Image: Flickr / David McKelvey

International students caught in Japanese and Chinese travel restrictions

Japan is set to ease travel restrictions for incoming foreign residents and new visa applicants.

This comes after criticism from the national higher education community that restrictions have impeded the country’s internationalisation efforts.

Some restrictions in place prevented non-Japanese citizens from returning to the country for school or work, including university students. This has been labelled by some critics as discriminatory.

China has also come under fire for travel restrictions, which have prevented some Chinese nationals from re-entering the country.

The Japanese government has revised restrictions, which will allow those staying in Japan for a period of at least three months to enter. This means tourists are still unable to enter Japan.

These moves are an effort to prepare for the Tokyo Olympics, which was postponed until 2021 as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and worries that the Olympics would result in mass-transmission of the virus.

Recent numbers place Covid-19 cases in Japan at 86,540, with a death toll of 1,609.

I have had no income for five months now. Planning has been impossible since no information is provided. Therefore, the whole situation has become mentally and financially very frustrating for me

– Michael Vyshnepolsky

Reopening the country is also a priority for the government in an effort to restart the economy and allow foreign university students and faculty back into the country in time for the autumn semester.

“Further resumption of international travel is indispensable to revitalize the economy,” Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga told a government task force.

Many overseas students and faculty members have been left frustrated by the strict policies, which have left them stranded.

Michael Vyshnepolsky had applied to attend a language school and work in Japan after completing a PhD in chemistry in Germany, but has yet to receive a visa.

“In these six months, I received zero information on when Japan plans to reopen borders,” he told Times Higher Education.

“I have had no income for five months now. Planning has been impossible since no information is provided. Therefore, the whole situation has become mentally and financially very frustrating for me.”

There have also been discussions in the government as to whether or not to limit the daily number of people allowed to enter the country, with the current proposal being 1,000 a day

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