Japan started to allow small-scale tourism arrivals in June this year on rigorous packaged tours, and slightly over 8,000 visitors arrived in June and July.
The government then decided they would start allowing non-guided tours (read more here and here) on August 31. Still, all visitors would need to engage with a local travel agency (pay $$$) to get them to issue an ERFS (Entrance, Returnees, Follow-up System), required for visa issuance (there is no visa-free entry to Japan at the moment).
It was intended that the Japanese travel agencies issuing ERFS’ would handle the booking of air to/from Japan and hotel accommodation for the duration of the stay. Japanese embassies and consulates that issue the visas were instructing applicants and agencies that they should not book anything before the visa was issued.
As is often the case with these issues we cover, I decided to apply for an ERFS through an agency to see how the process works and keep my options open if I travel to Japan this fall.
I submitted the application to get the ERFS at the Air Canada Cafe in Toronto on September 1 while waiting for a flight to Vancouver. The JGA’s website asked for my basic information, entry and exit flight dates and numbers, and the name and address of the first hotel where I intend to stay.
The price for this service was 20,000 yen a few hours before, but I ended up paying the updated price of 30,000 ten (a bit more than $200). (They have now stopped issuing ERFS.)
I promptly received confirmation of the product I had purchased and a receipt. And then the waiting began.
As it was already Friday in Japan when I made the purchase, I thought it would probably be Monday when they processed it. However, I did not hear anything from them on Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday, and they were not replying to my emails about the issuance of the ERFS.
My friend in Japan also dropped them an email, and I promptly had the ERFS in my email on Friday (September 9), and it was issued a week before (September 2) on the date I applied.
I followed the Japanese Embassy’s instructions on applying for the visa, and they requested documents to be sent by email first for “review,” which I did over the weekend.
The embassy promptly replied on Monday (September 12) that documents were in order and I could either drop the passport or send it to the consular section. I chose the latter and sent it by FedEx. A few days later, I received an email that the passport would be ready to be picked up on September 26.
Note that it appears that all embassies and consulates take five business days to issue visas (the day when you leave or they receive the application and the day when you can pick them up are not counted).
United States, Canadian, and Taiwanese citizens are eligible for an e-visa that significantly streamlines the visa application and approval process. Unfortunately, this facility is unavailable for other nationals, and you may have to wait months to get an application slot at some of Japan’s embassies and consulates.
What Has Happened So Far:
- Japan’s Prime Minister Set To Announce Easing Of Entry Changes In New York
- Japan Set To Announce Entry Changes As Early As This Week
- Japan To Remove Daily Arrivals Cap & Remove Visa Requirement “Not So Distant Future”
- Japan’s Non-guided Tours Partially Clarified
- Japan Increases Daily Arrivals Cap To 50,000 & Soon Allows Tourists On Non Guided Tours
- Japan Drops Pre-Departure PCR-RT Test Requirement September 7, 2022
- Japan Plans To Remove Covid-19 Test Requirement, Raise Daily Arrivals Cap To 50,000 & Tours Without Guides?
- Japan Opens eVISA Applications For Citizens Of The US & Canada On August 18, 2022
- Japan Tourism Trial Disaster, Tight Entry Requirements Continue & Long Term Goals
- Japan Tour Canceled After Thai Visitor Tests Positive For Covid
- Japan Allows International Visitors On Package Tours From June 10, 2022
- Japan Doubles Arrivals Cap & Testing Changes June 1, 2022
- Japan Tourism Trial Disappointment
- Japan Begins Tourism Trial In May For Fully Vaccinated From United States, Australia, Thailand & Singapore
It is unclear if I even need this visa because there has been chatter coming from Japan that significant changes would be coming to allow visitors easier access to the country.
Japan’s prime minister was supposed to announce something this week in New York, but not sure if this is delayed due to the typhoon.
It is unclear whether an announcement is coming this week and what it will include. However, at least I should have a visa to enter the country next week, and I already have a few airline tickets reserved (issued using miles for maximum flexibility).
I thought that the price I paid to JGA was fair, and I guess that Japan decided to have this ERFS in place to discourage visitor arrivals while letting those in who are determined.
Let’s hope they soon announce the reinstatement of visa-waiver facilities; otherwise, they will lose the winter and sakura visitors for the third year.
As many of our readers know, I spent six months in Japan back in 2020 when covid-19 was quickly spreading and causing havoc at first in North America and Europe. I got in a couple of hours before they closed the border in March that year and left in September. I cannot wait to be back for a month.