Entering Japan during the Pandemic (as of the 29th of September 2020)

Instead of my usual “guide-like” blogposts, I thought I would post some recent information that is also relevant to working in Japan at the moment. Due to the spread of the novel coronavirus, travellers from almost all countries around the globe have been refused entry into Japan until recently. Starting in August, the government introduced a new scheme called “Residence Track”, which allows people from certain regions (at that time only from south-east Asia) to enter Japan, provided they pledge to uphold guidelines given to them to prevent a possible spread of the Coronavirus and quarantine for 14 days upon arrival into Japan.

Recently a new prime minister took office and one of the first measures he decided to enact was to extend this scheme to travellers from countries all over the world, starting October 1st  2020. However, this does not mean that everyone can suddenly enter the country. Rather, Japan will hold talks with individual countries and if an agreement for mutual entry into the respective countries can be reached, the Residence Track scheme will take effect. Of note, the Residence Track system only applies for mid to long term stays, generally speaking stays that are longer than 3 months. If you are planning to come to Japan with a tourist visa you will not be able to enter the country for the time being.

While this most likely will mean that most people will not be able to enter Japan starting from the 1st of October, it means that there is movement towards opening the country back up for people that want to work, want to come on business etc. If you have been waiting to be able to enter Japan for work or a similar purpose, you might not have to wait much longer.

Information is somewhat scarce at the moment, on what you have to do to enter the country. Based on the information from countries that were allowed to use the scheme from August (Thailand, Vietnam etc.), you will most likely need the following.

1.           “Residence Track” document outlining the conditions that you have to adhere to while you are in Japan, with a pledge to follow the guidelines signed by you and the company that is going to employ you
2.           A negative PCR test (not older than 3 days at the time of visa application)
3.           Most likely you will also have to fill out various questionnaires, asking about your recent travel history and whether you were in contact with an infected person etc.

Please inquire with a Japanese embassy near you about what documents you specifically are going to need if you want to enter Japan. Depending on the country you are in, the required documents may change. Once you submitted the above documents at a Japanese embassy, you will then be able to apply for a visa for Japan. Once you arrive in Japan, you will most likely have to take a PCR test again, fill out more forms and questionnaires and most likely you will be questioned by quarantine and immigration agents. It sounds like quite the ordeal, but from what I have been hearing people are taking only around two or three hours to pass through quarantine, immigration and customs, which is not significantly longer than it took to get through immigration in non-corona times. 

Once you made it through immigration, you are prohibited from using any public transportation (trains, busses, taxis etc.), which means it might be quite troublesome to get from the airport to wherever you want to go. Your only real options are renting a car or getting someone to pick you up, so I advise that you ask the company that is going to hire you to send someone to pick you up at the airport. Once you managed to leave the airport and arrived at your living arrangements, you now have to self-quarantine for 14 days. Going by hearsay, the quarantine is not very strict, no police will show up and check on whether you are actually quarantining or not. You are probably good to go to a local supermarket, but I would still advise that you avoid using public transport, just in case. Once the 14 days have passed you are now free to go about your business as you please and can begin exploring Japan to your heart’s content in your free time.

I have not personally experienced this process, as I have stayed in Japan during the whole corona period so far, so I hope you will excuse my relying heavily on information from third parties and hearsay. Nonetheless, I hope that this was useful to someone out there. Take care.

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