How to Enter Japan

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).

Special Travel Circumstances in Japan

Customs Regulations: Japan has very strict laws regarding the importation and possession of firearms and other weapons. Persons bringing a firearm or sword into Japan (including target and trophy pistols, air guns, some pocket knives, and even Japanese-origin swords) may have these items confiscated by Japanese customs authorities and may be arrested, prosecuted, and deported or jailed. Some prescription medications, as well as some over-the-counter medications, cannot be imported into Japan. (Please see the "Confiscation of Prescription Drugs and other Medication" section below.) Please contact the Japanese Embassy or the nearest Japanese consulate in the United States, or visit the Japanese Customs website for specific information regarding import restrictions and customs requirements.

Japanese customs authorities encourage the use of an Admission Temporaire/Temporary Admission (ATA) Carnet in order to temporarily import professional equipment, commercial samples, and/or goods for exhibitions and trade fairs into Japan. The ATA Carnet Headquarters is located at the U.S. Council for International Business (U.S. CIB), 1212 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10036 issues and guarantees the ATA Carnet in the United States. For additional information, please call (212) 354-4480, or email the U.S. CIB for details.

Confiscation of Prescription Drugs and Other Medication: The Japanese government decides which medications may be imported legally into Japan. The Embassy and Consulates of Japan in the United States have limited information available and do not have comprehensive lists of specific medications or ingredients.

You can bring up to a two-month supply of allowable over-the-counter medication and up to a two-month supply of allowable vitamins into Japan duty-free. However, it is illegal to bring some over-the-counter medicines commonly used in the United States, including inhalers and some allergy and sinus medications into Japan. Specifically, products that contain stimulants (medicines that contain pseudoephedrine, such as Actifed, Sudafed, and Vicks inhalers) or codeine are prohibited. You can generally bring up to one month's supply of allowable prescription medicine into Japan. You must bring a copy of your doctor's prescription as well as a letter stating the purpose of the drug. However, some U.S. prescription medications cannot be imported into Japan, even when accompanied by a customs declaration and a copy of the prescription. You should not mail prescription medicines, including insulin and injectors, without obtaining an import certification called “Yakkan-Syoumei” from the Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare.

Japanese physicians can often prescribe similar but not identical substitutes for medicines available in the United States. See the list of English-speaking medical facilities throughout Japan on the United States Department of State's website. Some popular medications that are legal in the United States, such as Prozac and Viagra, are sold illegally in Japan on the black market. You risk arrest and imprisonment if you purchase such drugs illegally while in Japan.

If you travel to Japan carrying prescription and non-prescription medications, you should consult the Japanese Embassy or a Japanese consulate in the United States before leaving the United States to confirm whether or not you will be allowed to bring the particular medication into Japan.

Pets: The Japanese Animal Quarantine Service (AQS) sets procedures for importing pets. At a minimum, the process will take 7-8 months, though the process can take up to a year before a pet may enter Japan. Advance planning is critical. You can find more information about importing a pet into Japan or information about exporting a pet from Japan on our embassy website.

Employment Issues: U.S. citizens should not come to Japan to work without having the proper employment visa arranged ahead of time, or in the hopes of earning a large salary. Teaching English, even privately, and serving as hosts/hostesses are both considered "work" in Japan and are illegal without the proper visa.

Some U.S.-based employment agencies and Japanese employers do not fully discuss or correctly represent the true nature of employment terms and conditions. U.S. consular officers in Japan receive numerous complaints from U.S. citizens who come to Japan to work as English teachers, carpenters, models, actors, entertainers, exotic dancers, and bar hosts/hostesses. The complaints include contract violations, non-payment of salary for months at a time, sexual harassment, intimidation, threats of arrest, deportation, and physical assault.

A minimum requirement for effectively seeking the protection of Japanese labor law is a written and signed work contract. Without a signed contract, Japanese authorities do not get involved on behalf of foreign workers. If you’re coming to Japan to work, carefully review your contracts and the history and reputation of your Japanese employer before traveling to Japan. If you are asked to do something you find troubling, you should reconsider being in Japan and think about terminating your employment and returning to the United States. Complaints against U.S.-based employment agencies or recruiters may be directed to the Better Business Bureau or the Office of the Attorney General in that particular state.

