The Immigration Bureau will begin assigning about 40 full-time interpreters at major airports and ports in April, three months ahead of the start of a new immigration control system, a bureau official said Wednesday. Many will be fluent in Chinese or Korean, reflecting the large numbers of people arriving from those countries, bureau official Tetsuro Isobe said.
Airports and ports currently have no full-time interpreters, although many immigration officers speak English. The Immigration Bureau has a registry of interpreters who can be called when immigration officers need to question foreign entrants or have other needs for translation, Isobe said. Also, immigration officers take language lessons and thus have a little ability to speak non-Japanese languages, he added.
In 2010, 9.44 million foreigners entered Japan, up by 1.86 million from a year earlier. Of them, 2.69 million were South Koreans and 1.66 million were Chinese, representing the two largest nationalities. The same year saw 1.31 million Taiwanese visit.
The interpreters will be stationed at three seaports and 15 airports, including Haneda, Narita, Kansai and Chubu.
The Immigration Bureau decided to hire the full-time interpreters because when the new immigration control system is introduced next July, immigration officers will have much more to explain to incoming foreigners, Isobe said.
"There will be more for immigration officers to explain than just passport controls," Isobe said.
Under the new system, all foreign arrivals who will stay in Japan more than three months will be required to have a residence card, which will replace the current alien registration card.
Immigration officials will have to explain to newcomers the many rules regarding the residence card.
For example, foreign residents must have their residence card with them at all times, renew the cards periodically and report changes in address, marital status and other data. There are also punishments for violations, such as fines and cancellation of resident status.