Upon taking office, Donald Trump lost no time in implementing his promises to get tough on immigration. On January 27, his eighth day in power, he signed an executive order blocking people from seven countries from entering the United States.
But as the United States builds walls, other countries are opening their doors to foreign talent.
My country, Japan, is one of them.
Japan is widely seen as fundamentally hostile to immigration. That image is a misperception, particularly in the case of skilled workers. As the head of a business school, I know from experience that the government is doing all it can to bring in foreign talent to fuel long-term economic growth.
Off the top of my head, I can come up with 10 reasons why Japan is a great place to come to study and then get a job, or to come to work.
1. Anyone can get a student visa for Japan. This welcoming stance stands in contrast to countries like Brexit Britain. Strict regulations introduced by British Prime Minister Theresa May as home secretary have caused the number of Indian students in the UK to fall by half!
2. Students in Japan can work for 28 hours a week. Pretty generous when you think that in France a few over 35 work hours per week!
3. Students in Japan get great health coverage. Thanks to Japanese National Health Insurance, students get 70% of their medical costs covered for premiums as low as $120 per year.
4. Students in Japan can easily switch from a student to a work visa. While the Anglo-Saxon economies are making it harder for foreign graduates to stay behind and work, changing your visa status in Japan is a cinch. You can get a one-year visa extension just to look for work, and you can make the switch to a work visa without needing to leave the country to apply.
5. Japanese work visas are transferable. Once you get a work visa in Japan, it remains valid for the full period even if you change your employer (or simply quit) halfway. Many other countries link your work visa to a designated employer, forcing you to reapply if you change jobs and booting you out the country if you become unemployed. The Japanese system is much more flexible.
6. Japan has the world’s fastest “green card” system. From March 2017, highly skilled foreign professionals will be able to get permanent residence in Japan in as little as one year (versus five now) based on a points system. This is part of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s efforts to invigorate the Japanese economy by making the country more attractive to “top-level human resources.”
7. Japanese visas are simple and affordable. Many countries treat visas as a “profit center.” For example, an H1-B visa can now cost over $6,000 when all the different fees—filing fee, fees for retraining American workers, fraud prevention fees, etc.—are put together. Japanese visa fees are payable only on acceptance of your application, and involve the purchase of a revenue stamp for $40 dollars (work visa) and $80 dollars (permanent residence). Since Japanese visas are simple to get, you also don’t need to shell out thousands of dollars for an attorney.
8. Japanese immigration officials are friendly. Instead of the arrogance and hostility normally associated with border personnel, Japanese immigration officials are, like most service staff in the country, polite and helpful, according to Sven from Belgium and Alex from the US who work in GLOBIS. The non-hostile atmosphere in the immigration office makes all the filing and waiting almost (almost!) pleasant.
9. Japan really needs you and your talents. In December 2016, the Japanese unemployment rate was 3.1%, with 1.43 jobs available for every one applicant. That compares favorably to 5% in the United States or 10% in France. Students in Japan can be confident of finding an internship or job upon graduation.
10. Tokyo is a great place to live. In Monocle’s annual Quality of Life Top 25 Cities, Tokyo took the No. 1 spot in 2015 and 2016. The magazine described Tokyo as “a master class in low-rise, leafy, pedestrian-friendly living” with the right balance of “high-tech efficiency and slow, traditional neighborhood values.” Many people clearly share Monocle’s high opinion of the city. According to Japan economist Jesper Koll, roughly 5.4% of all private-sector workers in Tokyo in 2016 were non-Japanese, up from 3.1% six years earlier.
So my message to the world’s young and mobile talent is this: If you’re looking for a country that actually wants you, now is the time for you to think about Japan.
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