Photo/IllutrationImmigration officers check immigrants and other people at Kansai International Airport in Osaka Prefecture. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

The Justice Ministry will upgrade the status of the Immigration Bureau to an agency in April 2019 and expand its scope in response to the government’s policy of accepting more foreign workers.

The new organization, temporarily named, “Nyukoku Zairyu Kanri-cho” (Immigration and residency control agency), will have about 320 extra staff members, including immigration officers, than the current bureau. The overall workforce of the agency will grow to exceed 5,000, ministry sources said Aug. 27.

The ministry will submit bills on the change to an extraordinary Diet session this autumn.

It will also earmark about 3 billion yen ($27 million) in its budget request for fiscal 2019 for costs related to accepting more foreign workers, including those associated with expanding its workforce.

According to the sources, the agency will have a president, a vice president and two councilors in its leadership, and will consist of “Shutsunyukoku Kanri-bu” (Departure and immigration control division) and “Zairyu Kanri Shien-bu” (Residency control and support division).

In addition to jobs related to immigration, the agency will also be in charge of coordinating with other ministries, agencies and local governments the creation of a better-equipped environment for receiving foreign workers.

Following increases in the numbers of foreign students and technical intern trainees, foreign residents in Japan reached a record high of about 2.56 million as of the end of 2017.

To deal with labor shortages in several fields, the government has already decided to introduce a new residency status in April 2019 for accepting foreign workers with specific professional knowledge or skills, a move that is expected to further increase the number of foreign residents.

The number of foreign tourists to Japan has also been on the increase, reaching an all-time high of about 28.69 million in 2017.

In July, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe instructed the ministry to drastically review the Immigration Bureau to respond to the changing environment. Since then, the ministry has been considering how it should make the necessary changes.