Photo/Illutration Volunteers at a Tokyo temple sort out donated vegetables that will be sent to Vietnamese residents, including students, who have lost their part-time jobs due to the coronavirus outbreak. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

Only the top performing 30 percent of foreign students in Japan will be eligible for a cash handout program aimed at helping financially struggling students during the COVID-19 pandemic, education ministry sources said.

Under the program approved by the Cabinet on May 19, the government will provide between 100,000 yen and 200,000 yen ($930 and $1,900) to students at both public and private schools.

The program is intended to help cover tuition fees and living expenses for students who have lost their part-time jobs or seen their working hours reduced as the novel coronavirus spread across the nation.

Those eligible include undergraduate and graduate students at universities, students at junior colleges and colleges of technology, as well as foreign students studying at Japanese language schools.

But the ministry added the academic-related restriction for students from overseas because some foreign students are working in Japan under the guise of “studying,” the sources said.

An official at the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology said the additional criteria is not intended to discriminate against foreign students.

“Not all Japanese students are eligible for this program,” the official said. “We would not gain the public’s understanding unless we set up some threshold for foreign students.”

Many foreign students in Japan have lost their part-time jobs and fear they will be unable to continue studying in Japan.