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Japanese IT glitch leaves foreigners' ID cards incomplete

Issued without signature

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A computer error has been blamed after countless foreign residents in Japan received new ID cards this week without the key addition of an electronic signature designed to prevent counterfeiting.

The Immigration Bureau began issuing the new zairyu cards for the first time on Monday but soon realised that a technical malfunction meant the justice minister’s signature had not been included, according to the Japan Times.

The error still hadn’t been fixed by Tuesday, so immigration offices across the country continued to issue the cards without the signature, after bosses apparently said they would still be valid.

"Counterfeiting the cards is extremely difficult even without the signature," an Immigration Bureau spokeswoman told the paper.

The government must now decide whether it goes to the trouble and expense of issuing replacements for those who have the signature-less cards or if it is happy with the level of security they already provide.

Ironically, the zairyu cards were introduced as part of changes to the country’s strict immigration laws designed to reduce the administrative burden on local authorities by centralising all application and processing.

This week’s IT error is unlikely to create a huge counterfeiting problem in Japan – the cards already include IC chips, for example – but will be an embarrassment for the authorities.

For many, however, the bigger problem is the government’s stubborn refusal to consider loosening immigration controls in order to help an enfeebled economy saddled with a shrinking population. ®

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