In a rare and exceptional move, Japan has granted long-term visas to two Russian women who left their home country in protest against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, according to sources familiar with the matter. The two women, both in their 20s, were allowed to switch their short-term stay status to student visas without the requirement of returning to Russia, considering their political views.
Originating from eastern Siberia, these two friends shared a common interest in Japanese culture and decided to seek refuge in Japan in September of last year when Russia ordered a partial military mobilization. They were apprehensive that they might be called upon to provide logistical support, prompting their departure from the country.
Initially arriving in Japan with short-term visas valid for 90 days, the women extended their visas while actively seeking opportunities for long-term stay. During their time in Japan, they raised awareness for Ukraine by voicing their support on social media and various platforms. Citing concerns for their safety, they expressed fear of returning to Russia due to the severe crackdown on anti-war movements and restricted freedom of speech.
In a noteworthy decision, the change in residency status for these two Russian women was approved in May, allowing them to pursue their studies in Japanese language until March 2025 at a vocational school in Chiba Prefecture, as stated by their supporters.
According to Japan’s immigration law, changing from short-term stay status to another type of visa requires “exceptional circumstances.” Ordinarily, the pair would have needed to apply for a new visa at a Japanese diplomatic mission in Russia. This exceptional approval makes it a unique case, as no previous instances of in-country status change due to political views have been reported.
Nao Wakamatsu, a representative of Daiichi Sogo Group, a firm that assists with immigration procedures, commented, “We have never handled a case where (an in-country status change) was approved due to political views.”
The two Russian women expressed their gratitude to their supporters and Japanese immigration authorities for granting them the opportunity to continue their stay in Japan.
In conclusion, Japan’s decision to grant long-term visas to these two Russian women based on their political views sets a rare precedent. It showcases the country’s consideration for individuals facing potential risks and dangers due to their outspoken stance against a foreign invasion. This move not only highlights Japan’s commitment to upholding freedom of expression but also reflects the nation’s willingness to welcome those who seek refuge in pursuit of their beliefs.