On November 5, the government of Japan announced it will ease entry restrictions for fully-vaccinated business travelers, technical trainees, and students starting Monday, November 8th.
The news is promising and exciting for the almost 370,000 foreign nationals waiting to arrive in Japan, the large percentage of whom fall into the latter two categories. But don’t jump on a plane yet, the details are yet to emerge. Note, Japan currently restricts the number of new visa holders entering the country to 3,500 per day.
11/8/2021 Update: As the details emerge, the overall program appears more like special approval process for qualifying individuals. So the first step in the process will be to get the individual qualified by submitting an application, then applying for the visa in a process that is estimated to take about 6 weeks from application to ability to relocate to Japan.
For those applicants who already hold a valid Certificate of Eligibility (COE), there is a new process for obtaining approval to enter the country. Prior to entry into Japan, a “screening certificate” must be obtained, which is then used in tandem with the COE to have a visa stamp issued at the Japanese consular office with jurisdiction over the current place of residence.
Here is what we know so far:
Who Can Enter
As of now, the unofficial word is that foreign nationals on business trips, technical training programs, and entering Japan on study abroad programs will be able to apply to enter Japan starting on Monday, November 8th.
Arrivals must have a visa to enter plus permission from the relevant government ministry, however it is unclear as to which countries will be initially eligible for a visa stamp, with in fact visa issuance for some nationalities still suspended. Once a visa is obtained, an application for permission to arrive will also likely be a requirement for most individuals, as well completion of some form of written pledge.
The assumption is that the sponsoring entity will need to submit a letter and other paperwork stating that they take full responsibility for the person during the stay.
CLARIFICATION 11/8/2021: The first step [in the approval process] is for sponsoring organizations in Japan to submit the required documents [application form, 12-page written pledge, detailed itinerary for the first 10 days in Japan (following the first 3 days of quarantine during which no activities can be conducted), copy of passport, copy of vaccination record] and obtain approval from the government ministry with jurisdiction over their industry. The screening process is estimated to take approximately 3 weeks. Once permission has been granted, the ministry will issue a certificate of inspection [screening certificate] with which applicants and their dependents can apply for visas.
Notification of flight details to the relevant Government Ministry is made following the visa approval and before the arrival in Japan.
Although not officially outlined, arrivals may be required to submit an activity plan, which must be followed. The sponsoring entity is required to track the adherence to the submitted plan. A negative Covid test result from within 72 hours of departure will also need to be submitted in the designated format.
Reduced Quarantine Process
Short-term business arrivals who are fully vaccinated will be required to quarantine for a minimum of 3 days. On the third day, a Covid test will be given and release will be granted following a negative result. As per the above, movements will still be restricted to the previously submitted activity plan.
Regular status updates to the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare (HMLW) are required.
Unvaccinated arrivals or those vaccinated with a non-approved vaccine will need to quarantine for a full 14 days either at a designated facility or a self-selected location depending on the point of departure.
Definition of Fully Vaccinated
Japan only recognizes three vaccines: Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca.
There are many outstanding questions that remain. Will the existing measures be relaxed in any additional ways? Will there be restrictions on specific departure locations? Will special permission from a government ministry be required? If so, the current process is takes up to two months. It may be that some or all of the rules related to the suspended Business Track and/or Residence Track systems may be reintroduced. (Application for Visa for foreign nationals eligible for Phased Measures toward Resuming Cross-Border Travel | Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan (mofa.go.jp))
We can only share bits and pieces at the moment, but expect to start receiving details on Monday when our team can contact the local immigration officials.
We are anticipating the ability to provide more details, including links in English to the requirements directly sometime later this week.