Simplified immigration checks for "trusted" visitors proposed

A Justice Ministry panel of experts proposed Monday to introduce a system of "trusted travelers" to simplify Japan's immigration checks for foreign visitors deemed unlikely to be a terrorist or criminal, ministry officials said.

The panel on immigration system submitted the proposal to Justice Minister Sadakazu Tanigaki as a way to lure tourists and businesspeople to visit Japan and help vitalize the economy, the officials said.

The ministry will work out details of the system but it is expected to take time as Japan will have to adjust its criteria with those of other countries with similar systems.

According to the proposal, the system will be applied to visitors with no criminal records. If they register their personal information and fingerprints at airports in Japan, they can enter the country through automated gates that check their passports and fingerprints without the need to be interviewed by an immigration inspector.

The system will be limited to travelers for business purposes in the beginning. Similar systems have been introduced in countries including the United States and Britain.

The panel was created in October 2011 as a private advisory body for the justice minister, and college professors, municipal heads and other members have since discussed how to improve Japan's immigration system.