Disclaimer: We at Voyapon try our best to provide you with the most up-to-date information on Japan’s travel regulations using reputable news reports and information directly from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website. However, the situation is constantly changing, and our article should not be used as legal advice. Please reach out to your nearest embassy or immigration bureau for the most recent information related to your situation.
On October 1st, the Government of Japan had partially reopened its borders to foreign travelers entering the country for business purposes or seeking mid to long-term resident status. The announcement came after the consistent decrease in COVID-19 infections since the last spike in summer 2020. However, new measures announced by the government on September 25th exclude tourist visas and Working Holiday visas. As of January 13, 2021, travelers on a Business and Resident track are also banned from entering Japan, meaning only Japanese and resident foreigners are allowed re-entry. The latter remain affected under the current coronavirus entry ban on 152 countries.
From March 19, 2021, airlines are limiting the number of arrivals to 2,000 per week, with foreign carriers limited to 80 individuals per flight, down from 100 on March 11th.
In response to the mutation of COVID-19, the Japanese government imposed stricter entry regulations on December 26, 2020, and are continually being updated in 2021. These include the following areas:
- Visa application
- Actions to be taken before departure and upon arrival in Japan
- Specific information for those who have been to countries or regions where new coronavirus variants have recently been discovered
- Install three apps on your personal or rented smartphone
In general, since December 26th, foreign nationals with a status of residence will still be allowed to enter Japan.
In the case of foreign residents, re-entry restrictions were only lifted on September 1st (until then, only travelers with special circumstances were allowed to return and each case was handled on a case-by-case basis) after months of protests by many of those affected. Current residents may return on the condition that a negative Coronavirus (COVID-19) PCR test is provided. The test must have been performed within 72 hours prior to departure and the results must be handed along with a signed document from a valid medical institution. Once in Japan, a 14-day quarantine must be followed and public transportation must not be used.
Exceptions to foreign nationals re-entry rules
After the latest developments with the discovery of the Delta variant and amid the surge of infections, since June 28, re-entry may be denied to foreign nationals coming from the following countries: Afghanistan, India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bangladesh and Maldives.
Although Working Holiday Visas are excluded from the reopening of Japan’s borders, some embassy websites have stated exceptions where travelers can still enter Japan with a valid working holiday visa. The Embassy of Japan in Australia website has these conditions for the Working Holiday Visa: If you were issued a visa before April 3rd, 2020, have not yet entered Japan, and the visa is still valid, you will need a Written Pledge to enter Japan. The UK and New Zealand have similar conditions on their embassy website. However, please contact your embassy directly for the most up-to-date information regarding conditions with the working holiday visa. In addition to rules regarding PCR tests and quarantine, you will need a written pledge signed by a Japanese company to be accepted. By signing the pledge, the company is responsible to uphold your quarantine when you arrive in Japan. Please check with your embassy for more information.
As for the most recent move, it comes as part of several measures aimed to gradually ease the travel restrictions and progressively reduce the impact of COVID-19 on the local economy. According to Government sources, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said during a meeting that in order “to revitalize the economy, it is indispensable to resume international travel”.
New rules for visa applications starting January 2021
Japan’s newest visa restrictions come in addition to the nation’s concern of COVID-19 cases nationwide. On October 1st, 2020, Tokyo prefecture was included in the “Go To Travel” subsidy package for domestic tourism that had been running for the rest of the country since August. In December 2020, the campaign was suspended due to rising cases of COVID-19. It was expected to continue in summer 2021 but amid the explosion of cases after the Olympics, the current state of emergency remains extended until September 30th.
The “Business Track” or “Resident Track” that was available since July 2020 was suspended in January 2021. These two programs were available to some Asian countries in the summer of 2020, and on October 1, 2020, the worldwide citizen was incrementally permitted to enter Japan with the “Resident Track” program if they fulfilled the required conditions. However, as of January 14th, these two tracks have been suspended until further notice.
