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March 07, 2010

Guideline linking visa renewal to government health insurance officially withdrawn

japa_flag.jpgAs was reported in ELT News in early February, Guideline 8, which would have required foreign residents to be enrolled in government health insurance in order to get their visas renewed, is being withdrawn. This is now official. The new guideline issued this week clearly states that although foreign residents will be asked to present their health insurance cards when renewing a visa, their visa applications will not be rejected for failing to do so.

This issue has led to strong feelings on both sides of the argument. Those in favor of allowing foreign residents to opt out of government health care, led by the Free Choice Foundation, have been arguing 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.' Those against have been stressing that foreign residents should abide by Japanese Law. For example, Hoofin wrote this week: 'The joke is that Guideline Eight was never an actual rule about being enrolled in these (government health) programs. The real rule is in the labor and health statutes. The guideline was only to make sure that people who were granted the right to be in Japan were following the law.'

April is coming soon and there are a lot of foreign residents on private insurance. Immigration may renew visas, but nobody knows for sure whether other action will be taken or not.

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