COVID-19 has been disrupting international travel for more than a year now and families have been separated without much hope on when they would be able to reunite. Have you contemplated leaving Japan to see your family, but are worried about re-entry?
Leaving and Re-entering Japan During the Pandemic, How Does it Work?
Luckily, since the vaccine rollout has started and it is progressing fast in Japan,many countries are increasingly recognizing Japan’s vaccine passport, which cuts down procedures substantially.
Unfortunately, Japan is still not accepting entries on new visas yet, but if you’re a resident in possession of a valid residence card (zairyu card) you can re-enter Japan undergoing two weeks of quarantine after visiting friends and family.
The process is smooth but requires a good deal of preparation: keep reading to have more information on how to Leave and Re-enter Japan this summer.
When Leaving Japan
The Japanese Vaccine Passport
At the moment, 25 countries (including Denmark, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Italy, Poland, Slovakia, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Turkey, Guam and Vietnam) are recognizing the vaccine passport issued by the Japanese government. More on how to get a vaccine passport issued from your local municipality on the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare website.
Vaccine passport holders don’t need to submit coronavirus-negative certificates and to spend days or weeks in quarantine after arrival at the destination.
If you haven’t got your vaccination yet, or you couldn’t wait for your vaccine passports, you can still enter most of the countries by taking a test proving negativity before your departure and by following each country’s quarantine measures and restrictions.
Be sure to confirm all the requirements (such as accepted test methods and time, and additional forms needed) with your airline or your country’s embassy in Japan.
When leaving Japan you need to fill out a “special re-entry permit” at Immigration, which will allow you to come back to Japan on the same visa within a year from your departure. You will have to fill in the “departure” slip on the spot and the “arrival” slip will be pinched to your passport to be filled in upon re-entry to Japan.
Be sure to bring with you the vaccine passport, a valid passport, and a residence card.
In regards to quarantine and the validity of vaccination passports: if your final destination accepts the Japanese vaccine passport then stopovers into different countries are not taken into consideration.
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Flying Back to Japan
Required Documents and COVID-19 Test
Coming back to Japan is a little bit trickier and involves many documents, questionnaires and certifications.
To be admitted back into Japan you will need to undertake a COVID-19 test conducted within 72 hours prior to departing your last international flight. You will need to have a doctor fill in an official document from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs stating the test and sampling method, the tests’ results and the date when the sample was taken. Be sure to calculate the 72 hours accurately because otherwise you will be denied boarding your flight.
If you already know your seat number you can fill in the questionnaire required by the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare before check-in. You will need to show the QR code generated at the end of the questionnaire at your arrival in Japan, so be sure to print it out or have a screenshot available at hand.
On the plane to Japan, you will be provided with a Written Pledge (that can be filled in before the departure, but it is not compulsory) and a Health Card that you will have to present multiple times during the arrival process.
14 Days Quarantine
Japan still doesn’t recognize vaccine certifications obtained abroad nor its own vaccine passport yet, so be aware that you will have to quarantine for two weeks in your home, at a hotel or apartment upon return. Japanese residents coming from high-risk countries will also need to spend either 3, 6 or 10 days at a designated hotel, during which meals will be provided by the government. The 14 days quarantine starts the day after your arrival to Japan, which is considered “day zero”.
Upon arrival the installation of two applications is required: COCOA (COVID-19 Contact-Confirming Application) for iPhone and Android and My SOS, available as well for both iPhone and Android. My SOS will be used to verify your quarantine location through daily automated video calls and check-ins done by pushing a button labeled as “I’m here”. A health report through the same app has to be sent daily. COCOA has to be used to report positivity or close contact with a positive person.
Downloading the apps before the flight is not compulsory, but having them already installed will help you get through the landing process much smoother and quicker.
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Landing and Arrival Process on Re-entry
Once you land in Japan, there will be several document screening points, the first one being the screening of valid MOFA form attesting negativity and test sample conducted within 72 hours before departure.
The second step is the saliva PCR test: it is recommended not to eat or drink anything half an hour before, so make sure you don’t drink (not even water!) from when your plane lands.
You will be then guided smoothly through the next steps by airport officers. They will check the correct installation of the apps, notifications and locations setting, which must be turned on at all times during the first two weeks of quarantine. A one-to-one thorough explanation regarding the use of these two apps is given at the airport at a designated station. Your email and phone number will also be confirmed and this is the perfect chance to ask any questions or about any concerns you should have in regards to the quarantine.
The last step before immigration will be waiting for the PCR test result: if negative you will continue to immigration, where you will need to fill in the arrival card attached to your passport. You will then collect your luggage and go through customs.
Be aware that you cannot reach your quarantine location using public transportation (which includes trains, buses and taxis) so you have to arrange a private means of transportation such as a hired car or rental car. It is also possible for a friend or a member of your family to come to pick you up.
Reduce Challenges Leaving Japan and Problems at Re-entry!
It is surely a challenging time for international travel, but as the vaccine rollout continues, hopefully, we will be able to travel without as many restrictions soon. For the time being, if you are considering leaving and re-entering Japan these are the essential information you need to go through the process as smoothly as possible!