When planning a trip to a foreign country, one of the first considerations that come to mind is, “But will I need a visa to get in?” Visa requirements vary significantly from country to country, so it’s always a good idea to do plenty of research ahead of time as to whether or not you’ll need a visa.
Japan, for instance, waives the visa requirement for tourists from certain exempt countries, but tourists who aren’t from those countries should apply for their visas well in advance of their scheduled travel dates.
If you’re planning on traveling to Japan, keep reading for a full run-down of the requirements for a visa in Japan. Here, we’ll cover the different types of Japanese visas and the amount of time you should expect to wait before receiving your visa for Japan.
Do I Need a Visa to Enter Japan?
Whether or not you need a visa to enter Japan depends on your country of citizenship, how long you plan to stay, and what you plan to do while in Japan.
For example, if you’re from a visa-exempt country and you’re planning on touring or visiting family, you won’t need a visa. However, Japan does require them for any traveler who is planning on working while in the country and those who are citizens of non-exempt countries.
It’s worth noting that no matter where you’re from and what you plan on doing during your stay in Japan, you will need a passport to enter the country.
If you’re from a non-exempt country, your passport must be valid for at least six more months past your intended departure date and must have at least two blank pages available. If you’re from an exempt country, you must ensure your passport won’t expire while in Japan.
Types of Japan Visas
There are many types of visas available in Japan. Each addresses the different reasons a visitor might be in the country, and the eligibility requirements vary for each type. In the case of working visas, Japan breaks down the category into several sub-categories specific to the traveler’s trade or skills.
For now, visas must be granted directly from the Japanese government through embassies or the consulate. However, there are currently plans for an e-Visa. With an electronic version, travelers could apply for their visas digitally without needing to walk into an embassy.
The e-Visa was initially scheduled for release in 2019, but its launch has been delayed, and a new release date isn’t currently known.
Here is a run-down of the different types of visas for entering Japan.
To obtain a working visa, you must be highly-skilled professional planning to be in the country long-term. Those considered unskilled laborers, including construction workers and wait staff, are not eligible for a working visa in Japan.
Some of the most common types of work visas are:
- Engineers, Specialists in Humanities. You must have a university degree in your field or at least ten years’ worth of experience to be eligible for this visa. International Services engineers are only required to have three years of experience.
- Intra-Company Transferees. Employees who have worked for more than one year at Japanese firms located overseas will be eligible to transfer to a Japanese office within the same company on this visa.
- Skilled Laborers. You must have at least three years of experience in your field to be eligible for a skilled labor visa. Some examples of this category are foreign chefs, foreign architects and civil engineers, animal trainers and handlers, sports instructors, and sommeliers.
- Business Managers. This category is for people who are going to start or invest in a business in Japan or people responsible for managing a client’s business or investments in Japan.
- Diplomats. Those who work in the embassies or consular offices, as well as government personnel and their families, will be able to procure a working visa in the diplomat/emissary category.
- Medical Professionals. You must have qualifications in Japan to work as a medical specialist. But with those qualifications, you’re eligible to practice under a work permit.
- Journalists. This document covers reporters who have contracts signed with foreign media organizations and freelance journalists.
- Entertainers. This visa is for people who work in show business or sports. Professional artists are also eligible. However, this is contingent on whether they can generate enough income from their artistic activities to support themselves.
- Foreign Languages Instructors. This visa covers teachers who plan on working in public schools at any level. Instructors who intend to teach at private language institutions must apply for a Specialist in Humanities visa.
- Religious Figures. This document covers those sent from foreign countries as missionaries from foreign religious organizations.
Japan also maintains a more general visa designated for “Highly-Skilled Professionals.” This document intends to attract workers who are likely to contribute significantly to Japan’s economy.
Counterintuitively to what you may believe from the title, visitors to Japan who are issued a non-working visa are allowed to work while in the country. This is only if the immigration office permits them to do so. However, there are restrictions, and the visa holder may not exceed a certain number of hours each week. This document is for short-term stays only.
Some reasons a traveler might seek to obtain a non-working visa are:
- For university study-abroad programs with a student visa or to learn about Japanese arts and culture with a Japanese cultural visa.
- To acquire specific training, skills, or knowledge that will be applied to the traveler’s job back home. It can be a student visa at a private language school to learn Japanese.
- If they are the spouse or child of someone traveling to Japan under a working visa.
Citizens of countries not on the visa-exempt list must obtain a tourist visa before entering Japan. Those from visa-exempt countries may enter Japan as Temporary Visitors for up to 90 days, though they may not engage in paid employment while in the country.
The tourist visa is intended for sightseeing, visiting friends, and attending conferences or academic courses.
A family visa in Japan is issued for short-term stays only, but it has no restrictions on employment, so you may work however many jobs you wish while you’re in the country. This allows Japanese nationals to return home for a visit to help out with their family’s business while in the country. It also covers spouses of Japanese citizens or permanent residents who live abroad but want to earn money while visiting their spouses.
Those eligible for a family visa are:
- Spouses and children of Japan’s nationals or permanent residents
- Permanent residents
- Long-term residents
The business visa is a temporary document for stays of up to 90 days. It can be either a single-entry or double-entry visa, as long as both trips are within six months. This document covers:
- Market surveys
- Contract signings, and
- Other types of business meetings require a short-term stay and/or travel within the country.
