those of exceptionally successful individuals). They consider research workers' labour as something to be avalable during several year's term and then dispensable. (This strategy may work if there is such a large professional labour market as in the U.S., but ....)

In addition to the national situation, there are local flavours.

Let me borrow the terminology of CMIP5: "core", "tier 1" and "tier 2".

Our so-called "frontier" does not have a "core" employee. (Apparently any "core" positions were neither created
nor tranferred from the JAMSTEC proper to "the frontier". Note: I do not count administrators within "the frontier".) Its bosses, themselves "tier 1", want to have the difference between "tier 1" and "tier 2" as small as possible (along with hiding the decline of "tier 1" nfunding). Job insecurity is diffused to everyone here.

Another boss, probably a "core" employee himself, exerts a very different policy in his domain of influence (where a few "core" positions exist along with many limited-term ones). He does not offer any carreer path to "tier 2" people, by doing so he wants to secure "core" and hopefully tenure-track "tier 1" people. My friends working in that domain hate that discriminatory policy, but they are not as politically powerful as the boss.

Carl C said...

Too bad. Your countrymen in the UK did that to me and another CPDN colleague after 6 years of slavish service. I'm back in the states now anyway - but next time I decided it's far easier to claim asylum! ;-)

James Annan said...

the jobs of Japanese nationals are as insecure as those of foreigners in our institution


I realise that is the theory, but I do not believe for a moment that it is the practice. Indeed I know of 3 foreigners who had their contracts abruptly terminated in the middle of their supposed period of tenure (for others: technically and legally we get 1y contracts, but renewal for 3 or 5 years [depending on status] is supposed to be automatic - in these cases, the 3 were told mid-tenure that they would not get their next 1y contract). I was one of the three and only remained here because another group saw the promise in my work - and wanted to keep Jules here. Any foreigner who has been here for a few years will know of others across a wide range of jobs who have been treated similarly or worse. I suppose it is possible that many Japanese do not realise this, if they have few foreign contacts. I have absolutely no doubt that if and when the budget cuts here start to really bite, the foreigners will be dumped first, and the Japanese will be shuffled sideways into positions in other institutes. It is simply the way things work here. (In fact I've just heard of another foreigner under threat here.)

That aside, it is hard to see how Jamstec's behaviour can be in compliance with Japanese labour law and indeed the constitution. After 10 years or more developing a research career, it is nonsense to pretend that this work is of a temporary nature. Of course I realise it would be hard for even a Japanese citizen to get a court judgement in their favour, still less a foreigner, given Jamstec's official backing. But nevertheless:

The courts have ruled that "the repeatedly renewed labor contract of a temporary factory worker is, 'essentially not different from a contract without a fixed period,' 'the legal regulation concerning dismissals should be applied to it by analogy.'" That is, a repeatedly renewed contract employee of this type is subject to the same protections against abusive dismissals as a regular employee, i.e., only violation of rules, incompetence, union agreements, or employment adjustment are valid reasons for dismissal. (from here, but may not be authoritative)

Jamstec's system is obviously designed purely to evade their legal and constitutional responsibilities, and the farce of re-applying for one's own job is an embarrassing and time-wasting sham for all participants - nothing but a cos-play scene enacted for the benefit of some snoring bureaucrat.

James Annan said...


If I actually cared enough, I agree a lawyer might have helped me put my case better, but it's not like it actually matters on a practical level (unless and until I get sacked). I had a trouble-free background, solid guarantor, and easily exceeded the stated threshold for "contribution". I even had a letter of support from one of Japan's most eminent climate scientists. I suppose it is possible that the temporary job didn't help, but I'm not sure that info was actually conveyed to the authorities. I'll consider trying again if I'm still here when my next visa runs out.

Carl, you probably don't speak English well enough :-) Actually, I'm surprised as I thought it would be basically automatic after 5 years of working in the UK.

Carl C said...

well from what you posted my UK experience with civil servants sounds quite a bit like yours in Japan -- i.e. you're at the mercy of some "Sir Humphrey" type that can easily find a reason to refuse a permit/visa because he/she didn't think the I's were dotted properly etc.

It was all a bit brutal for my usual Anglophilia to take, so now I just read the Daily Mail online for plenty of reasons to stay away! :-)

kie said...

Hi there,

Did you ever re-apply? After 9 years in Japan and a further wait of 5 months my result just arrived in the post and it reads exactly the same as yours "理由が認められません". I'm married to a Japanese national and we have a son, good employment record and no incidents for the last 9 and a half years. I'm wondering if I should reapply immediately or wait until I cross over into the magic 10 years next July.

James Annan said...

Yes! Jules applied just after 10y and got it here. I followed when my visa ran out a year later (with her as my guarantor, which saved us from bothering anyone else).

But I'm surprised at your result, as I thought that 5y was supposed to be enough for someone with a Japanese spouse. Note that you also do also need to have held the longest duration of visa available for your classification (which was 3y in my case, though is now 5).