With its pulsing, modern cities, beautiful rural landscapes and world-renowned cuisine, Japan is one of the top stops for travelers seeking a fully immersive Asian experience. And there’s good news: travelers dreaming of a long-awaited trip to Japan need wait no longer – independent travel into the country resumed as of October 11, 2022. After establishing some of the world’s strictest border control policies during COVID-19, Japan has finally opened visa-free travel for visitors from most countries.
In the new reality, a bit of pre-trip paperwork will smooth the way for travelers entering Japan. Read on for a rundown of Japan’s latest entry requirements, and consult Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs website for the most up-to-date information ahead of your travels.
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Upon arrival, travelers to Japan must present a government-issued vaccination certificate showing that they have received three doses of a World Health Organization–approved COVD-19 vaccine. Approved vaccines include those manufactured by Pfizer, Moderna, Novavax, AstraZeneca and Sinovac; a mix-and-match series of vaccinations from the approved list is acceptable. Find the full list at the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare.
Visitors who are unable to provide proof of three vaccinations are required to present a certificate proving a negative COVID-19 test result within 72 hours of departure for Japan. The test must have been taken at a medical facility. The Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare describes test guidelines here. Fill out a hard copy of the government-issued form to accompany your printed test results to be sure you’ve included all of the required information.
Mount Fuji is spectacular from a distance and it’s also possible to climb to the summit © Zania Studio / Shutterstock
Japan has implemented the Fast Track system to expedite the immigration process. Ahead of your trip, register at Visit Japan Web, where you can submit your vaccination information and other documentation for customs and immigration, and then download your QR code to your smartphone.
When you arrive in Japan, simply show the QR code when requested during the entry process. Though not required, it’s a good idea to have your vaccination or negative test documentation on hand in hard-copy form.
On a 90-day stay in Japan, there’s time to explore temples and historic sights all over the country © Oliver Foerstner / Shutterstock
Visas on arrival
Residents of 68 countries can enter Japan for up to 90 days for tourism purposes, with a free visa upon arrival. These countries include the UK, USA, Canada, Mexico, Australia, Singapore, Malaysia and most countries in Europe. For a complete list of visa-exempt countries and visa durations, consult the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
On entering Japan, all holders of foreign passports are photographed and fingerprinted. If asked, travelers arriving with a visa upon arrival should be able to provide proof of onward travel or sufficient means to purchase an air or ferry ticket out of Japan; in practice, this is rarely requested. Your passport should also be valid for the proposed duration of your stay.
Travelers not from a visa-exempt country will need to apply for one via their nearest Japanese embassy in their home nation, or organize one with an accredited travel agent approved by the Japanese Embassy. The cost of visas are approximately 3000 yen for a single-entry visa and 6000 yen for a double- or multiple-entry visa. Fees are collected in the currency of the country in which the embassy is located.
The processing period for visas is five business days from the day after the acceptance of the application. For more information about the requirements of applying for a Japanese visa in specific countries, see the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs website.
In addition to exploring Japan’s busy cities, make time for natural sights such as the bamboo groves of Arashiyama in Kyoto © Patrick Foto / Shutterstock
Extending a visa is possible from within Japan for citizens of Austria, Germany, Ireland, Lichtenstein, Mexico, Switzerland and the UK; these travelers may be able to extend their temporary visitor visa once, for another 90 days. Visitors wishing to do this will need to apply at a regional immigration bureau in Japan before the initial visa expires. If approved, the extension fee is 4000 yen.
For other nationalities, extending a temporary visa is difficult unless you have family or business contacts in Japan who can act as a guarantor on your behalf. Options should be discussed at your nearest regional immigration bureau.
Longer, working visas are also available to visitors of Japan, which allow people to study, train or work in the country. These usually grant entry for either three years, one year, six months or three months. These visas must be applied for in advance of travel, via an embassy in your country of origin.
There is also a specific working holiday visa, which allows visitors to engage in small-scale employment while visiting the country for tourism purposes. These are available to people between the ages of 18 to 30 (25 in some cases) from 26 countries, including Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Korea, the UK and a number of countries in Europe. The number of hours that can be worked and the type of work permitted are limited under this visa.