Japan’s Foreign Residents Can Finally Travel In & Out Of The Country From September 1, 2020

Starting next week those foreigners who are officially residing in Japan can finally travel back to Japan, respectively leave the country and come back at a later point after some changes instituted by the government.

Foreign residents will be required to undergo coronavirus testing upon entry and observe a 14-day quarantine period, the same conditions apply to Japanese citizens arriving from abroad.

Japans government has been widely criticized over the last six months for preventing non-citizen residents in the country to return to their residence or see their families. This regulation effectively prevented any non-citizen leaving the country as well as they obviously wouldn’t be able to come back.

This is going to change from September as per an article in the Japan Times yesterday.

Starting from September, Japan will loosen its widely criticized entry restrictions on travelers from abroad, allowing all its foreign residents with a legal residence status to travel freely and thus enabling those seeking re-entry to the country to return, government officials said Friday. However, travel will be subject to some conditions, including pre-entry tests for COVID-19.

The government also said that it is working to speed up the issuance of new visas to let in some businesspeople who were unable to enter due to the entry restrictions.

The government decided Friday to lift strict re-entry restrictions on foreign nationals with a legal residence status in Japan, which were introduced April 3 as a preventive measure aimed at curbing the spread of the virus. The revised policy will enable all foreign residents to re-enter the country after notifying immigration authorities about their travel plans.

Starting in September, foreign residents will be required to undergo coronavirus testing upon entry and observe a 14-day quarantine period. The same conditions apply to Japanese nationals coming from abroad.

Additionally, however, all foreign nationals will be required to submit proof they were tested for COVID-19 within 72 hours prior to their departure. The condition has already been imposed on students, working visa holders and people with “family stay” visas who had left Japan before the imposition of the ban and were granted permission to return on Aug. 5. Starting from Tuesday, the condition will be applicable to all residents and new arrivals. …

Under the existing travel restrictions, only foreign residents who had left the country before the introduction of the entry restrictions have been allowed to return. Meanwhile, those who have left the country after their destinations were added to the entry ban list and those who are planning to leave the country temporarily need special permission to re-enter from immigration officials. …

With the changes that will come into effect Tuesday, people who had left Japan temporarily without being granted permission to re-enter the country will be able to do so, but they will need to contact local Japanese embassies or consular offices to inform them of their travel plans and complete entry procedures.

No resident will require special circumstances to be granted permission to re-enter the country but those who are planning to re-enter will need to contact the Immigration Services Agency before their departure from Japan. Such requests will be accepted online.

As of Aug. 13, around 192,000 foreign nationals were outside the country. Of them, 29,000 have left since the entry restrictions were imposed, including those who have not been granted permission to return under the strict policy.

Japan isn’t the only country with such restrictive policies in place. Thailand for example had and in some case still has the same rules that make returning home a living hell for those affected which is pretty much anyone who was outside the country by the time the borders closed.

Tuesday (as mentioned in the article) means this new rule will be valid effective September 1, 2020 and foreign residents will need to apply online prior to their flight to Japan.

The website of the Japanese MFA doesn’t appear to have an update on this yet.

It’s unclear when Japan is going to allow arrival for business or tourism purposes again as far as non-residents are concerned. There has been some talk of a “travel bubble” between certain nations in Asia-Pacific including Taiwan, Hong Kong, Thailand, Vietnam, New Zealand, and Australia plus some others.

There might be more policy changes ahead as Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced yesterday they he will resign in the near future due to health reasons. A new administration might just as well follow new policies in either direction.

Conclusion

It’s definitely a good development that Japan is finally starting to let their residents back into the country. 192k people is a significant number and it’ll take quite some time until these people are repatriated. At least Japan allows the quarantine period to be served in their own home. If that’s a good thing remains to be seen considering how many COVID cases are showing up while individuals are locked away in state quarantine in Thailand.

It’s a wild guess when tourism to Japan will be possible again. 2020 is going fast and there are only four months left for this calendar year.

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