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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.

Since the beginning of March, border restrictions have been finally lifted for foreign nationals coming to Japan for study, work, or short-term business purposes. This comes after months of protests from business lobbies and academic institutions that pointed out the damages to the economy and the country’s reputation, as the country has kept the harshest border policies among the G7 in a difficult-to-justify move that left stranded around 400,000 foreigners who already had a Certificate of Eligibility. It’s the second attempt to relax border controls since November last year when the entry ban was briefly partially lifted only to close again at the end of the same month when the Omicron variant was discovered. Now that this variant has become prevalent inside Japan as well, keeping the borders closed is pointless. 

Before that, borders had been tightly shut since April 2020, following the COVID-19 pandemic declaration, and only partially reopened for two months in October 2020 before closing n January 2021, after the Delta variant was discovered. During the whole time, foreign tourists have been completely banned from entering the country. And while tourists are still unable to visit, this is supposed to be the first stage in a gradual border normalization. With the border reopening, it was also increased the daily cap of people allowed to enter the country from 3,500 to 5,000 since March 1, further increased to 7,000 on March 14, and then raised again to 10,000 since April 10. As for quarantine measures, the number of days has been dropped to 3 or even entirely waived for most cases. Keep reading for details.

In response to the mutation of COVID-19, the Japanese government imposed stricter entry regulations on December 26, 2020, which are being gradually eased since March 2022. These include the following areas:

In the case of foreign residents, re-entry has always been allowed except for an extreme shutdown between April and August 2020 where only special cases were allowed, which sparked 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, until recently, a 14-day quarantine had to be followed. On January 29th, this period was reduced to 7 days but only for travelers coming from regions where the Omicron variant has become dominant. The latest set of measures reduced the quarantine to 3 days starting March for such travelers as long as a booster shot certificate can be provided. And even though public transportation is not allowed during quarantine, an exception was made to allow travelers to go home or to their reserved accommodation from the airport as long as it’s done during the 24h following their landing in Japan.

Are there any exceptions to foreign nationals re-entry rules?

After the discovery of the highly infectious Omicron variant in several African countries, re-entry for foreign nationals coming from those countries was banned on December 2, 2021. But this ban was lifted on January 14, 2022.

Kansai International Airport
Kansai International Airport. The effects of the drastic drop in tourism in Japan has been felt across all areas during the year that was expected to have its best results. | © Coniferconifer

New rules for visa applications starting March 2022

Except for a brief window between October 2020 and January 2021, and during November 2021, the country has remained closed to new arrivals for the entirety of the pandemic except for family visas or exceptional circumstances. Since the beginning of March 2022, new entries for business purposes or long-term stays are allowed. In all cases, everything must be verified with the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs and each country’s corresponding Japanese consulate or embassy.  

Travelers in Atlanta Airport
The COVID-19 pandemic has transformed mask-wearing from a mainly Asian phenomenon into a global obligation in public spaces. | © Chad Davis

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 14, 2021, these two tracks have been suspended until further notice. 

Requirements for short-term business travelers and new long-term residents

Starting March 1, 2022, all new arrivals, whether they’re short-term business travelers (under 90 days) or long-term residents holding a student or worker visa, must carry out the following steps when applying for a visa: 

  • Their guarantor companies should submit an online application through the new Entrants Returnees Follow-up System (ERFS). After submitting this application, a “Certificate for completion of registration” is issued. A copy of this certificate should then be submitted along with the corresponding documents when applying for a visa. 
  • Before departure, all cases must have a signed copy of the Written Pledge (English or Japanese version).

As for those foreign nationals with a Certificate of Eligibility (CoE) issued after January 1, 2020, their validity as of March 2022 is extended according to the following criteria as long as the sponsoring company/organization is still able to sponsor the visa:

  • Certificates issued between January 1, 2020 and January 31, 2022: validity extended until July 31, 2022.
  • Certificates issued between February 1, 2022 and July 31, 2022: valid for 6 months from the issue date.

Can foreign students and workers enter Japan in 2022?

