Japan Grants 3 Months Visa Amnesty For Visitors Who Can’t Return Home (Alongside Thailand & Indonesia)

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Japan has joined a range of other countries in granting a temporary visa amnesty to foreigners in the country on various types of visas to stay longer than the original admission period if they can’t return home at the moment.

A similar move has already been implemented in Indonesia (one of the first) as well as Thailand (fairly recently) after foreign visitors/residents swamped the immigration offices seeking extensions.

While there is usually a process that requires in-person applications for extending a short-term or long-term stay permit the government of Japan and those other countries has decided that it would be easier and far less risky in granting a universal 3-month amnesty for permits due to expire.

The alternative would be to have large groups congregating at immigration offices (as I experienced it myself in Bangkok) and risking COVID-19 transmission between those waiting in line but also the immigration officers at their workplace.

The Japan Times reported this week about the matter and the decision has now been implemented.

The Immigration Services Agency of Japan said Tuesday it will give foreign nationals with periods of stay expiring in July a three-month extension to renew, in a bid to alleviate congestion at immigration counters amid the coronavirus outbreak.

The agency had earlier granted a three-month grace period for foreign nationals whose residency status or period of stay expired between March and June, including short-term stayers such as tourists.

The measures were introduced after immigration counters nationwide were crowded with foreign nationals, including short-term stayers, applying for extensions to their stay in Japan, with some of them unable to return home due to tighter border controls across the globe.

With Japan’s state of emergency extended to the end of May, the measures are now expanded to include those with periods of stay expiring in July.

The agency has said foreign nationals who are unable to return home will not be treated as illegal overstayers for 90 days after the expiry date of their visas.

As John has documented in multiple posts over the last month both here on our website and on Facebook he has visited Japan for Sakura this year from early March and when Covid hit the region hard decided to stay put in Kyoto for almost two months.

His stay period of three months for foreign visitors would now soon come to an end but this amnesty would actually allow him to stay a few more months if needed. There is very little purpose in going to Europe right now even though things are starting to reopen slowly.

The Japan Immigration Office has published a documents in regards to this:

Download (PDF, 193KB)

The last passage says:

… The period for receipt of the examination results (issuance of a residence card, etc.) with regard to foreign nationals who have a residence card (mid to- long-term residents) and have already applied for permission to change their status of residence or an application for extension of the period of stay is normally for two months from the date of expiration of the period but will be extended for a further three months instead.

From this I read that there is still an in person application required in the case of Japan but maybe there is a piece of translation missing in that documents or they would clarify later.

It wouldn’t surprise me though as Japan is very difficult in all immigration related matters and I remember the first few years of living in Japan it was always a hassle to get a re-entry permit at the Tokyo Immigration office before being able to re-enter the country under the same visa (this has since been abandoned).

I have previously written about Indonesia granting an automatic visa extension to all those entering after February 5th as many foreign tourists were stranded in the country, especially Bali.

Issues like these have been brewing in various countries in South East Asia that are popular with foreign tourists, especially Indonesia and Thailand where Visa Exempt entries are only valid for 30 days.

The reaction came after a large number of tourists have swamped immigration offices in Bali seeking to extend their current stays in order to circumvent possible overstay penalties.

In Thailand the situation was especially bad in late March of this year (I wrote about it here) as literally thousands of foreigners flocked to the immigration offices daily to extend their stay. It was complete chaos and thankfully I myself went a few days before total armageddon hit.

Then in late April the government decided to grand an automatic visa extension for foreigners in the Kingdom until July 31, 2020 (access the details on the Immigration Department website here).

Japan – in contrast to many other countries – is very generous with the general visa waiver policy for most western nations and allows a 90 day stay which is more than sufficient under normal circumstances. Thailand and Indonesia only have a 30 day stay period for most foreign passports.

In the last few year there has been a boost in the “digital nomads” category, people who work in the IT/Media/E-Trading field and just travel to some comfortable place to work remotely. There are others (mostly retired people) who exclusively live on cruise ships. The travel standstill and border closures pretty much threw a wrench into this lifestyle and some people might need to adapt in the next few months or years. Of course one could always fly to ones home country but often times the Covid situation there isn’t much better and living wise one would also need to rent an Air BnB or the like.

However it’s important to always stay on top of and comply with local immigration laws and in the worst case of long stays change to a local employment or investor visa. Thailand still has the Elite Visa for 5/20 years which I’m considering renewing at the moment.

Conclusion

It makes sense to do these temporary amnesties to dissolve administrative problems such as a run on immigration offices that would counter any social distancing measures currently in place. We’ve seen the worst of it in most countries including apparently Japan itself so they have now come up with this plan even if it likely requires to still do an in-person extension.

It remains to be seen where this is all going. Some people are affected by this Covid related travel ban more than others. John is pretty much living in hotels for over a decade now, traveling constantly. I myself fall in the same category for the last 7 years although I still have my apartment in Bangkok which I’m utilizing right now, more so this year than in the past.

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