A transit visa may be required for travelers passing through Japan while en route to another destination. This document is unnecessary for those travelers who pass through the airport on their way somewhere else, as long as they don’t leave the airport.
Which Countries are Visa-Exempt?
There are currently 68 countries whose citizens are exempt from Japan’s visa requirements, meaning they automatically have Temporary Visitor status when they enter. Citizens from these countries must present a valid passport, which will then receive a stamp allowing them to use the Japan Rail.
This exemption only applies to short-term stays; long-term visitors to Japan must procure the appropriate visa to stay in the country longer than 90 days.
Requirements for a Tourist Visa in Japan
There are several strict requirements for obtaining a Japanese tourist visa for those, not from the exempt countries.
To obtain a tourist visa, you must:
- Hold a valid passport that has at least six months before expiration and at least two blank pages
- Complete the visa application form through the consulate or embassy
- Provide a recent passport photo in color, as well as a copy of your official birth certificate
- Certify your intention to leave Japan at the end of your stay
- Provide evidence of your financial stability through bank statements issued within the last six months
- Prove you can support yourself while staying in Japan
- Submit a copy of your marriage certificate if you’ve been married in the previous year
- Submit a copy of your certificate of employment if you’re traveling without a sponsor
- Provide a detailed itinerary and schedule for your trip
Once your Japan visa has been processed and accepted, you will have a limited time from the issue of your visa until it expires. Your travel to Japan must be conducted during this window.
The Japanese tourist visa process is fast and efficient compared to many other countries. If there are no problems with your application, you can expect to receive your visa within about five days of having submitted your application to the Japanese embassy or consulate.
Generally, you can either pick up your pass from the consulate once it’s ready or have it mailed to your residence.
How Long Will My Visa in Japan be Valid?
The length of validity of your tourist visa depends on the number of entries it covers and, to some extent, on your country of origin. There are three categories of tourist visas: single-entry, double-entry, and multiple-entry.
Generally, a single-entry visa for Japan will be valid for about three months after being issued. These documents usually allow travelers to remain no longer than 15 days.
Double-entry visas allow travelers to leave the country once and return within the permitted period of travel, usually up to 30 days. These visas are typically valid for six months after being issued.
A multiple-entry visa is valid for anywhere from one to five years. The length depends on the visitor’s country of origin, their reason for being in Japan, and their passport type. With a multiple-entry Japan visa, you are permitted to enter Japan as often as you like during the one-to-five-year period, though each stay may not exceed the 15 to a 30-day maximum.
How Much Does a Japanese Tourist Visa Cost?
The fees associated with a tourist visa for Japan depend on the document issued and your country of origin. The costs tend to be highest for multiple-entry visas and lowest for single-entry.
Since fees can vary widely depending on the current global economic and political climate, it’s a good idea to check with your local Japanese embassy or consulate for current fee information. The fee must be paid to the Japanese authorities in the currency of the region where your embassy or consulate is located and is due when you submit your application. You should receive a receipt or proof of payment once you’ve paid your fee.
What is an E-Visa?
The government of Japan has announced a plan to launch an e-Visa program that will streamline the procurement and issue of documents to tourists by allowing them to complete their applications online rather than going to an embassy or consulate. The goal of the e-Visa program is to make the application process more accessible for everyone to complete.
Once an e-Visa application has been submitted and accepted, the e-Visa will be delivered to the applicant via email. This will allow tourists to present their smartphones with their visas loaded to gain entry at the border. The e-Visa will be single-entry only, and fees must be paid via debit or credit card.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, plans for releasing the e-Visa have been pushed back indefinitely.
Japan Visa Restrictions Due to COVID-19
Japan’s travel restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic have been among the strictest, with the country’s borders closed to most foreigners since the spring of 2020. Currently, visas for tourism are not being issued.
However, as of April 2022, visitors from 106 specified countries may enter the country on a working or non-working visa for research, study, and business.
Many would-be travelers looking to journey to foreign countries become overwhelmed during the visa application process. It can be difficult and confusing to determine your eligibility, not to mention the type of visa you should apply for.
In Japan, fortunately, the visa process is relatively streamlined and straightforward. The most important thing to know is what type of visa covers what you intend to do while in Japan.
The next thing to be aware of is whether your country of origin is exempt from Japan’s visa requirements.
Finally, you should determine whether you need a single, double, or multiple-entry visa.
If you’re thinking about spending time in Japan, use this as your guide to ensure you do everything by the book and avoid any entry (or exit) issues. Remember to check with your local embassy or consulate, too, since fees travel requirements, and visa validity can frequently change, especially in these uncertain times.
Frequently Asked Questions about Visa to Japan:
If you are a temporary visitor from one of the 68 Visa-Exempt countries, you don’t need a visa to go to Japan. Temporary visitors from other countries need to apply for a visa. Therefore you need to fill out a visa application form to apply for a tourist visa from a Japanese embassy.
Visa applications require the payment of a fee. Fees will be collected in local currency. A one-time entry visa costs around 3,000 yen, while a multi-entry visas cost around 6,000 yen.