The Japanese Government has announced that effective October 1st their Embassies and Consulates abroad will start to accept applications for non-tourist visas again and those still in possession of such visas are able to return to Japan in a capacity controlled manner.
Japan has implemented a strict border closure since late March of this year and has (at least temporarily) disabled the visa waiver program with most countries while also not issuing any new visas at their diplomatic missions abroad.
Japan’s strict immigration controls that also affected those holding a residence permit for the country have caused an uproar and the government has since softened their approach, allowing foreign residents to return since September 1st (I wrote about this last month).
As the Japan Times reports the government under it’s new Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has decided to allow capacity controlled entry of those foreigners again who visit the country long term for purposes such as business and study (among other non-tourism activities).
Japan will relax from October its border restrictions aimed at controlling the spread of the novel coronavirus to allow entry for new visa applicants other than tourists from all regions.
The change was announced Friday during a meeting of the government’s subcommittee on the virus and was set to be approved at the subsequent meeting of the government’s virus task force, in a long-anticipated move to relax the nation’s strict travel restrictions. The restrictions were introduced in April as a temporary border control measure aimed at curbing transmission of the virus.
Under the existing travel controls, travelers from 159 countries and regions have been denied entry in principle. …
With the revision, which will not cover tourists, non-Japanese nationals will be allowed to travel to Japan in phases, for reasons including to provide medical services, engage in cultural activities or carry out educational activities.
Following the change, the scope of eligible applicants will be expanded to include privately financed international students. Since August the government has been in the process of resuming visa processing for government-sponsored students. The revised regulations will also cover visiting relatives using a family stay visa. …
“Further resumption of international travel is indispensable to revitalize the (nation’s) economy,” Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga told the government task force. …
This doesn’t tell us much yet. So far these changes revealed here will only cover things broadly without any details of what requirements there are in terms of documentation and even if the visa is issued what restrictions travelers face during their initial entry and stay.
The article does however outline that this appears to be a solution for those staying long term:
… Japan will allow in only a limited number of new international arrivals — up to around 1,000 per day — partially due to limited testing capacity at airports. The limitations will not apply to Japanese nationals.
The government is planning to increase the number of tests conducted at international airports to 20,000 in November.
All foreign nationals traveling to Japan are required to undergo testing for the virus and, with some exceptions, observe a 14-day quarantine period upon arrival.
Following recent revisions to protocols, all foreign travelers, including those with a legal residence status in Japan, also need to submit proof they tested negative for COVID-19 within 72 hours prior to their departure for Japan.
As entry procedures vary for different visa categories, foreign nationals planning to travel to Japan will be required to submit their travel schedule or detailed itinerary in Japan and will be subject to further control measures.
Simultaneously, the government is easing restrictions for business travelers. On Friday, the Foreign Ministry announced that Japan would soon reopen its borders to long-term expatriates from Singapore and Brunei under a reciprocal agreement, which will mandate those eligible for travel to self-isolate for 14-days after entering the respective countries.
Japan has been in talks towards resuming business travel with 16 economies mainly in Asia, including Australia, China, Malaysia, Myanmar, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam. The pandemic is deemed to be relatively under control in all those regions.
So far it has reopened borders for long-term and short-term travelers from seven countries: Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam. Singapore and Brunei are the latest additions to the reciprocal business travel program.
The program allows short-term business travelers to enter the country of their destination without the need to self-isolate providing they test negative for COVID-19 prior to their trip and upon entry to the destination country. …
Those in the Asia-Pacific region appear to be able to travel short term to Japan as well. I might have a look into this once December comes around as being currently in Thailand and holding a long stay visa should (based on this) render me eligible to apply for a business visa in Bangkok if I can procure an invitation letter from a friends company.
The website of the Japanese MFA doesn’t appear to have any updates on this yet.
It still doesn’t seem to include solutions for short term business travelers seeking to travel to Japan except for those from the APAC region. Even foreign executives of large Japanese companies abroad appear to be locked out and their big multinationals can’t do anything for them as the government is strict in their application of the entry ban.
Requiring a 14 day quarantine isn’t an option for the common business traveler. Maybe if someone gets a new long term posting to Japan then this is reasonable but nobody is combining menial business tasks with a long term quarantine. The cost, expense and time associated with such a schedule is prohibitive.
Having a one way street into Japan also won’t help the situation much. Travelers also need to have the ability to go back home without facing additional restrictive measures. The only way to solve this is by installing what has been commonly referred to as a “travel bubble”. Meaning traveling freely (maybe with a Covid test as a maximum) between two countries that deem each other safe. So far this only seems to be an option on a regional level with several countries in Asia.