Visa application according to the current regulations
The application for the following types of visas is suspended until further notice: Working Holiday Visa (please contact your embassy for possible exceptions and additional information), short-term business (up to 90 days), and long-term visas that require a Certificate of Eligibility. This regulation does not apply to the Spouse or Child of Japanese National visa. In urgent cases, family members of Japanese citizens can apply for a temporary or long-term visa.
Can foreign students and workers enter Japan from January 2021?
No. As of January 2021, the “Resident Track” program is suspended including applications to the following list of visa categories:
- Religious Activities
- Highly-Skilled Professional
- Business Manager
- Legal/ Accounting Services
- Medical Services
- Engineer/ Specialist in Humanities/ International Services
- Intra-company Transferee
- Nursing Care
- Skilled Labor
- Specified Skilled Worker
- Technical Intern Training
- Cultural Activities
- Designated Activities
Exceptions to the rules
However, those who qualify for the “Spouse or Child of Japanese national” and “Spouse or Child of Permanent Resident” visa categories will be exempt from the written pledge. Instead, they must submit a copy of relevant family records (marriage certificate, birth certificate, etc.) along with the COE at the time of application. As for those who fall under the category of Japan-EU Economic Partnership Credentials (EPA), a Certificate of Eligibility is not required at this time. Lastly, those individuals that are traveling to Japan for diplomatic or official purposes, will not be subjected to this list of procedures.
Airlines currently traveling to Japan
At the moment, all major airline carriers and airports are traveling to Japan.
However, it should be taken into account that flight availability does not mean that there isn’t any risk of possible cancellations. The current situation is still volatile. Therefore, in order to minimize potential issues, it is advisable to take every possible precaution when booking flights and to check the cancellation policies.
Actions to be taken before departure and upon arrival in Japan
The new measures stipulate that a negative nasopharyngeal swab COVID-19 PCR test certificate must be presented within 72 hours before departure to Japan or else, all airlines will not allow to board the flight. Along the certificate expedited by the corresponding medical institution, a Japanese certificate following the government’s required guidelines must be presented upon landing.
After arrival in Japan, a saliva COVID-19 PCR test will be conducted at the airport quarantine stations. If the result is negative, all travelers must follow a strict 14-day quarantine. Please keep reading below for dedicated quarantine rules depending on the country of origin. In all cases, the use of public transportation (train, bus, or regular taxi) is completely forbidden when leaving the airport or designated facilities during the quarantine. In case of self-quarantine at a hotel, there’s a special dedicated charter bus from Haneda or Narita. If travelers don’t have additional means of private transportation (like driving or renting their own car or having family or friends to pick them up), some companies have implemented private taxi services, like Diolabs or Rakurakutaxi.
During the self-quarantine period, it’s possible to leave the premises as long as it’s only for needed things like grocery shopping, no further than an approximate radius of 15min by foot. Bear in mind that failure to adhere to these guidelines may result in a public disclosure of one’s names and in the case of foreign nationals, resident status revocation and deportation.
Smartphone configuration and app requirements for all travelers
As of March 18, travelers must install the following apps on their smartphones before their arrival to Japan. While this can also be done after landing, passengers must take into account their wait may be delayed so it’s highly encouraged to ensure it’s all done before the flight.
- Cocoa (iOS and Android), the Japanese government’s Covid-19 contact tracing app
- MySOS (iOS and Android), a health and location monitoring app to provide a daily report of one’s health status, confirm location in real-time and answer video calls to check that quarantine is being properly followed.
- Google Maps (iOS and Android), to ensure location history is being recorded in case of infection after arriving in Japan.
Please follow the official government guide for all the details on the required setup. Those without a personal smartphone must rent one at their own cost at the airport.
