The Japan Visa Waiver Program - Do I Need a Visa to Enter Japan?

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In general, travelers are required to obtain a visa before entering Japan. However, if you are fortunate enough to carry the passport of one of the 61 countries with which Japan has a Visa Waiver arrangement, you may be able to enter Japan without obtaining a visa in advance of your travel.

A (non-authoritative) list of the countries with which Japan has a Visa Waiver arrangement is included at the bottom of this article.

What activities am I permitted to undertake if I enter Japan under Visa Waiver?

The scope of activities permitted under Visa Waiver is quite broad and includes activities such as tourism, business trips, attending conferences, and visits to friends and relatives.

However, a visa in advance of travel may be required if:

  1. You will engage in paid activities in Japan, or
  2. Your planned period of stay exceeds that stipulated in your country’s Visa Waiver arrangement (see below).

How long can I stay in Japan if I enter under the Japan Visa Waiver Program?

The maximum duration of stay is specified in each Visa Waiver agreement.

The permitted period of stay is generally 90 days (or three months).

However, the specified period of stay may be as long as six months (for citizens of Mexico, the UK, Liechtenstein, Ireland, Austria, Switzerland, and Germany) or as short as 14 days (in the case of Brunei).

How are countries selected to be part of the Japan Visa Waiver Program?

Countries are selected for Visa Waiver agreements mainly based on the level of compliance their citizens have demonstrated with respect to Japan’s immigration laws.

If a large number of your country’s citizens are found to have breached immigration laws (for example by overstaying or working illegally) it is unlikely that Visa Waiver privileges will be extended.

Are all Visa Waiver arrangements the same?

There are major and minor differences between the conditions contained in Japans various Visa Waiver arrangements.

Also, from a practical viewpoint, it can be observed that not all Visa Waiver arrangements carry equal weight. Notwithstanding a Visa Waiver arrangement, nationals of certain countries may be subject to more stringent inspection upon arrival in Japan.

In addition, while Japan has 61 Visa Waiver agreements in place, only 57 countries are included on the list at the end of this article.

This is due to several agreements having been suspended. The result is that citizens of those countries visiting Japan now require a visa in advance of travel. These countries are:

  1. Malaysia (since 1 June 1993).
  2. Peru (since 15 July 1995).
  3. Columbia (1 February 2004).

Some Visa Waiver agreements contain other conditions. For example, an individual may need to be in possession of a biometric or e-passport.

What should I do if I cannot utilize the Japan Visa Waiver Program?

If you are unable to utilize a Visa Waiver arrangement, you should contact the closest Japanese embassy or consul. Alternatively, you may seek guidance from a certified Japanese immigration specialist.

In the case of short term travel, Japan has general visa requirements as well as particular visa requirements for nationals of China, the Philippines, and Russia / NIS.

If you want to work in Japan, you may need to apply under one of Japan’s work visa categories. Look here for more information about Japan Work Visas.

While the Visa Waiver program greatly convenient for international travelers, it is wise to carefully check the conditions associated with nationals of your country prior to your travel.

Countries with Visa Waiver Programs

As of October 2013, the following countries had Visa Waiver arrangements in place with Japan. Note that this list and the conditions of entry change from periodically. It is important that you confirm your eligibility to utilize Visa Waiver well in advance of travel.

Country Maximum Stay Under Visa waiver
Singapore 3 months or less
Brunei 14 days or less
Republic of Korea 90 days or less
Taiwan (*1) 90 days or less
Hong Kong (*2) 90 days or less
Macao (*3) 90 days or less
United States 90 days or less
Canada 3 months or less
Argentina 3 months or less
Uruguay 3 months or less
El Salvador 3 months or less
Guatemala 3 months or less
Costa Rica 3 months or less
Surinam 3 months or less
Chile 3 months or less
Dominican Republic 3 months or less
Bahamas 3 months or less
Honduras 3 months or less
Mexico 6 months or less
Australia 90 days or less
New Zealand 90 days or less
Israel 3 months or less
United Kingdom 6 months or less
France 3 months or less
Bulgaria 90 days or less
Belgium 3 months or less
Poland 90 days or less
Portugal 3 months or less
Macedonia, former Yugoslavia 3 months or less
Malta 3 months or less
Monaco 90 days or less
Latvia 90 days or less
Lithuania 90 days or less
Liechtenstein 6 months or less
Romania 90 days or less
Luxembourg 3 months or less
Iceland 3 months or less
Ireland 6 months or less
Andorra 90 days or less
Italy 3 months or less
Estonia 90 days or less
Austria 6 months or less
Netherlands 3 months or less
Cyprus 3 months or less
Greece 3 months or less
Croatia 3 months or less
San Marino 3 months or less
Switzerland 6 months or less
Sweden 3 months or less
Spain 3 months or less
Tunisia 3 months or less
Mauritius 3 months or less
Finland 3 months or less
Hungary 90 days or less
Norway 3 months or less
Germany 6 months or less
Denmark 3 months or less
Czech Republic 90 days or less
Serbia (*8) 90 days or less
Slovenia 3 months or less
Slovakia 90 days or less

The above is provided for general information purposes only and does not constitute advice to undertake or refrain from undertaking any action. Only qualified Japanese professionals are able to advise on Japan immigration, legal, and tax matters.