Europeans now need a visa for 3 month-stays in Japan

Expat news
  • young woman holding passport
Published on 2022-06-28 at 10:00 by Asaël Häzaq
Since June 10, Japan has reopened its borders to tourist groups. For the moment, the government doesn't want to take any risks, considering the rising number of Covid cases abroad. Its latest measure was making visas compulsory for travelers from the European Union (EU) and the European Economic Area (EEA), even for short stays. So it seems that the total reopening, which should include expats, will not be anytime soon.

Visas made compulsory for Europeans

Considering the new pandemic threats, with new variants and a new wave in many countries, the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs made entry conditions more strict. In short, Europeans and EEA nationals must now have a visa to stay in Japan, even for a short term. However, this does not apply to re-entry permit holders. Indeed, travelers who already have a visa, whether for work, studies, or a working holiday permit, etc., can leave Japan for a short period without having to apply for a new visa.

Until then, bilateral agreements allowed Europeans and EEA nationals were allowed to stay for less than 90 days (3 months) in Japan without a visa, which was a boon for tourism. It's worth noting that the visa exemptions applied to 68 partner countries. From now on, European nationals who intend to stay 6 months in Japan will have to apply for a visa extension upon the expiration of their 90-day visa. No information has been provided as to when Japan could switch back to its former visa policy.

Could this be a political strategy?

This new measure is likely to affect tourism in Japan. According to Kanpai travel guide, authorized travel agencies have a record of only 1,300 visa applications since June 10 -- 300 applications in June and 1,000 for July. This is quite a low figure as the summer approaches, compared to July 2019, when Japan welcomed 3 million tourists. In addition, health restrictions, such as the compulsory wearing of masks even outdoors, are still in place. Visitors who fail to abide by this law risk being stranded at their hotel or deported. Tourist guides are also responsible for ensuring compliance with current regulations. Furthermore, travel agencies must provide a detailed program of their stay, including places visited, transport used, seats occupied by travelers, etc. Immigration services could request this document in case of inspection.

This could be a political strategy for Kishida, Japan's prime minister since October 2021, who is running for a new mandate in the forthcoming July 10 parliamentary elections. The campaign started on June 22, but the current government is struggling. Japanese GDP has not yet returned to its pre-Covid level, and inflation is rising. Soaring oil prices and the war in Ukraine are driving up energy prices since Japan imports 90% of its energy. The government is relying on the drop in the yen's value against the US dollar to boost exports. Added to this are threats from Russia, China and North Korea. The government is also trying to cope with the local population's stand against the massive return of foreigners. The aim of these new rules could be to attract voters' sympathy. In the meantime, foreigners, especially professionals looking to boost their careers abroad, are desperate for the current restrictions to be lifted for the fall so they can finally travel to Japan.