Special information for people from countries or regions where new coronavirus variants have recently been discovered
Travelers from countries or regions where new coronavirus variants have recently been discovered are required to quarantine at government-designated facilities for 3, 6 or 10 days depending on the country of origin. Subsequent tests must be carried out again and a negative result is required on them all before the 14-day quarantine is allowed to be completed at one’s own premises. Please check the government’s website for the latest updates on the country list.
- Countries subject to 10-day quarantine at government-designated facilities: Indonesia, Kyrgyz. These travelers must undergo covid-19 tests on the third, sixth, and tenth day.
- Countries subject to 6-day quarantine at government-designated facilities: Bangladesh, The UAE, Myanmar, Afghanistan, India, Zambia, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Maldives. These travelers must undergo covid-19 tests on the third and sixth day.
- Countries subject to 3-day quarantine at government-designated facilities: Andorra, Argentine, Belarus, Belgium, Bolivia, Brazil, Cambodia, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Denmark, Ecuador, Fiji, Finland, France, Georgia, Greece, Iran, Ireland, Israel, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Lebanon, Libya, Luxembourg, Malta, Malaysia, Mozambique, Namibia, Netherlands, Oman, Pakistan, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Portugal, Russia*, Seychelles, South Africa, Spain, Suriname, Tanzania, Thailand, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Turkey, United Kingdom, United States of America*, Uruguay, Venezuela, Zimbabwe. These travelers must undergo Covid-19 tests on the third day.
(*) The measures affect selected regions within the country, please confirm with the MOFA quarantine measures as the list is constantly evolving.
Current emergency status in different areas in Japan
Following the spike of coronavirus Delta variant cases, on August 2nd, the prefectures of Osaka and those within the Tokyo Metropolitan area (Chiba, Kanagawa and Saitama) were added to the State of Emergency that was already in place for Tokyo (since July 12th) and Okinawa (since May 23rd). The second half of August saw the prefectures of Ibaraki, Tochigi, Gunma, Shizuoka, Kyoto, Hyogo, Fukuoka, Hokkaido, Gifu, Aichi, Mie, Shiga and Hiroshima joining the list.
Meanwhile, the prefectures of Ishikawa, Fukushima, Kumamoto, Kagawa, Kagoshima, Miyazaki, Miyagi and Okayama remain under a semi-state of emergency (business restrictions are not as strict). As the vaccination rate increases, the number of daily infections is gradually declining. Although the State of Emergency continues to be extended until September 30th, the government aims to start easing virus-related restrictions across the country in November.
Vaccination rate in Japan and implementation of Vaccine Passports
Even after facing supply issues, as of September 15th, Japan has already administered over 147 million doses, reaching 64.4% of the population (81.5 million) with at least the first dose and 52.1% of the population (66.03 million) already fully vaccinated, almost catching up to the US and Western European countries. Over 80% of the elderly population have completed their vaccination, with the government expecting to have immunized all the willing population by October or November. Since the end of July, local governments have started issuing vaccine certificates, also known as “vaccine passports”, in order to allow international travel for Japanese nationals despite refusal from the Japanese government to adhere to international reciprocity for the time being. Starting December, the government will also implement online vaccine certificates. For the moment, 34 countries recognize Japan’s vaccine certificates but entry conditions are on a country-by-country basis. Please check with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Overseas Safety website for an updated list of countries and specific information for each country.
Japan’s borders will likely not open for tourists in 2021
As plans to open borders before the Olympics were scraped, leading to a spectator-less event, the possibility of tourists entering the country again before the end of 2021 is highly unlikely. The new variants and the possibility of a third dose requirement have forced government officials to re-think all plans of gradual border reopening. Japan’s largest business lobby is calling for the Japanese Government to exempt fully vaccinated travelers from current blanket restrictions, but in any case, normalization procedures won’t be quick and certainly won’t happen before the emergency state is lifted. Until then, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is continually updating entry procedures into Japan, which is dependent on the COVID situation both globally and within Japan’s borders.
Original article published on 04/10/2020 | Last update on 09/16/2021