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:
- You will engage in paid activities in Japan, or
- 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:
- Malaysia (since 1 June 1993).
- Peru (since 15 July 1995).
- 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|