Guide to Getting a Japanese Visa (2022)

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, getting a Japanese visa is very difficult. Before 1 March 2022, it was nearly impossible. The rules and restrictions have been eased somewhat for getting a visa but they are still difficult.

The Japanese visa process is a long one. Make sure you read this guide completely before beginning the process!

This guide is going to go through step-by-step how to get a visa. I will use my own experiences of obtaining a student visa this year as an example.

Step 1: Where do I get the Japanese Visa

You get a Japanese visa from a Japanese Embassy or Consulate. Before you begin, you should also make sure you know where the nearest Japanese embassy or consulate is to you. Japanese embassies and consulates will only provide a visa for certain areas – the ones in their jurisdiction. I received mine from the Japanese Consulate in Los Angeles (LA), which serves southern California and Arizona.

Here is a list of all Japanese embassies and consulates in the US.

Here is a list of all Japanese embassies and consulates in Canada.

This is a list of all Japanese embassies and consulates in the UK.

Here is a list of all Japanese embassies and consulates in Australia.

Here is a list of all Japanese embassies and consulates in New Zealand.

This is the website of the Japanese embassy in Ireland.

Here is a list of all other Japanese embassies and consulates.

Please check the embassy/consulate website and visa section that is relevant to you.

Japan is currently issuing only 6 types of visas:

  • Spouse/Child of Japanese Nationals (Citizens)
  • Spouse/Child of Japanese Residents (Not citizens)
  • Former Japanese Nationals
  • Temporary Visa for Business/Conferences
  • Work/Long-term Stay (not students)
  • Student Visa

Currently Japan does not allow tourists, visitors or short stay guests of any kind. This may change in the future.

Currently some embassies/consulates are accepting applications via mail instead of appointments. Please check your local embassy/consulate for their requirements. This is usually shown on the visa page or the checklist for the type of visa you are applying for.

Step 2: Applying for a Japanese visa

For all visas, you will need the following items:

  1. A valid passport – the original passport with one blank page. This is where your visa will be placed.
  2. A completed visa application form
  3. One passport-sized photo
  4. Proof of resident address – this shows the embassy/consulate that you live in their jurisdiction
  5. Copy of Covid-19 vaccination records (if vaccinated)
  6. A self-addressed return envelope
  7. Completed release of liability form
  8. Visa fee (if required)

A valid passport

A valid passport is an original passport with a signature. It must also still be valid (i.e. not expired) for your entry into Japan.

The completed Japanese visa application form

The application form for each embassy/consulate varies but all require some basic information. This includes your passport number, information on where you plan to stay in Japan, what you are doing there, how long you will stay, who is hosting you, etc. This also includes your travel itinerary information.

This means that you will need to buy a flight to Japan before you apply for the visa.

I recommend booking the flight for about 1 month after you apply for the visa. For example, if you want to apply on 20 March, book a flight for 20 April. Typically it does not take that long to get a visa but it could. Also, you usually have a period of 90 days to enter Japan once you receive the visa. This is the “date of expiry” on the visa. You must enter the country before that date. Otherwise, your visa won’t be valid. Booking the flight 30 days after you want to apply makes it likely that you will get the visa in time and still be able to enter Japan.

I also recommend that you book travel insurance when you book your flight. If for any reason you do not get a visa, the insurance will reimburse the cost of the flight.

One passport-sized photo

The passport-sized photo will be used to identify you when you enter Japan (immigration). It will also be used for your residency card (long-time stay only). The sizes required are 2 by 1.4 inches or 35 mm by 45 mm. The application checklist for your Japanese embassy/consulate will tell you the exact size necessary.

Proof of resident address

The embassy/consulate needs your address to prove that they are the embassy/consulate that should process your application. This needs to be an official form of identification. For example, I had to use an Arizona driving license (which has my address) as my proof. The checklist for your embassy/consulate will tell you which documents are acceptable.

Copy of Covid-19 vaccination records

The Japanese are very serious about combatting the Covid-19 pandemic. Please make sure you are vaccinated. This is not only for your own health. Being vaccinated makes entering Japan much easier. Some unvaccinated travellers from certain countries have been denied entry because they are unvaccinated. Please get vaccinated!

For Japan, vaccination currently means that you have received three vaccinations of Comirnaty/Pfizer, AstraZeneca or Moderna at least 2 weeks prior to your application date. You may mix and match the vaccination types. For example, my first and second vaccines were Comirnaty and my third was Moderna.

You must provide official records for your application. For applicants from the US, it is the CDC Covid vaccination card. For UK residents it is the NHS COVID pass (travel, not domestic!).

If your Covid records are electronic, print them and include them with your application. For the NHS COVID pass, select the “travel” pass and then “download PDF”. You should then have a PDF with 3 QR codes. These QR codes contain all the information about your vaccines (which type, when/where you received it, which number was it [e.g. 1, 2 or 3], etc.) and are valid for 30 days.

A self-addressed return envelope

You need to pay for the postage (or shipping if you prefer) for your visa both to and from the embassy/consulate. This means for the application and all supporting documents and then a return envelope for the passport and some information.

I recommend using a full-sized envelope (e.g. A4 or 8.5 x 11 inches, depending on the region) and then a “regular envelope” (when you fold a piece of paper into 3) for the return envelope. Make sure you buy the stamps/page for postage of the return envelope before you include it in the envelope with the application! If you do not, you will not receive your visa.