Until further notice, special “Resident Track” and “Business Track” programs are still suspended, but application procedures may start again for regular student visas and work visas, including the following list of visa categories:

  • Professor 
  • Artist
  • Religious Activities
  • Journalist
  • Highly-Skilled Professional
  • Business Manager
  • Legal/ Accounting Services
  • Medical Services
  • Researcher
  • Instructor
  • Engineer/ Specialist in Humanities/ International Services
  • Intra-company Transferee
  • Nursing Care
  • Entertainer
  • Skilled Labor
  • Specified Skilled Worker
  • Technical Intern Training
  • Cultural Activities 
  • Student
  • Trainee
  • Dependent
  • Designated Activities
Passengers warh a Korean Air airplane in Narita Airport
Passengers observing a Korean Air aircraft in the transit area of Narita Airport. Air traffic restrictions are gradually being lifted as COVID-19 cases are referred | © Jorge Díaz

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.

Departures area in Narita Airport
Departures Area at Narita International Airport. The government has its eyes set on the progressive increase of tourism in Japan. | © i nao

Close family members are now able to visit Japan under specific circumstances

The most recent development in Japan’s sluggish border reopening involves close relatives of foreign residents. The following cases are examples of what the Japanese Government considers special humanitarian cases:

  • A foreign national who is newly entering Japan for the purpose of visiting a relative where the foreign national is within the second degree of kinship of a Japanese national/permanent resident or within the first degree of kinship of a “Long-Term Resident.” 
  • A relative who supports or takes care of a resident in Japan who is sick or pregnant. 
  • A relative who is visiting because a resident in Japan has died or is in critical condition. 
  • A relative who is entering Japan to accompany a minor or a person who is not capable of entering Japan by him/herself due to an illness or other reasons.

These visas were already possible since the borders were shut down and have been granted for special humanitarian reasons but on a strictly case-by-case basis and up to the discretion of Immigration officials. The novelty this time is that with daily caps raised to 10,000 people, the allowance for these special visas seems to have increased as well.

Airlines currently traveling to Japan

At the moment, all major airline carriers and airports are traveling to Japan. A brief ban on all inbound flights from the Japanese Government was quickly reversed after facing nationwide backlash at the beginning of December 2021. But the current situation is still volatile and many airlines are experiencing cancellations or substantial route modifications amid the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine. Therefore, in order to minimize potential issues, it is advisable to take every possible precaution when booking flights and to check the cancellation policies.

Wearing masks in Japan is something normal
In Japan, masks are not compulsory but recommended | © Jérémy Stenuit

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 with the certificate expedited by the corresponding medical institution, a Japanese certificate following the government’s required guidelines must be presented upon landing. 

It’s highly advisable to have completed, before boarding or during transit, an online questionnaire for the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare as it must be shown to airport officials after landing.

After arrival in Japan, a saliva COVID-19 PCR test will be conducted at the airport quarantine stations. If the result is negative, travelers may quarantine for 7 or 3 days or none at all depending on the following circumstances:

  • For those coming from designated countries where Omicron variant is dominant:
    • If no booster vaccination certificate is provided, they must spend the first 3 days at a designated quarantine facility. They may leave the facilities without further quarantining if a negative test is provided on the third day.
    • With a booster vaccination certificate, they may self quarantine at home or their desired accommodation for 7 days. If a negative test is provided at the third day, quarantine will be no longer necessary.
  • For those coming from countries not designated:
    • If no booster vaccination certificate is provided, they can self quarantine at their preferred accommodation for 7 days or shorten the quarantine if they provide a negative PCR test at the third day.
    • With a booster vaccination certificate, quarantine will not be required.

It must be noted that these conditions currently apply only to those who have received the third dose of Pfizer or Moderna. Please check the following link for the detailed guidelines from the Japanese Government regarding vaccine certificates.

As a result of the relaxation of the measures regarding public transportation after landing in Japan, the dedicated charter bus from Narita or Haneda is no longer in service. Users can board the usual Airport Limousine or the normal train lines. In case of requiring a private taxi service, there are services available such as Diolabs or Rakurakutaxi.

In many Japanese airports you will have a temperature check
PCR testing is mandatory for all travelers within 72 hours of flight departure. | © Delta News Hub

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.

Smartphone configuration and app requirements for all travelers

As of March 18, 2021, 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.

