Japan creates 6-month medical visa for foreigners

The Japanese government instituted a new visa Friday to enable foreign visitors to stay in Japan for a maximum of six months to receive health care treatment starting in January.

The medical stay visa is designed as an economic stimulus measure to attract affluent visitors from China and other parts of Asia, following calls for the government to revamp the visa system as countries such as Thailand, Singapore, India and South Korea step up medical tourism.

"Based on Japan’s new growth strategy adopted in June, we will launch a new visa to promote visits to our country by foreign patients," Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara told a news conference.

"We hope the new visa will enable as many people as possible to receive advanced medical services to get healthy or undergo checkups in Japan," the minister said.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshito Sengoku said in a press conference that barriers must be lowered as Japan could be left behind in high- level medical services.

So far, visitors seeking health care in Japan have acquired visas categorized as those for a short-term stay, special purposes or visiting relatives, which allowed them to stay up to 180 days.

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