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Economy & Tech

Japan Eases Border Entry Restrictions for Some Business Travelers, Students

The business lobby in Japan has called this “a big step forward” for restarting international cooperation and exchange. Find out what is needed to qualify.

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Border Control as Japan Relaxes Rules for Business and Students.

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On November 8, Japan officially saw a relaxation of border entry requirements for some travelers.

Specifically, this affects business travelers either coming to Japan for the first time, or returning to Japan after a trip abroad. In both cases, if the business travelers are vaccinated and meet other conditions, they could have a shortened quarantine of three days, instead of the current ten days. 

It’s a hopeful step forward, though not quite as simple as one might hope, as certain conditions apply.

The relaxed quarantine measures apply to those who have been vaccinated with a jab approved in Japan, namely the AstraZeneca, Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines.

The decision comes as Japan is seeing a sharp decline in new infections and the Japanese government data from November 8 showing only 102 new reported infections nationwide. Moreover, 74 percent of the population is now fully vaccinated.

The major business body in Japan, the Keidanren, welcomed the news as a “big step forward” on November 8. 

Foreign business travelers without a Japanese residence permit had been barred from entering entirely. Now, under the new rule, they can enter the country for business, subject to the conditions outlined below.

Business travelers are not the only ones affected by the relaxed border entry rules. Foreign exchange students and trainees will also find it easier to enter the country. Japan had previously halted the acceptance of all new visa applications, but has now revised its rules in an effort to restart international exchange programs.  

Areas with room for improvement have also been pointed out. For example, self-employed or freelancers ー those not employed by a company in Japan ー would be excluded from applying.

The new rules for foreign students were particularly welcomed by Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University’s deputy dean Hiroshi Yoneyama, who said in a statement that the university greeted the news with “great pleasure.” He added on behalf of the staff: “We can’t wait to welcome foreign exchange students at APU as soon as possible.”

On November 10, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said in a press conference that the government is in the process of considering a timeline to let in tourists by the end of the year. 



What are the New Rules? 

1.  Business Travelers

This system applies to Japanese and foreign nationals with residency in Japan who are traveling abroad for work and then coming back to Japan, and foreign nationals coming to Japan for work purposes.

In addition, individuals must be working for an organization located in Japan, who can liaise with the relevant ministry for the company or industry. 

To benefit from the reduced quarantine measures on entering Japan, the business traveler must fill out forms and receive approval prior to entry into Japan. The necessary documents are the following (and can also be found here):

  1. Application For Entry Based on New Border restrictions
  2. Written Pledge to Abide to the Rules (Filled in and signed by both the traveler and employer/company)
  3. Statement of the Activity Plan in Japan (for the fourth to tenth day after entering Japan, or until the fourteenth day if not vaccinated)
  4. List of Travelers
  5. Report of the Travel (Filled out by the employing company, handed in after the travel period)

These documents, except the one in number 5, must be submitted in advance of travel, together with the individual’s passport and vaccine passport, to the relevant ministry, depending on the company and industry where one works. If the individual is a foreign national without residence in Japan, then these same documents are instead used to apply for a visa.

Upon entry to Japan, travelers must still show proof of a negative COVID-19 test performed within 72 hours before entering the country (specific type and test reporting form are found here). 

They must also fill in a questionnaire by the Ministry of Health, as well as download the MySOS app for a health check follow-up should the travelers develop symptoms conforming with COVID-19.

Following the three days of quarantine, individuals will need to undergo a PCR test again on the third and tenth day of their stay in Japan. Reports of positive or negative PCR tests are to be included in the company report, as well as MySOS app in case of positive testing. 

Between the third and tenth day, individuals can move around for business purposes, but they need to stick to the plan of activities previously declared to the Japanese government (point 3 above). 

The use of public transport is discouraged, except for pre-booked journeys and taxis. 

An English translation of the framework can be found on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website, here. The detailed information page with access to forms is, unfortunately, only in Japanese at this time, but it can be accessed here. The Ministry of Health hotline (in Japanese) has also been available for those who have questions. It can be reached at +81 (0) 335952176 from 9 A.M. to 9 P.M. JST.

2.  Foreign Exchange Students and Technical Trainees

The new rules also set a timeline for the Japanese government to start admitting foreign students and technical trainees into Japan again. Students in both categories had been almost completely banned from entering Japan for the better part of two years.

Those entering Japan under this category still must go through 14 days of quarantine. However, the 14 days can be shortened to 10 days upon submission of a qualified vaccine passport document.

The timeline for students and trainees being allowed to enter as follows:

  1. Entry to Japan in November 2021: Those who received a visa (or Certificate of Eligibility) between January 1, 2020 and March 31, 2020 .
  2. Entry to Japan in December 2021: Those who received a visa (or Certificate of Eligibility) between January 1, 2020 and September 30, 2020
  3. Entry to Japan in January 2022: Those who received a visa (or Certificate of Eligibility) between January 1, 2020 and March 31, 2021.

Students and trainees, like business travelers, must also prepare necessary documents, including (the forms are the same as above, and can be found here):

  1. An application form
  2. A form or letter from the institution in Japan that is vouching for them,including relevant documentation about the school or training program they are entered into.
  3. A signed pledge to abide by the COVID-19 restrictions upon entry. 

This is in addition to the requirements needed for all people travelling to Japan, namely the PCR test form demonstrating a negative test result within 72 hours of travel, the filled-in Ministry of Health questionnaire and downloading the required monitoring apps (MySOS and so on) for arrival in the country. 

However, the list of planned activities is not required.

Details to Work Out

Companies employing technical trainees will also have to arrange accommodation and transportation since those entering Japan are not permitted to use public transportation until their quarantine has been completed. A full explanation of new rules, in Japanese, is also available here.

The process will likely encounter bumps along the way, and there are many questions yet unanswered about how some of the details work. As early as November 8, the Japan Business Federation (Keidanren) had already asked for digitalization of the vaccine passport and other documents to be speeded up to facilitate procedures at airports upon entering Japan. 

For those outside of Japan, we recommend consulting with your local embassy or consulate for more details.

Author: Arielle Busetto

Arielle Busetto is full-time reporter at JAPAN Forward, covering culture, technology, politics, health, among other things. Major assignments in the past included the national elections in Japan, the G20 in Osaka in 2019, COP26 in Glasgow, gathering experience on a range of media including podcasts, video and more.