Japan Visa Requirements for US Citizens
Americans visiting Japan for the first or even the 27th time may find a few surprises waiting for them at immigration. Like the US, Japan requires all foreign visitors to scan in their fingerprints and stand for a photograph. However, the requirements for a tourist visa to see the cherry blossoms in Tokyo or the temples of Kyoto are reasonable and affordable.
Do I need to apply for a visa to Japan in advance?
The only time US citizens need to apply for a Japanese visa in advance of their visit at a consulate or embassy is if they intend to work in the country or do business. The visa requirements vary depending on the type of work, but applicants commonly send their university degree, licenses or certifications, resume, photos, passport copies, and an application directly to their Japanese employer months in advance, who will submit it locally to immigration and receive a Certificate of Eligibility (CoE).
This CoE will be returned to you in the US, where you will present it in person along with a fee, visa application, photo, and passport valid for at least six months to a Japanese consulate or embassy. A passport and visa agency like Travel Visa Pro can do this on your behalf if you don’t live close to one or are unable to visit during normal business hours. In addition, because many work visas in Japan are issued for only one year, it’s a good idea to renew your passport prior to applying for a CoE and visa – a passport renewal at a US embassy or consulate in Japan is certainly possible, but will also require a second trip to an immigration office to transfer your old visa to the new passport. Travel Visa Pro staff can discuss the best options with you to determine if you should renew your passport prior to leaving the US.
What about Japanese visas on arrival?
US citizens qualify for a tourist visa on arrival in Japan for up to 90 days. There is no fee. The only requirements are to provide a passport valid for the duration of your stay and proof of departure, but the latter is not always checked.
Using your US passport in Japan
While it should come as no surprise you will need to present your passport as identification at hotels or while using the Japan Rail Pass, there are some local laws of which US citizens should be aware. Though not always enforced, everyone in Japan who is not a Japanese citizen is required to have identification on them at all times. This means a valid passport for tourists and a zairyu card for residents.
Police in major cities like Tokyo and Osaka are fairly understanding when it comes to foreign tourists not having their passports at all times, but they do have the authority to detain and arrest them for doing so… runners in the Tokyo Marathon take note.
What if I want to stay in Tokyo longer than three months?
Assuming you’re doing so on a tourist visa, many visitors choose to make a visa run by spending a day or two in China or South Korea before returning to Japan. Both countries are accessible by land or sea, and allow US citizens to come to Japan on a “fresh” three-month visa.
In recent years, Japanese immigration has been cracking down on this practice to prevent those working illegally from returning. However, unless your passport shows a clear pattern of visa runs, you should be able to extend your stay in Japan.
What can I do once I’m in Japan?
You name it. Anthony Bourdain declared Tokyo as his favorite city. Temples and shrines are abundant. Robots dance among the bright lights of Shinjuku. Hot springs provide relief after a long travel day. Don’t forget about the cherry blossoms – April is the busiest time to visit.
Are you planning a trip to Japan? What are your plans?