Photo/IllutrationJustice Minister Takashi Yamashita, left, and Immigration Services Agency Director General Shoko Sasaki unveil an agency’s signboard reportedly written by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in the Justice Ministry on April 1. (Pool)

A new "specified skills" working visa system that will allow more foreign workers to enter Japan took effect on April 1.

The Immigration Services Agency, an affiliated agency of the Justice Ministry, also got its start on the day. Its predecessor was the Immigration Bureau.

Staff at the new agency was increased from 4,870 to 5,432.

“Let us operate the new system to be welcomed by not only Japanese society but also foreign workers,” Shoko Sasaki, 57, who was appointed as the agency's first director-general, told 80 staff members in a meeting.

Sasaki was promoted to the position after formerly serving as director-general of the Immigration Bureau.

The government expects up to about 345,000 foreign workers to enter Japan over the next five years in 14 sectors such as construction and nursing care, which face serious manpower shortages. One category of "specified skilled workers" can stay up to five years but cannot bring their families.

A second category of visas--currently limited to the construction and shipbuilding industries--allows workers to bring their families and be eligible to stay longer.

To deal with the growing number of foreigners in upcoming years, the newly established Immigration Services Agency will play a key role as a “control tower” to enrich measures to support the lives of foreigners in Japan.

Ahead of the opening of the agency, the ministry unveiled an agency signboard, which was reportedly written by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

The new working visa system is based on a revision to the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Law in December 2018.