The Japanese government of Prime Minister Taro Asu is planning to allow gay nationals to marry abroad in countries that allow the practice, reports the AFP.

The Japanese government does not recognize gay marriage and government officials have refused to issue a key document to gay and lesbian nationals necessary to wed overseas.

The certificate states a person is single and of legal age to marry. An official told the news agency Friday that the justice ministry had already approved the change.

Gay marriage is legal in six countries including Spain, South Africa, Norway, the Netherlands, Canada and Belgium. Two U.S. states – Connecticut and Massachusetts – currently offer gay nuptials. Sweden is poised to become the seventh country to legalize gay unions in May.

Gay activists Taiga Ishikawa, a member of Peer Friends, applauded the decision: “I want to hail the Justice Ministry's decision as a step forward for gays.”

Marriage is a requirement to obtain a visa or sponsor an immigrant for citizenship.

“And without marriage they were unable to obtain visas for their partners to live together,” Ishikawa added.

The new rule, however, does not affect the U.S. where the federal government bans gay spouses from sponsoring an immigrant.