|All foreign nationals (except those travelling on government business and certain permanent residents) who are 16 years or older are electronically fingerprinted and photographed as part of the entry process. This may be followed by a brief interview by the immigration officer. Entry will be denied if any of these procedures are refused.|
- Visa-free entry: 15, 30 or 90 days for citizens of certain countries
- Transit visa: 15 days
- Temporary visitor visa: max. 90 days (for short-term stays such as tourism and business)
- Work visa: max. 3 years
- General visa: max. 3 years (to accept training)
- Special visa: max. 3 years (for long-term stay)
You can contact the nearest Japanese embassies and consulates for more information.
Citizens of most developed countries, including all the usual suspects (USA, Canada, EU, etc.) can obtain an entry permit without a visa on arrival. This is usually valid for a stay of up to 90 days, although Mexicans and some European nationalities may stay for 180 days if they apply for a longer stay on entry. All other nationalities must apply for a “temporary visitor visa” before entering the country, which is usually valid for a stay of 90 days. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs maintains an online guide to Japanese visas. A visa is not required for a one-day transit between international flights at the same airport, as long as you do not leave the secured area.
Foreigners usually need to fill in an embarkation/embarkation form for immigration and a declaration form for customs. Those entering from certain countries may also need to complete a quarantine form.
Travellers entering Japan on anything other than a temporary visitor visa must obtain a “residence card” (在留カード), colloquially known as a gaijin card, within 90 days of arrival and carry it with them at all times in place of their passport. Those staying for 90 days or less can register this, but are not required to do so. This card must be surrendered when leaving Japan, unless you have a re-entry permit.
One customs issue that trips up some unwary travellers is that some over-the-counter medicines, especially pseudoephedrine (Actifed, Sudafed, Vicks inhalers) and codeine (some cough suppressants), are banned in Japan. Some prescription drugs (especially strong painkillers) are also banned, even if you have a prescription, unless you apply for special permission in advance. You may also need permission to bring in syringes filled with medication, such as EpiPens and the like. Ignorance is not an excuse and you face imprisonment and deportation if you are caught. For more information, visit the Japan Customs website or contact your nearest Japanese embassy or consulate.
Once in Japan, you must carry your passport with you at all times. If you are caught without it during a random check (and nightclub raids are not uncommon), you will be detained until someone can get it for you. First-time offenders who apologise usually get off with a warning, although you could theoretically be fined up to ¥200,000.