  1. Cocoa (iOS and Android), the Japanese government’s Covid-19 contact tracing app
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

Current emergency status in Japan

The last State of Emergency was lifted in Japan on November 30, 2021. However, with the viral spike of the Omicron variant originated in the U.S. military bases in the prefectures of Okinawa, Yamaguchi, and Hiroshima, the government announced on January 7, 2021, to place these prefectures under a quasi-state of emergency, shortening business hours again and restricting sales of alcohol. As nationwide infections kept increasing, by the end of January a total of 34 out of 47 prefectures were already under this status. As the number of infections started to decrease gradually, the quasi-state of emergency was lifted on many prefectures at the end of February, and completely lifted nationwide by March 21, 2022.

However, there’s still the possibility of reinstating a partial or full state of emergency again if infection increases sharply again. Therefore, prevention measures such as mask usage and social distancing are still required and most businesses still measure clients’ temperature when entering their premises.

Vaccination rate in Japan and implementation of Vaccine Passports

As of April 15, Japan has already administered over 265 million doses, reaching 81.2% of the population (102.8 million) with at least the first dose and 79.8% of the population (101 million) already fully vaccinated, surpassing Canada and becoming the leading country in vaccination rates among the G7. Over 92% of the elderly population have completed their vaccination, and the rollout of the third booster shot has surpassed 1 million daily doses with 47.1 % of the population (59.7 million) already immunized. A fourth dose is already being discussed by the Japanese Health Ministry and the rollout could start around the end of May.

Since the end of July, local governments 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. On December 20, a certificate app was launched, allowing users to have a digital version on their smartphones of their proof of vaccination. For the moment, 46 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 might open for tourists before the end of 2022

After turning the Olympics into a spectator-less event, hopes for border reopening reignited once the State of Emergency was lifted on November 30th, 2021. But the explosion of Omicron cases pushed back all forecasts regarding possibilities for tourists to enter the country during the first half of 2022. But the relaxation of borders from March 2022 onwards is the first step towards a gradual border reopening for tourists as well, hopefully before the end of 2022. However, Prime Minister Kishida remains cautious about providing any possible schedule for resuming tourists arrivals amid concerns of a new infection spike. 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 04/19/2022

Toshiko Sakurai

Toshiko Sakurai

I shoot (with my camera!), therefore I am. I paint with light and try to put letters together to the best of my abilities. I arrived in Tokyo from Barcelona the autumn of 2017 and since then I've devoted myself to capture the city corners while riding my bicycle. When I'm not carrying my camera, I'm usually defying the culinary ortodoxy mixing styles from everywhere I've ever lived.

30 Comments

  • Avatar David Kritzinger says:

    Hello, just wanted to ask where you got the info that the Working Holiday Visa is excluded from because I could’nt find anything about that.
    Thank you

    • Mika Senda Mika Senda says:

      Hi David,

      Since March of this year, the validity of all single and multi-entry visas (Working Holiday Visa is a single-entry visa) was suspended to prevent the spread of COVID-19, which you can find here: https://www.mofa.go.jp/ca/fna/page6e_000199.html

      In August, new border entry measures opened up to foreign nationals with a valid re-entry permit (https://www.mofa.go.jp/ca/fna/page4e_001074.html), then again just recently for those travelling for business or those seeking a short or long term residence status: (https://www.mofa.go.jp/ca/fna/page22e_000921.html)

      The short of it is: There is no mention of when tourists and working holiday visa holders will be able to apply/reapply for an entry visa within these new border-entry guidelines, so we have to assume that the rules for single/multi-entry visa haven’t changed since earlier this year.

      As vague as that may sound, these new border measures seem to be changing by the minute, so the best we can do is watch for any new announcements made regarding these new border measures.

      You can keep an eye on new announcements on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs page here: https://www.mofa.go.jp/j_info/visit/visa/index.html.

      Hope that is helpful!

  • Avatar Cynthia says:

    Hello, thank you for the information!
    Is it wise to purchase the airplane tickets now for April 2021 ou should we wait?
    Thank you

    Cynthia

    • Mika Senda Mika Senda says:

      Hi Cynthia, thank you for your question!
      As always, we try to give you our best advice based on the information we have at the moment. In regards to travel in 2021, Japan’s travel restrictions are continually changing due to the evolving global status of Covid. As you may already know, a State of Emergency issued in January to a handful of prefectures has been extended, restricting even travel within the country. It’s likely that travel to and from the country will be restricted until further notice, so it may be wise to postpone any travel plans (especially in April, as it’s less than two months away) until the travel restrictions have been lifted.

