Tourism in Japan has been restricted to domestic tourism during the pandemic © Getty Images
Tourism in Japan has been restricted to domestic tourism during the pandemic © Getty Images

Japan launches new eVisas for Americans and Canadians

TripFalcon August 24, 2022

Last Update: 2022-08-23 22:51:18

Japan has launched a new electronic visa scheme for American and Canadian citizens. Applications open today for people who wish to apply online for a visa for tourism or business purposes, as well as for those who need a visa to visit relatives in Japan. 

Before you start booking flights, it's important to note that Japan is only partially open to tourists. Yes, borders opened in June but Japan's entry policy is anything but straightforward. International visitors have to be accompanied by a local guide for the duration of their stay so, in addition to other caveats, only tourists who are visiting as part of organized tours are permitted to enter.

The visa exemption scheme for Japan remains on hold for now too, which means that anyone who wishes to visit, including US and Canadian passport holders, must apply for and obtain a tourist visa first. The eVisa scheme should speed up wait times and help simplify the process though by eliminating the need to present documents in person to embassies.

So if you've long dreamed of visiting the neon-bright neighborhoods of Tokyo or the once-in-a-lifetime attractions of Kyoto, and you're keen to do it as soon as possible, here's what you need to know about entry and visa rules for visiting Japan as a tourist.

Japan's entry rules

Independent travel is off the cards for now. Japan opened its borders on June 10 to foreign tourists from most nations, but only for those who will be accompanied by local guides "from entry to departure" on package tours. 

Tourists must also wear masks and adhere to other COVID-19 measures as the country stages a cautious return to tourism after two years of strict border restrictions.

"Tour guides should frequently remind tour participants of necessary infection prevention measures, including wearing and removing masks, at each stage of the tour," the Japan Tourism Agency says. "Even outdoors, the wearing of masks should continue in situations where people are conversing in close proximity." 

There's also a daily limit to the number of tourists who are allowed into the country, about 20,000 per day, and all visitors are required to take out insurance to cover medical costs should they contract COVID-19. They'll also need to present a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of their departure date and install the MySOS app, where they can register their test results.

Before the pandemic, Japan offered visa-free entry to visitors from some 68 countries including the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, South Korea and Malaysia, but for now, "everyone needs a visa," according to the Foreign Ministry, regardless of where they are coming from.

How US and Canadian citizens can apply for an eVisa to visit Japan

The eVisa is available for tourist and business travelers and those visiting relatives. Applicants must hold a valid US or Canadian passport.

Before applying for the eVisa, applicants must obtain a certificate for registration to the ERFS (Entrants, Returnees Follow-up System) through the travel agency they've booked their organized tour with. Those visiting relatives don't need to apply for an ERFS, but they must instead download marriage certificates or proof of kinship, according to the Japanese embassy.

Once they have these forms in order, applicants can go ahead and complete the eVisa form online through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Applicants must have passport information, travel documents and supporting documents like ERFS to hand. A processing fee will also apply. Once the application is successfully completed and approved, the eVisa will be issued by email.

What about other international visitors? Can they apply for an eVisa?

No, for now, visitors who have been approved to travel to Japan as part of an organized tour must apply for their visa in person. They're required to apply for an ERFS too. Once that's processed they can take the form to their local Japanese embassy or consulate to obtain a visa, or apply for the visa directly with the tourism agency. The turnaround time is generally five working days after the documents are received and accepted.

Japan's COVID-19 vaccination requirements

Japan categorizes countries into blue, yellow or red based on their COVID risk. Travelers from blue countries do not have to show proof of vaccination. Blue countries include the US, the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, France, Ireland, Italy, Thailand, Singapore, Hong Kong, Argentina, Mexico and more.

Travelers from yellow and red countries are subject to additional entry requirements such as testing upon arrival and quarantine.

When can tourists travel to Japan?

Officials say it will take some time before foreign visitors can come to Japan for independent tourism like they were permitted to before the pandemic.

A spokesperson for the tourism board told Lonely Planet that they still "have no indication or update on when [independent] tourism may resume." 

Source: lonelyplanet