Are you unsure of whether or not you need a visa for a short stay in Japan? Are you curious about the process and what it takes?
Let’s break it down!
First off, it’s essential to know that before you can enter and stay in Japan, you must secure a visa, also known as a status of residence, in advance. The type of visa you’ll need depends on the activities you plan to engage in while in Japan.
Visiting for a Short Period
If you’re only going to be in Japan for a short time (up to 90 days) and don’t plan on doing any paid work, you can apply for a “temporary visitor visa,” often called a “tourist visa.” This visa allows you to enjoy sightseeing, visit family and friends, attend weddings, and take part in business meetings. If you’re a citizen of a country that has a visa exemption arrangement with Japan, you won’t need to go through any visa procedures in advance. You can simply arrive in Japan with your passport12.
Countries and Regions for Visa Exemptions
Japan allows visa exemptions for citizens of certain countries and regions.
Here is a list of those countries is a list of those countries, sorted by continent:
- Brunei (14 days)
- Indonesia (Note 1)
- Malaysia (Note 2)
- Republic of Korea
- Thailand (Note 3) (15 days)
- Hong Kong (Note 4)
- Macao (Note 5)
- Taiwan (Note 6)
- United States
Latin America and the Caribbean
- Barbados (Note 7)
- Costa Rica
- Dominican Republic
- El Salvador
- Mexico (Note 8)
- New Zealand
- Qatar (Note 9)
- Turkey (Note 7)
- United Arab Emirates (Note 3) (30 days)
- Lesotho (Note 7)
- Austria (Note 8)
- Czech Republic
- North Macedonia
- Germany (Note 8)
- Ireland (Note 8)
- Liechtenstein (Note 8)
- San Marino
- Serbia (Note 3)
- Switzerland (Note 8)
- United Kingdom (Note 8)
Find the always updated version here on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Website.
Please note, the period of stay granted at the time of the landing permission will be “15 days” for Indonesia, and Thailand, “14 days” for Brunei, “30 days” for United Arab Emirates and “90 days” for other countries and regions.
- The visa exemption arrangements include cases where provided for in bilateral visa exemption treaties.
- Whether you need to apply for a visa in order to enter Japan differs according to the purpose of visit, length of your stay, your nationality, and other factors.
- All foreign nationals entering Japan, even visa exempt entries, must carry a valid passport and, in some cases, a return ticket.
Exemption for Diplomatic and Official Passport Holders
Some countries and regions have a visa exemption for diplomatic and official passport holders. Click here for a list of those countries.
Staying Longer or Working in Japan
If you intend to stay longer or wish to work, you will need to obtain a long-term visa. This means that you need to have found a job in Japan if you’re applying for a working visa, or a school if you’re applying for a student visa. There are various types of visas available, and the one you apply for will depend on your circumstances:
- Highly skilled professional visa
- Working visa (this includes categories like professor, artist, journalist, business manager, engineer, etc.)
- General visa (e.g., for cultural activities, students, training, dependents)
- Specified visa (e.g., for spouses or children of Japanese nationals, long-term residents)
- Start-up visa (for entrepreneurs supported by municipalities in Japan)
- Diplomatic visa3.
Once you’ve determined the type of visa that suits your situation, you’ll need to apply for a Certificate of Eligibility (COE).
Certificate of Eligibility (COE)
A Certificate of Eligibility is issued before a visa application by a regional immigration authority under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Justice as evidence that the foreign national meets the conditions for landing in Japan, including the requirements that the activity in which the foreign national wishes to engage in Japan at the time of the landing examination is not fraudulent and is an activity that comes under a status of residence (excluding Temporary Visitor Status) stipulated in the Immigration Control Act. Click here for details
Obtaining a long-term visa while living outside of Japan usually involves applying for the COE at the Immigration Office in Japan first. This application can be submitted by:
- A family member staying in Japan (for family-related visas)
- Personnel from the hosting organizations (for other types of visas)
- The applicant himself visiting Japan with a temporary visa
- Certified Japanese Immigration Lawyers.
Please note that applying for the COE doesn’t give you the right to stay in Japan after the expiration of your temporary visitor visa, so it’s important to plan your stay accordingly4.
The processing time for the COE can vary significantly based on factors like the type of visa, location of the Immigration Office, size of the sponsoring organization in Japan, and the capacity of the Immigration Office. As a rough guide, a standard work visa COE case submitted in Tokyo recently takes about 2 to 5 months. The processing time is usually shorter for cases where the sponsoring entity in Japan is a large or listed corporation (around 2 to 4 weeks) and cases utilizing the Highly Skilled Professional Visa Option (around 4 to 6 weeks).
Once your COE is issued, you will then need to go to the Japanese Embassy or Consulate in the country of your nationality or residency, to have the COE validated and the visa issued/stamped on your passport. This typically takes about 3-5 business days.