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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, 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:

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.

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. 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.

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. 

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:

  • 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. 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.

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

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

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.

20 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.

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