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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.

On October 1st, 2020, 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, excluding Tourist and Working Holiday visas. The announcement came after the consistent decrease in COVID-19 infections since the last spike during the previous summer. However, tight restrictions for new entries were quickly reestablished again on December 26 in response to the mutation of COVID-19, and Business and Resident track travelers were subsequently banned as well since January 2021. Since then, only Japanese nationals and foreign residents have been able to enter Japan, with a few scarce exceptions based on exceptional circumstances.

But on November 5, the Japanese Government finally announced that starting November 8, borders restrictions would be once again relaxed for business and students. But the good news is slightly dampened by excessive bureaucracy. At the moment, international arrivals remain capped at 3500 people a day since August 16, 2021, but this number is expected to increase to 5000 people a day by late November.

Keep reading for further details on new entry conditions.

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:

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, 2020, (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, until recently, a 14-day quarantine had to be followed. Since the State of Emergency was lifted on September 30, quarantine was reduced to 10 days, and now after November 8, was further reduced to 3 days as long as certain conditions were met. During this time, public transportation must not be used.

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

As a response to the discovery of the even more infectious Delta variant, several countries were included in a list that denied re-entry to foreign residents if they had stayed in such countries. However, as vaccine rollout has advanced and the State of Emergency was called off in Japan, the additional ban list has been lifted.

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

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.

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, former 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 November 2021

Except for a brief window between October 2020 and January 2021, the country has remained closed to new arrivals for the entirety of the pandemic except for family visas or exceptional circumstances. After a steady decrease of infections allowed the government to call off the State of Emergency on September 30th, many were concerned about the possibility of another spike. But cases continued to decline, while vaccine rollout has successfully inoculated over 70% of the population. The latest announcement comes after months of business lobbies calling for measures to reignite international business relationships. For the moment, the lifting of entry restrictions only affects business short-term travelers, students, and technical interns. Regular work visas remain suspended.

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

Requirements for short-term business trips

Starting on Monday, November 8, short-term travelers (up to 90 days) coming for business purposes, will be able to quarantine for only three days as long as they comply with the following conditions:

Requirements for student and technical intern visas

For long term resident visas such as students or technical interns, they must quarantine for 14 days if they’re either not vaccinated or vaccinated with unapproved vaccines. Those who are fully vaccinated with Pfizer, Moderna or AstraZeneca will be able to self quarantine for 10 days. Like business travelers, their activities will be closely monitored by the sponsoring companies or schools, besides requiring similar paperwork, in addition to normal visa procedures for each case.

Furthermore, the date of issue and the period of validity of the CoE (Certificate of Eligibility) must also be observed for the visa application:

Period of ValidityEarliest Entry Date
01/01/2020 to 06/30/2020From November 2021
01/01/2020 to 12/21/2020From December 2021
01/01/2020 to 02/31/2021From January 2022

For CoE holders outside of the specified period, there is no further entry information available yet.

Can foreign students and workers enter Japan from November 2021?

At the moment, visa restrictions have been lifted only for business trips, students and technical interns. Regular work visas are not being issued yet. Since January 2021, the “Resident Track” program is suspended including applications to 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

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.

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 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. 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.

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. 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.

  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

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. 

Current emergency status in Japan

At the moment, as of October 1st, there is no State of Emergency in Japan. As the vaccination rate increases, the number of daily infections has sharply declined from over 20,000 daily cases during the peak of this summer’s wave to less than 200 as of November 11th.

However, although preventive measures start to be a bit more relaxed, it will still take a while before things go back to normal. Dining establishments may serve alcohol again but only 1 extra hour of business is allowed, until 21:00 instead of until 20:00 during the State of Emergency. Mask usage and social distancing are still required and most businesses still measure clients’ temperature when entering their premises. The authorities are still wary of the possibility of another wave during winter but otherwise, restrictions are expected to continue to be relaxed gradually. 

Vaccination rate in Japan and implementation of Vaccine Passports

Even after facing supply issues, as of November 11th, Japan has already administered over 193 million doses, reaching 78.7% of the population (99.09 million) with at least the first dose and 75.2% of the population (94.5 million) already fully vaccinated, surpassing the US and ranking 3rd place among G7 countries. Over 80% of the elderly population have completed their vaccination, with the government expecting to have immunized all the willing population by the end November. A third booster shot rollout has been approved already and will start with medical personnel from December.

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. At the moment, only nationals or returning foreign residents will benefit from vaccine certificates with shorter quarantines upon arriving in Japan. Starting December, the government will also implement online vaccine certificates. 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 will not open for tourists until 2022

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. Easing restrictions for short-term business travelers is a significant first step, but in any case, normalization procedures won’t be quick. 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 11/17/2021

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.

26 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.

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