      Keep an eye out for updates in this article, and in particular, to information regarding travel guidelines for those on a short-term “travel” visa. Let us know if we’ve answered your question.
      Thank you!

  • Avatar Maddy says:

    It said tourist visa second. I live in the United States which Is visa exempt for japan. I have my passport and necessary documents. Would I be counted as the second group or would I need to apply for a tourist visa? I plan to stay to for about 85 days in japan

    • Mika Senda Mika Senda says:

      Hi Maddy, thanks for your question. Under normal circumstances, you’d be automatically issued a tourist visa upon arrival to Japan since you are from a country that is visa-exempt (meaning you don’t need to apply for a visa at your embassy before you arrive in Japan). The current situation hasn’t changed that, so yes, you’d be a part of the second group. However, please note that Japan hasn’t lifted their travel restrictions on short-term visitors yet, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is continually updating their travel restrictions.

      Let us know if we’ve answered your question. Thanks!

  • Avatar Suganya says:

    Hi,
    Iam from India and have COE issued on Jan.
    Please let me know whether there is possibilities to get dependent visa by April.

    Thank you

    • Mika Senda Mika Senda says:

      Hi Suganya,
      Our best advice is to reach out to your embassy and ask them directly. Since Japan’s travel restrictions vary from country to country, and guidelines are continually changing, it’s best to get the most up-to-date information pertaining to your own country directly from them, or online at your country’s embassy website.

  • Avatar Hussain Ali says:

    I’m from Kuwait and my wife is Japanese tried to come to Osaka with my wife and son but the embassy refused to give me and son Visa to enter even under the “special circumstances”

    • Mika Senda Mika Senda says:

      Hi Hussain,

      We’re sorry to hear about your difficulties!

      You’re right in that a spouse or child of a Japanese national is considered one of the four conditions covered under the Special Exceptional Circumstances outlined by the Ministry of Justice (http://www.moj.go.jp/isa/content/001338898.pdf) that are permitted a landing permit. However, it appears that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is requesting that a spouse or child of a Japanese national are required to obtain a Certificate of Eligibility or full copy of the family register/certificate of residence/residence card in order to qualify for this exception. (https://www.mofa.go.jp/ca/fna/page22e_000921.html). They’re also reserving the right to deny landing dependent on each case’s unique situation, so unless they explain the reasoning for your denial in Osaka, this can be an especially frustrating time for individuals like yourself and your son. Those “unique” situations are listed on the Ministry of Justice pdf we linked above.

      We hope you and your son are safe despite your unfortunate situation and hope it’s resolved sooner than later. If you’re able, please keep us afloat on your case!

  • Avatar Stuart J. says:

    What about individuals who have been fully vaccinated? Any exceptions for them coming to Japan?

    • Mika Senda Mika Senda says:

      Hi Stuart,

      At the moment, exceptions only apply for those with proof of residency, is a permanent resident or a Japanese national, and is a spouse or children of a Japanese national/ permanent resident (with some stipulations for all mentioned). Persons who are fully vaccinated are not exempt and still need to qualify for one of the above. Usually, anyone (including those who have been vaccinated) would have to apply for a visa, and currently, many of those (eg. working holiday, long-term that require a COE, etc.) visa applications are suspended until further notice.

      Let us know if we’ve answered your question!

  • Avatar Thuzar Kyaw says:

    Hello, I am from Myanmar and I have already got COE in March 2021 and planned to study in Saga Prefecture.I know we don’t know exactly when Japan reopen for applications until further information. But when do you think Japan could reopen for visa applications?
    Thank you.

    • Mika Senda Mika Senda says:

      Hi Thuzar, thank you for your question.

      That is entirely dependent on when the Ministry of Foreign Affairs issues a statement regarding travel restrictions, including updates on visa applications. Unfortunately, we don’t have the answer for you but are continually gauging the situation and hope to have updates in the future. Watch for updates on this page or better yet, check the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website for the latest in when visa applications will start up again.

  • Avatar Chloe Gordon says:

    What do you think the odds are that Japan will open up travel for December 2021 to tourist ?

    • Mika Senda Mika Senda says:

      Hi Chloe,

      It’s difficult to judge when Japan will open up for travel again. The projected timeline for Japan’s vaccination programme aims to have all residents have access to the vaccine by September, however, this is subject to change. Japan’s travel restrictions will also depend on the global status of the virus. With various factors affecting travel restrictions in Japan, we can only wait patiently and watch for any incoming news from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs before we can update you on travel for tourists.

