Crossing Japan’s Borders

crossing japanese border

International travel was disrupted in an unprecedented way by the coronavirus pandemic, with many countries choosing to implement travel restrictions and close borders to contain the spread of COVID-19. However, a number of destinations are now reopening, and it is now possible for certain nationals to cross Japan’s borders once again.

The state of emergency in Japan was lifted across the country on May 25th, and the government began to relax restrictions against cross-prefectural travel on June 19th.

Now, the Japanese government has also gradually begun to open borders to foreign citizens traveling to the country, first permitting the entry of business and humanitarian travelers from select countries.

Read on for further information about who can currently travel to Japan, the current protocol for visa applications, and the restrictions in place for arriving at Japanese airports and other border entry points.

Japanese Border Closures

Japan’s border closures as a preventative measure against COVID-19 began on April 3rd, when an entry ban against travelers arriving from regions heavily affected by the pandemic was put in place.

The ban was in place for passengers who had been present in these regions within the previous 14 days and was eventually extended to cover 129 countries and territories.

However, now that the number of cases has dramatically reduced in a number of countries around the world, Japan has begun reopening its borders and loosening immigration policies for business travelers from a select few nations.

Business passengers from Australia, New Zealand, Vietnam, and Thailand will be among the first foreign citizens to be permitted entry to Japan, in a move to begin reviving the Japanese economy.

At first, there will be a daily quota of 250 visitors from each of the permitted countries in place, which will gradually be increased as restrictions are further relaxed.

Quarantine requirements will be waived for these passengers if they present some supporting documents in advance of traveling to Japan.

Special Exceptions for Entry to Japan

In addition to business and humanitarian passengers arriving from the countries listed above, foreign nationals who were resident in Japan are allowed to re-enter the country, if they hold a re-entry permit, under the following conditions:

  • The individual’s family is resident in Japan and they have become separated.
  • The individual’s child is enrolled in a Japanese educational institution and is unable to go to school.
  • The individual needs to re-enter Japan for treatment, such as surgery or childbirth, at a Japanese medical institution.
  • The individual had to depart Japan in order to visit a relative who was in critical condition abroad or to attend the funeral of a deceased relative.
  • The individual had to depart Japan for treatment at a foreign medical institution.
  • The individual had to depart Japan after receiving summons from a foreign court to appear as a witness.

Japan Border Enforcement Measures

In order to further contain the spread of coronavirus, Japan is maintaining some border control measures for foreign citizens arriving in the country, whether by air or by boat or ferry.

All passengers arriving from the permitted countries will first be required to take a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test to pre-screen for coronavirus.

The negative test results will need to be delivered to the nearest Japanese embassy to the traveler in advance, alongside an itinerary listing all of the visitor’s intended destinations and accommodation in Japan.

The business in Japan who is intending to receive the visitor is also required to provide Japanese authorities with a letter explaining their need to have foreign arrivals.

At the moment, all arriving passengers will also be asked to avoid using public transportation and to download a smartphone app to ensure the stated itinerary is being followed.

Documents Required at Immigration Control

In addition to following the steps outlined above, foreign citizens arriving in the country should check whether they require entry travel documents for Japan in advance.

Japanese authorities recently announced that they have now resumed processing visa applications that were submitted before visa suspension was implemented, albeit only for foreign nationals permitted under the current immigration policy.

The Japanese Immigration Services Agency (ISA) has also resumed the issuing of certificates of eligibility for resident status for foreign nationals who were planning to work or study in Japan.

These are now being delivered to successful applicants at their home address in advance of travel and may be exchanged for a visa once in Japan.

However, this certificate will not guarantee that the traveler will be granted access to Japan, as they will also be required to meet the border entry requirements listed above.

Please refer to the current Japanese travel restrictions for updates on whether your nationality is currently eligible to apply for a visa for Japan and travel to the country.