Foreign residents of Japan have until Wednesday to exchange their Alien Registration Certificate cards for new Residence Cards in order to avoid possible criminal penalties. The transition comes amid strict immigration rules and general anti-foreigner sentiment in Japan, despite an aging population and need for a larger labor force.
The new Residence Card was first introduced in 2012 as part of a new immigration management system in the island nation. About 28,000 foreign permanent residents of Japan still have to get the new card, according to the Japanese Justice Ministry. Failure to meet Wednesday's deadline could result in up to a year in prison or a fine of ¥200,000 (roughly $1600), Japan Times reported. There are roughly 1.7 million immigrants in Japan.
Justice Ministry official Masahiro Yamagata said most permanent residents who have not exchanged their identification card may not have realized the need to update, because their current Alien Registration Certification Card is valid for up to seven years. The Immigration Bureau of Japan's website claims the "aim of the new residency managment system is to enable the Ministry of Justice to continuous keep information necessary for managing the residency of foreign nationals residing in Japan for the mid- to long term with resident status, and ensure greater convenience for those foreign nationals."
The Residence Card will be used by many foreign residents, including people married to Japanese citizens or who are working for Japanese companies, exchange students, and permanent residents.
The new card comes as Japan tries to extend greater regulation of its already strict immigration laws. An Asahi Shibun newspaper poll in 2010 asked Japanese residents about whether immigrants "maintain economic vitality," reported the Washington Post. Roughly 26 percent agreed, while sixty five percent opposed it, according to the survey.