Living and Travel Expenses: Japan's cost of living is one of the highest in the world. The use of credit/debit cards is not widespread, particularly outside major cities. While there are ATMs in Japan, most are not open 24 hours a day, and only a very limited number accept U.S.-issued cards. ATMs at major airports, foreign bank branches, Japanese post offices, 7-11 stores, and some convenience stores are more likely to accept foreign cards than are those at other locations. You should make sure that you have access to sufficient funds through credit cards, debit cards, or cash to carry out your travel, and you should know how to contact your banking or credit card establishments in an emergency.

Western Union offers cash-to-cash transfers across 200 countries and territories to and from some areas in Japan. Western Union money transfer service is available at Travelex offices in major cities.

Paypal is available for international money transfers.

Please see the United States Department of State's website for additional information on financial arrangements in Japan.

Taxi fares from airports to downtown Osaka and Tokyo can cost hundreds of dollars; bus fares can run USD $40 or more. The airport departure fee is generally included in the ticket prices for flights departing from international airports in Japan. Bus fare between Narita (Tokyo) International Airport and Haneda Airport in Tokyo is approximately $40 and takes from 90 to 120 minutes.

English Help and Information Lines: As a tourist or foreign resident in Japan, you can have access to valuable information, including professional counseling, through help and information on telephone hotlines. The Tokyo English Lifeline (“TELL”) provides English-speaking counseling and referrals at 03-5774-0992. The Japan Help Line provides similar assistance nationwide at 0570-000-911 (domestic), 813-3435-8017 (international).

Disaster Preparedness: Japan is faced with the ever-present danger of deadly earthquakes, tsunamis, and typhoons. Japan is one of the most seismically active locations in the world; minor tremors are felt regularly throughout the islands. On March 11, 2011, an earthquake registering 9.0 on the Richter scale struck the northeastern coast of Japan and triggered tsunami waves that caused extensive damage to life and property and severely damaged the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. Additional information on the aftermath of the March 11 earthquake is available on the U.S. Embassy’s American Citizens Services (ACS) webpage. While responsibility for caring for disaster victims, including foreigners, rests with the Japanese authorities, one of the first things you should do upon arriving in Japan is to learn about earthquake and disaster preparedness from hotel or local government officials. Self-preparedness information is available on the U.S. Embassy’s American Citizens Services (ACS) webpage and on the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) home page.

Radiation: Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant: The Government of Japan and agencies of the U.S. government continue to work together to monitor the conditions at and around the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. In addition, on September 19, 2012, Japan established an independent organization to oversee the safety of its atomic reactors, the Nuclear Regulation Authority.

Areas We Recommend U.S. Citizens Avoid: Based on current data from Japan, we recommend that U.S. citizens avoid all unnecessary travel to areas described by the Japanese government. Out of an abundance of caution, we recommend that those considering travel to affected areas in Fukushima Prefecture consult with local authorities to receive current guidance on expected levels of radiation and recommendations for reducing exposure to radiation in these areas.

Areas We Recommend Caution for Long-Term Residence by U.S. Citizens: Out of an abundance of caution, we recommend that U.S. citizens who choose to reside for more than one year within 80 kilometers of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant consult with local authorities to receive current guidance on expected levels of radiation and recommendations for reducing exposure to radiation.

Please note that many of the coastal areas in the Fukushima, Iwate, and Miyagi Prefectures affected by the earthquake/tsunami/nuclear disaster in 2011 are still undergoing significant reconstruction. If you wish to travel to these areas, you should exercise caution as you may experience disruption in travel or infrastructure. We recommend that you contact local authorities or travel/accommodation service providers in advance.


You are responsible for ensuring that you meet and comply with foreign entry requirements, health requirements and that you possess the appropriate travel documents. Information provided is subject to change without notice. One should confirm content prior to traveling from other reliable sources. Information published on this website may contain errors. You travel at your own risk and no warranties or guarantees are provided by us.

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