Japan likely to ease entry restrictions for foreign students by month’s end

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Travelers wearing face masks and pushing suitcases walk through the check-in hall at the Hong Kong International Airport in Hong Kong, China, on Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2020. China ramped up efforts to contain a new respiratory virus thats killed nine people and infected hundreds, as the outbreak spread to Asias financial capital with the first reported case of the deadly illness in Hong Kong. Photographer: May James/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Japan has decided to ease immigration restrictions for foreign students amid growing complaints from valid visa holders who are being told they can’t return, government sources said Saturday.

The restrictions might be eased by the end of the month, with the government also planning to fully lift its re-entry ban on foreign residents sometime next month, the sources said.

The unusual immigration restrictions, imposed to curb the coronavirus, will first be eased for students sponsored by the government. The easing is then expected to be expanded to include self-supporting international students.

All foreign nationals will be required to take polymerase chain reaction tests to show they are not infected with the coronavirus when entering Japan, the sources said, adding they will also be requested to self-isolate for two weeks to monitor their health.

Japan currently bans entry from 146 countries and regions, including those who are valid residents with proper visas. This has drawn strong criticism, particularly from the expat community, as it effectively prevents them from leaving the country.

Many other countries that have imposed travel bans do not discriminate between citizens and foreign residents when granting re-entry.

Most foreign students usually come to Japan in the spring and fall, when the school calendar begins. But many could not enter Japan this spring as the government sharply increased the number of countries banned in early April in response to the pandemic.

Besides foreign residents, who are allowed to re-enter under certain conditions, the easing of the restrictions has so far only applied to those on business trips.

The government has recently decided to accept business travelers from 16 countries including Thailand and Vietnam.

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