Japan will allow from October 1 the entry into the country of foreigners with visas for business or study purposes, although it will maintain the veto on tourists from 159 countries that has been in force for months due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The measure represents a further step in the progressive relaxation of border restrictions that the Japanese authorities began to apply last March on some countries and subsequently expanded to cover practically the entire world, in order to avoid the importation of new coronavirus infections.
The new plan is backed by a panel of experts designated by the Government for the pandemic, and will allow access to foreigners from any country who have visas of three months or more in duration and for purposes other than tourism, senior government officials explained at a press conference today.
This includes people who travel to Japan for business purposes, to study, participate in cultural exchanges, work in the medical sector or as dependents of foreign workers with resident status in the Asian country.
The Government had suspended the validity of all new visas of these categories within the framework of their border restrictions of the last six months, in addition to paralyzing the granting of new residence permits.
The volume of foreigners that may enter Japan, however, “will be conditional on the current capacity” to test for COVID-19 at Japanese airports, according to government officials.
This means that for now only about 1,000 foreigners can arrive per day, according to the general director of the government office for the pandemic, Shoji Watanabe, who added that the authorities “are working to increase this testing capacity.”
Japanese airports can currently carry out about 10,000 daily tests, although most of them are reserved for Japanese citizens returning from abroad to their country, explained the senior official.
Foreigners traveling to Japan must undergo a PCR test before leaving their countries and to another on arrival at the airport, in addition to presenting a medical certificate proving their negative result in the first test and serving a fourteen-day quarantine in the places where they are staying.
The Japanese authorities have also allowed since September 1 the re-entry of foreigners with resident status in Japan who have traveled abroad before or after border restrictions, and provided that the aforementioned PCR and isolation test requirements are met.
In parallel to these measures, Japan has relaxed its entry conditions for travelers with medium and long-term visas from 7 countries in Southeast Asia, and negotiates similar measures with 16 other Asia-Pacific, including China, Australia or South Korea.
The Japanese Executive has opted for this progressive relaxation of its border controls after receiving numerous criticisms from business organizations, educational institutions and the community of foreign residents, who dismissed the measures applied as discriminatory.