As countries around the world have begun to loosen or even eliminate entry requirements related to the COVID-19 pandemic, Japan has maintained comparatively stringent restrictions on entry by foreign nationals. However, the Japanese government is increasingly easing these restrictions, allowing larger numbers of foreign nationals to enter the country through several different visa pathways. While major restrictions remain in place, foreign nationals seeking to enter Japan now have greater opportunity to do so than at any point in the last two years.

Background: Japan's COVID-19 Entry Restrictions

In March 2020, Japan suspended its visa exemption program, which had previously allowed citizens of sixty-eight countries—including the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, South Korea, and Singapore—to travel to Japan without first obtaining a visa. At the same time, the Japanese government suspended the validity of nearly all visas and implemented a broader set of restrictions that made entering Japan difficult or impossible for most foreign nationals. These restrictions, including testing and quarantine requirements, were modified after the emergence of the omicron variant in late 2021 but have largely remained in place.

Increasing Opportunities for Entry by Foreign Nationals

Entry into Japan remains limited, but in the last several months the country has introduced a range of pathways enabling foreign nationals to enter the country. For example, as of March 2022, certain foreign nationals are allowed entry for short-term business or employment purposes. Since June, foreign nationals have been allowed to enter for short-term tourism, though only if they do so as part of an authorized travel group.

Japan has also begun allowing entry by specific categories of short- and long-term foreign workers. These include intracompany transferees, business managers, engineers, and other highly skilled professionals. Foreign nationals qualifying for these categories must first obtain a "Certificate of Eligibility" through a sponsoring entity in Japan before applying for a visa.

All international travelers to Japan, regardless of age, must receive a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours of departure. However, on-arrival testing and quarantine requirements have been lifted for travelers from certain countries. Travelers from the United States, for example, are no longer required to conduct COVID-19 testing and quarantine upon arrival. This is true regardless of the traveler's vaccination status. Travelers from countries deemed "red" or "yellow" based on an assessment of COVID-19 transmission risk are subject to additional testing and quarantine procedures.

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