      Keep watch on this page for future updates and thank you for your comment!

  • Avatar ELviz Divaz says:

    I am from Nepal, presently working in Qatar. But my Girlfriend is Japanese. We had plans of getting married this year 2021 and settle in Japan but, we are facing problems as the our lawyer in Japan says I can’t get Tourist/Visit Visa at present. Is there any way/ condition I can get to her? Please help we have waited so many years for this and now finally we both are ready, things are getting complicated.

    • Mika Senda Mika Senda says:

      Hi Elvis,

      We’re sorry to hear about your dilemma! Your lawyer is right in that there are currently no tourist/visitor visa applications being processed for entry into Japan. Keep watch on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website for future updates on travel restrictions and when short-term visas are processed again.

  • Avatar Ashley Arneth says:

    Hi. I couldn’t leave a comment but I wanted to know something. I am planning a trip in June 2022 to see my military man ( United States Marine) in Okinawa, Japan. We aren’t married yet. My question is if I have a negative test, do I still have to be in quarantine for 14 days. One minute I see I have to be quarantine in Tokyo for 14 days. The next I see the place of where I am going to be, which is the island. I wanted to know if they still will let me on the plane to go to the island if my test is negative, and just check up on me within the 14 days. My trip will be for 2 weeks. Please let me know! Thank you!

    • Mika Senda Mika Senda says:

      Hi Ashley, thanks for your comment. Currently, short-term visitors won’t be able to enter Japan based on the existing travel restrictions. However, since you’ll be traveling next year, these restrictions will likely change to reflect the global COVID status and will depend entirely on that. Keep an eye on updated here or check the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for updates on travel to Japan.

  • Avatar Hagie Tunkara says:

    I want to know if Japan started issues working visas

    • Voyapon Voyapon says:

      Hi Hagie,

      Almost all working visas have been suspended until further notice. If you were able to obtain a CoE (Certificate of Eligibility) before the suspension, your visa may still be valid, however, it is best to confirm with your Embassy for further advice if this is the case. Please check for updates on this article or the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website for updates on visas in Japan.

  • Avatar Michael says:

    hi, Sakurai-San.

    I am Michael from Indonesia. Do you have any information about Tokutei Ginou workers from South East Asia?

    I am interested to work as a caretaker (kaigou) using tokutei ginou visa and until today there is no recruitment process from Japanese company.

    Do you have any information on when Japan will open border for tokutei ginou workers?

    I believe Japan do need a lot of caretaker workers.

    Thank you.

    • Voyapon Voyapon says:

      Hi Michael, a Tokutei Ginou worker falls under the Specified Skilled Worker visa, and unfortunately, those categories are still suspended until further notice. Please watch for further updates here or check the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for updates visa applications in Japan.

  • Avatar ANTHONY says:

    Hi am Anthony from Nigeria,I got a japenesse work visa,can I be allowed to enter Japan now?

    • Voyapon Voyapon says:

      Hi Anthony,
      This depends on whether you have a valid resident card along with your work visa. Officially, only Japanese and foreign residents are allowed travel into Japan, though this may vary case by case. We recommend you contact your embassy directly for the most up-to-date information regarding your options for travel to Japan.

  • Avatar Karim W says:

    I have checked everywhere and have been told this is not true. Do you have an official link to this 3 day quarantine rule?

    Quarantine rules will vary according vaccination status
    Starting November 8th, all returning passengers, both nationals and foreign residents, will be able to get a shorter quarantine of 3 days if they’re able to provide a certificate proving that they’re fully vaccinated against COVID-19. But this only applies to vaccines currently approved by the Japanese Government: Pfizer, Moderna, or AstraZeneca.

  • Avatar Jimmy says:

    Hello!

    I know this is an older post, but I’ve been trying to get a concrete answer as to whether Working holiday Visas are able to enter Japan again? Provided there is a company th hat is willing to sponsor through ERFS?

    THANK YOU!

    • Voyapon Admin Voyapon Admin says:

      Hi Jimmy, thank you for your question. At the moment, Working Holiday Visas fall under the “short-term visa” category (non-business related), which has been suspended since March 2020. The newest updates on visa and travel restrictions have not updated this suspension.

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