The Japanese government has started to ease its restraints on entry, exit, re-entry and return to Japan from particular countries and regions.
Vietnam is the most recent of 16 countries and regions to be approved for the Business Track, on November 1, 2020. The country has been a part of the Residence Track framework since the end of July.
Thailand has also been a Residence Track approved country since July, according to the Japanese foreign ministry.
Singapore became the first Business Track approved country since September 18. Subsequently in September, Residence Track target areas in Southeast Asia were expanded, focusing on Asian countries and regions such as Malaysia, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, and Taiwan.
On August 13, Singapore became the first Asian country to host an in-person visit by Japan’s Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, during which he and his Singaporean counterpart, Minister Vivian Balakrishnan, agreed to aim for opening their respective business and residence immigration tracks in September.
Japan implemented Business Track immigration along with Residence Track procedures with South Korea in October. In the same month, Brunei was also brought into Japan’s Residence Track process, rounding out the list of ten countries and regions for which the immigration procedures are already being implemented.
According to the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, bilateral consultations are underway on the arrangements for additional countries/regions including Australia, New Zealand, China, Hong Kong, Macau and Mongolia, with the expectation that they will move forward in the near future.
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What are the Business and Residence Tracks?
The Japanese government has two available immigration frameworksーthe Business Track and Residence Trackーto facilitate travel between Japan and particular countries or regions that have handled the pandemic particularly well.
Business Track exception allows cross border travelers for certified business purposes between Japan and its counterpart country or region. It also permits travelers to engage in limited business activities during the standard 14-day quarantine at home (or an authorized hotel) promptly upon arrival, on condition that travelers accept additional quarantine conditions such as submission of a detailed itinerary.
The Business Track mainly is intended for short-term business travelers. Each traveler’s activities must be limited to the requisite minimum to conduct business, for example, avoiding crowds and travel between home and business site by private vehicle and not by public transportation.
On the other hand, the Residence Track exception grants cross-border travelers entry to Japan, or to the counterpart country or region, with conditions that include a 14-day quarantine during which the visitor must stay at home or designated location. This framework is intended primarily for long-term residents, employees and company representatives traveling as part of a personnel relocation.
The Japanese government also announced on September 25, that residence status holders including students, dependents like spouses and children, and cross border business travelers of other countries and regions will be incrementally allowed to enter Japan from October 1, if they agree to abide by the coronavirus entry conditions and quarantine measures.
Even though the entry restrictions are gradually being eased, some enterprises are still facing severe business conditions. One officer of a Japanese real estate company told JAPAN Forward that, “Rental property owners who have their rental apartment houses in University areas geared at foreign students are still struggling with vacancies.”
For the foreseeable future, the coronavirus likely continues to generate harmful effects on business scenes.
Author: Mizuki Okada