Do I need a passport or visa to enter?
You must have a valid passport and an onward/return ticket for tourist/business "visa free" stays of up to 90 days. Your passports must be valid for the entire time you are staying in Japan. U.S. citizens cannot work on a 90-day "visa free" entry. As a general rule, "visa free" entry status may not be changed to another visa status without departing and then re-entering Japan with the appropriate visa, such as a spouse, work, or study visa.
For more information about the Japanese visa waiver program for tourists, Japan's rules on work visas, special visas for taking depositions, and other visa issues, you should consult the Consular Section of the Embassy of Japan at 2520 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008, tel. (202) 238-6800, or the nearest Japanese consulate. Please visit the Japanese Embassy’s website for location details. The U.S. Embassy and U.S. consulates in Japan cannot assist in obtaining visas for Japan.
All foreign nationals entering Japan, with the exception of certain categories listed below, are required to provide fingerprint scans and to be photographed at the port of entry. This requirement is in addition to any existing visa or passport requirements. Foreign nationals exempt from this requirement include special permanent residents, persons under 16 years of age, holders of diplomatic or official visas, and persons invited by the head of a national administrative organization. U.S. citizen travelers on official business must have a diplomatic or official visa specifying the nature of travel as "As Diplomat," "As Official," or "In Transit" to be exempt from biometric collection. All other visa holders, including those with diplomatic and official visas stating "As Temporary Visitor," are subject to this requirement. Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) personnel are exempt from biometrics entry requirements under SOFA Article IX.2.
If you are a U.S. citizen entering or transiting Japan, you should ensure that your passport and visa are valid and up to date before you leave the United States. Occasionally, airlines mistakenly board U.S. citizens coming to Japan even though their passports have already expired. The U.S. Embassy and U.S. consulates cannot "vouch for" you without a valid passport, and passport services are not available at the airport. In some prior instances, travelers have been returned immediately to the United States, while in other cases, they have been issued 24-hour "shore passes" and required to return the next day to Japanese Immigration for lengthy processing.
Many Asian countries require you to hold a passport valid for at least six months after you enter the country. Airlines in Japan will deny you boarding for transit if you don’t have the required travel documents for an onward destination in Asia or if your passport is not valid for six months. For the entry requirements of the country you’re traveling to, visit the State Department's Country Specific Information website.
Airlines in Japan will deny you boarding for onward flights to China if your passport does not have a valid Chinese visa. U.S. citizen travelers who are not legally resident in Japan have reported difficulties in obtaining a Chinese visa during a short stay in Japan. The U.S. Embassy and U.S. consulates in Japan cannot assist in obtaining Chinese visas. More information is available on the United States Department of State's Country Specific Information page for China. Entry requirements for Hong Kong are available on this webpage as well.
Military/SOFA Travelers: While active-duty U.S. military personnel may enter Japan under the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) with proper Department of Defense (DOD) identification and travel orders, all SOFA family members, civilian employees, and contractors must have valid passports to enter Japan. Military members with non-U.S. citizen family members seeking to have them accompany them to Japan should consult with their command and Japan Immigration for requirements, as entry to Japan may differ depending on nationality. You should obtain a tourist passport before leaving the United States to accommodate off-duty travel elsewhere in Asia, as obtaining one in Japan can take several weeks. If your duties will include official travel, you should also obtain an Official Passport before coming to Japan to avoid delays of up to two months, as overseas applications for these passports must be referred to a special office in Washington, D.C., which increases the processing time. Please consult the DOD Foreign Clearance Guide before leaving the United States.
Long-Term Residency Requirements: Japan amended its Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act in 2009, and the changes took effect on July 9, 2012. In addition, under the 2006 revision of the same law, if you are a long-term resident who obtained residence through your Japanese ancestry, you may have to provide evidence that you do not have a criminal record in your home country before you can renew your residency status in Japan. As Japanese Immigration regulations are complex and changing, the Embassy recommends that you consult directly with your local immigration office for specific guidance. You can obtain a Proof of no U.S. criminal record through the FBI Identification Record Request.
The current residency system, instituted by the Japanese government on July 9, 2012, impacts the following groups:
* Foreign nationals with Permanent Resident status;
* Foreign nationals who have mid- to long-term residence in Japan based on familial relationships with Japanese citizens;
* Foreign nationals with “College Student” status; and
* Foreign nationals issued a working visa in various professional classifications such as Engineer, Specialist in Humanities/International Services, Research, Business Management, Designated Activities, etc.
PLEASE NOTE: "Long-Term Resident" (teijusha) and "Permanent Resident" (eijusha) are different and therefore are subject to different requirements. As the changes in Japanese immigration and resident registration procedures and the affected groups described above are not comprehensive listings, please check directly with the Japan Immigration Bureau or the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications (MIC).