Gaijin cards for illegal immigrants?

I was looking up some statistics on the Ministry of Justice website tonight and, just for kicks, decided to take a look at their “How to Interpret a Gaijin Card” poster. I noticed this rather odd item on page two: it’s possible to get a gaijin card even if you don’t have a status of residence. Odd, because the only way to get to Japan without a status of residence is to hide on a boat or an airplane.

The MOJ’s explanation (in the fine print to the right) is that foreigners have to register even if they have no status of residence. Of course, foreigners have to have a status of residence just to be in Japan (even if it is as a “temporary visitor” on a visa waiver).

So I’m puzzled: why bother issuing gaijin cards to people who shouldn’t be in the country in the first place?

13 thoughts on “Gaijin cards for illegal immigrants?”

  1. I don’t think it’s card for illegals — it’s cards for short stayers, i.e. people who don’t want to carry around their passports (which you’re legally required to do if you’re a foreigner, regardless of status).

  2. That is indeed weird… What’s the URL for the site the address came from, maybe the card is for people who don’t have legal status to be in the country, but are given permission to remain for a set period of time as their legal status is being disputed??

    It’s weird that it only says ‘these people can not work!’ but doesn’t say anything like, call immigration like it does on the regular illegal working pamphlets.

  3. Maybe its a way for the government to actually track the number of illegal immigrants in the country

    Maybe its a sting operation to track and arrest any illegal who is dumb enough to apply for an ID card that would highlight his or her illegal entry and put the same illegal on the grid

    Maybe it’s a slip up by the Japanese bureaucracy in charge of such policies.

    Anyway, it looks like the credit meltdown among subprime borrowers and risky businesses is spreading to the rest of the world. An optimist would say this would be a good time to buy equities are great prices while the pessimist would declare we are near a global recession…

    Global investor-induced corrections are fun!



  5. I imagine it’s for people such as those who are appealing their immigration status, or situations such as a child born to someone without legal status.

    I do find it funny though that the card has “NO RESIDENCY QUALIFICATIONS” written on it in giant red letters. Is it that ordinary police are only empowered to take someone in for lack of documentation, whereas only immigration officials can take someone in for lack of status–so people of indeterminate or no status can register just enough so it’s safe to walk around out doors, and less likely to engage in crime?

  6. Seriously, this blog has the most awesome readers ever. Thanks.

    Those hypothetical situations are interesting. It’s impossible to lose US citizenship on US soil—you have to be outside the country before you can do it. I wasn’t aware of any countries that would threaten to expatriate their own citizens on their own soil, but it looks like Japan is on that list. (I still wonder, though, whether this has ever actually happened.)

    I also wasn’t aware that children needed gaijin cards….

  7. “It’s impossible to lose US citizenship on US soil”
    I’m pretty sure that at the very least you can lose citizenship no matter where you are if your naturalization papers were found to contain deliberate false statements.

  8. “I also wasn’t aware that children needed gaijin cards….”

    My kid doesn’t have one,Joe.Although he has small passport like foreigner resistration papers.

  9. Since most Japanese don’t know the difference between gaijin cards, it used to be very common for anyone actively seeking to overstay to apply for a card while on a short term visa. You would tell the ward office you were caring for a family member or looking for work. The ward office was happy to be able to keep track of who was in their area and the foreigner got a card which would let him or her obtain a mobile phone and even a bank account or driving licence if their luck was in. Of course, they would never return to the original address offered.

    The difference between the cards used to be so minimal that even if you got stopped by the police after your visa ran out, showing the card was often enough if the officer didn’t look at the dates too closely. All the cards have subsequently been redesigned so it is unlikely that trick would be so easy today. Judging from the image of the card that Joe has posted, it would probably still be possible to get a mobile phone or video rental card since most of the staff just photocopy the document rather than looking at it too closely.

  10. For another example, let me quote from Aceface’s comment I just read on Marxy’s blog:

    The presence of the mosque and Tartar mullah brought band of Tartar and Bashikir immigrants from Harbin to Japan and built a small community in Tokyo.
    After the war,they remained in Japan as political exiles with no nationalities. And then the Korean war started.Japan become the logistic base for the UN troops fighting in Korea and among them,there were hundreds of Turkish soldiers.The wounded Turkish soldiers were hospitalized in red cross hospitals in Tokyo and Tartar and bashikir exiles helped these soldiers faithfully which would eventually let the Turkish Emabssy in Tokyo giving all of those among the exiles who wants Turkish passoports.Thus made them into Turkish national.
    The current mosque in Yoyogi is rebuilt in the late 90’s by the financial support from the Turkish government.

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