TOKYO, April 1 (Xinhua) -- The Japanese government on Monday launched a new visa system to introduce more foreign workers in order to address the country's severe labor shortage, easing its traditionally strict immigrant regulations, local media reported.
On the same day, a new immigration agency was set up to supervise the process of visa inspections and help foreign workers settle in Japan.
Shoko Sasaki, head of the Immigration Services Agency, pledged at a press conference to implement the new visa system effectively, adding that it is particularly "important" to assist foreigners living in Japan.
"It's extremely important not to repeat the problems that have been seen in the technical intern program," Sasaki said, referring to the unjust cases with foreign workers being unpaid or placed under harsh working conditions.
The policy to introduce the new system was passed by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's government in December last year.
According to the policy package, Japan is expected to accept up to 345,150 foreign workers under the new scheme over a five-year period starting April, including 60,000 in nursing care.
Under the new scheme, blue-collar workers in sectors facing a labor crunch are able to obtain two new categories of visas.
One category allows workers to stay for up to five years without bringing relatives. More skilled workers in specific areas can stay in Japan for more than five years after renewing licenses and are allowed to bring family members.
The first delivery of the visa will likely start from mid-April to applicants who are already in Japan seeking a status change, according to the Justice Ministry.
The government said that about 100 one-stop consultation service centers will be set up across Japan to offer information and advice to foreign workers on issues such as employment, medical services, child-raising and education.
The consultation centers will offer service in 11 languages, including English, Chinese, Indonesian and Vietnamese.