Since I was in the US, I used USPS (the LA consulate prefers USPS or FedEx over UPS). I bought 2 Priority Mail Express Envelopes. The post office worker folded one in half before putting it into the other. The total cost for me was $17.90 for both packages.

Completed release of liability form

Because you are sending packages through a third party, the embassy/consulate does not want to take any responsibility for anything that happens (lost, theft, damage) to your documents, especially your passport. Therefore you have to fill out a waiver saying that you will not hold them accountable (i.e. you won’t sue them).

Visa fee (if required)

Some applicants may be required to pay a visa fee. This depends on your nationality, in which country the consulate/embassy is located, and other potential factors. Please see the visa checklist issued by the embassy/consulate for more information.

Here is the visa fee information for the Japanese Consulate in LA as an example.

Step 2.5: Extra documents depending on the type of Japanese Visa

Spouse/Child of Japanese Nationals

For this type of visa, you also need the SPOUSE/PARENT’S FAMILY REGISTRY (KOSEKI TOHON 戸籍謄本 document, a copy of their Japanese passport (the information page) and a copy of your immigration status. If you are the child of a Japanese national, you will also need your birth certificate to prove that. The family registry may be a copy but MUST be issued within the last 3 months.

You will also need to fill in the “Schedule of Stay”, which describes your (detailed) daily activity plan in Japan.

Finally, you need your most recent bank account statement. The bank statement must come from a bank in the US under your name and current address.

Spouse/Child of Permanent Residents/Long-Term Residents

For this type of visa, you also need an invitation letter, proof of residency (juminhyo 住民票), residence card (Zairyu kado 在留カード) from the person living in Japan. Here is the invitation letter in English and here is the invitation letter in Japanese.

The person who resides in Japan must fill this form out in detail. Proof of Residency (Juminhyo 住民票) must be issued by the local city hall and issued within the last 3 months. Copies are acceptable.

You will also need to fill in the “Schedule of Stay”, which describes your (detailed) daily activity plan in Japan.

Finally, you need your most recent bank account statement. The bank statement must come from a bank in the US under your name and current address.

Former Japanese Nationals

For this type of visa, you also need to submit the family residency (Koseki/Joseki Tohon). It must show that you have submitted the Denaturalization Registration (Kokuseki Soshitsu Todoke 国籍喪失届). The family registry may be a copy.

You will also need to fill in the “Schedule of Stay”, which describes your (detailed) daily activity plan in Japan.

Finally, you need your most recent bank account statement. The bank statement must come from a bank in the US under your name and current address.

Temporary Visit for Business/Conference Purposes

For this type of visa, you will need a sponsoring organisation. They will need to fill in an online application and you will have to send a certificate for completion of registration to the ERFS system (受付済証). This certificate is one page and has text in both English and Japanese. The information includes your name, passport number, nationality, where you will be staying and information about the hosting organisation.

You do not need to do anything to this document. You just need to submit it.

Work/Long-term stay (except students)

For this type of visa, you also need a Certificate of Eligibility (COE) and a copy. Your hosting organisation (called a proxy) in Japan must apply to this through the nearest Regional Immigration Bureau of the Ministry of Justice.

If you were issued a COE before Japan closed its orders (October/November 2021), you will also need to have your proxy fill out the Moushitatesho (申立書).

For spouse/child of a Japanese National or permanent/long-term resident (居住資格用)
https://www.la.us.emb-japan.go.jp/pdf/moshitatesho_kyoju.pdf
For Work or Dependent categories (就労資格等用)
https://www.la.us.emb-japan.go.jp/pdf/moshitatesho_shuro.pdf

Note: if you are unvaccinated, you will need to submit a schedule of stay that documents your quarantine plan for 7 days.

Students

For this type of visa, you also need a Certificate of Eligibility (COE) and a copy. Your hosting organisation (called a proxy) in Japan must apply to this through the nearest Regional Immigration Bureau of the Ministry of Justice.

If you were issued a COE before Japan closed its orders (October/November 2021), you will also need to have your proxy fill out the Moushitatesho (申立書).

For spouse/child of a Japanese National or permanent/long-term resident (居住資格用)
https://www.la.us.emb-japan.go.jp/pdf/moshitatesho_kyoju.pdf
For Work or Dependent categories (就労資格等用)
https://www.la.us.emb-japan.go.jp/pdf/moshitatesho_shuro.pdf

Note: if you are unvaccinated, you will need to submit a schedule of stay that documents your quarantine plan for 7 days.

Step 3: Mailing the Visa

Once you have all the documents (and copies if necessary) for the visa that you need, you can send the application. Make sure you also include the visa checklist for your type of visa.

I also included a cover letter and made notes on my checklist because I had some special circumstances (e.g. an NHS Covid pass but I was applying in the US). This is not necessary but it may be helpful for the person or people processing your visa. The easier it is to understand, the more likely it is that you will get a visa and the faster it will come.

The processing time for your visa depends on where you have to send it and how many other people are applying for one. I was very fortunate as I received my visa in 3 working days. I sent it on a Friday, it arrived at the consulate on Monday evening and then I received it on Friday of the same week.

Please see your Japanese embassy/consulate for more information about processing times.

Step 4: Once you have the Japanese visa

You should now be all set in terms of the visa for entering Japan! Congratulations =D

If you needed a certificate of eligibility to apply for the visa, you will get this back with your visa. Make sure you take this as well. You will need to hand it in during the immigration process.

Please note that due to the current pandemic, there are other processes that you need to complete before going to Japan. You can read more about them here – Guide to Airport Arrival COVID test in Japan (2022).


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