Japan’s rigid residency requirements have earned it a “closed” reputation on the international stage. Now comes news of a change designed to help the country attract and retain more international talent. Here’s a closer look at the new “fast-track” permanent residency rule, as recently reported by The Japan Times.

Changing Its Image

Under the former terms of Japan’s point-based system, skilled non-Japanese workers needed to stay in Japan for at least five years in order to be eligible for permanent residency. Under the new rule, just one year of work is required for highly skilled applicants.

Which begs the question: What qualifies as “highly skilled”? According to recruitment consultant Makoto Sano, international workers employed at major firms are well-positioned to reach the requisite number of points. Additionally, international students who receive Japanese degrees can expect to receive high scores.

Said Satoshi Kurimoto, director of the technical cooperation division at the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, “Developed countries have been competing to attract talented people … and Japan can’t fall behind.”

The hope is that by relaxing the requirements, companies will gain new perspectives supporting expansion into global markets. Additionally, proposed Kurimoto, “We are hoping that this will erase the closed image of Japan.”

A Step in the Right Direction

While the move is being heralded as a promising one, there are other obstacles. For starters, few people are aware of the change, according to Katsuhiro Hashimoto, director at Tokyo-based Fourth Valley Concierge, a firm which matches Japanese companies with foreign workers. “(Foreign people) still have the image that Japan doesn’t accept overseas workers,” he told The Japan Times.

Experts say other issues which may be interfering with Japan’s ability to entice and retain international talent include the language barrier and a corporate culture guided by traditional hierarchical concepts.

Still, the country’s Justice Ministry is aiming high. Its goal? To triple the number of highly-skilled international professionals from 8,515 last June to 20,000 by 2022, according to The Japan Times.