Free Choice knocks out Immigration Guideline No. 8

Unpopular Immigration Guideline No. 8 Deleted

What's this all about?

In 2009, the Ministry of Justice announced that a list of new Immigration Bureau guidelines would go into effect beginning in April of 2010. One of those guidelines would have required visa applicants to provide proof of enrollment in Japan's social insurance system as a prerequisite for application approval. Standing on the principle that foreign residents should be given the right to choose which type of health care (public or private) they participate in because of their unique expatriate needs, the Free Choice Foundation marshaled significant opposition to the pending legislation. As a result, we have succeeded in persuading the Justice Ministry to 'delete' Guideline No. 8. It has been officially deleted and the Ministry's website now reflects the change.

But doesn't the law state that everyone must enroll in the social system?

Yes, it does. But, just because something has been backed by the power of law does not automatically make it a good law. Nor does it mean that it can't be revised or improved. Furthermore, even if the law is suitable for citizens, that does not automatically make it good for everyone else. It therefore should not preclude the possibility of choice. Are we to accept everything that government says without questioning whether or not there might be a better solution?

At times it may seem as though government is nothing more than a huge bureaucracy that is incapable of truly understanding the needs of its citizens or its foreign community. But, this is not always the case. Sometimes all that is necessary is for the community at large - through the use of simple diplomacy - to make the bureaucracy aware of the problems it is facing.

Free Choice believes that foreigners in Japan have special health care concerns.
Many non-Japanese residents took part in our petition for the free choice of public or private health care.

Furthermore . . .

Forcing expatriates who have been living in Japan for any length of time to suddenly join the public health care system would mean that they would have to pay up to 2 - 5 years in back premiums for the National Health Insurance or 2 years of back premiums for Employees Health Insurance. Both employers and employees must equally share in the back premiums. Apparently, the government did not take this into careful consideration when drafting the new immigration guidelines. However, due to considerable opposition from Free Choice, it's supporters, and foreigners suddenly faced with the dilemma, the government finally realized that issuing negative points against visa renewal applicants because of non-enrollment in government health insurance was a serious mistake.

How did our efforts contribute to the deletion of Guideline 8?

We brought the matter to the attention of more than 300 lawmakers at both the local and national levels. One of the biggest breaks came after the Free Choice Chairman addressed the Kobe City Assembly about the issue. He was able to garner a majority of Assembly votes in favor of sending a communique to the National Government expressing strong concern about the intent of the guideline. The Foundation also initiated an online petition drive, the results of which were submitted to the government in January. Additionally, we had numerous communiques with both the Justice and Health Ministries that were officially conducted through the Cabinet Office.

Want to know more about this? Click here to see how the guidelines have changed.