The following are questions and answers regarding the travel restrictions imposed by the Japanese government in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Q: What measures has Japan taken?
A: The government has imposed an entry ban on foreign nationals who have traveled to high-risk countries within 14 days prior to arrival in Japan and suspended visas issued by Japanese authorities across much of the world.
Q: What countries are covered by the entry ban?
A: As of Aug. 30, a total of 159 countries and regions, among them the United States, Australia, most of Asia including China, the Philippines, South Korea, Vietnam and Taiwan, and all of Europe. Among countries not covered by the entry ban are Jordan, Mongolia, Myanmar, Uganda and Tanzania.
Q: Who can enter Japan and who is prohibited?
A: Japanese nationals have been allowed to enter the country since the start of the travel restrictions, though they are required to take a COVID-19 test upon arrival, self-isolate for 14 days and not use public transportation. Special permanent residents -- a status held by ethnic Koreans whose families lost Japanese citizenship but remained in the country after World War II -- are also exempt from the entry ban.
Starting from Sept. 1, all 2.6 million foreign nationals with residence status in Japan are allowed to re-enter the country regardless of visa type or when they departed. That includes but is not limited to academics, students and skilled workers as well as permanent residents and those married to Japanese nationals.
Unlike Japanese nationals, however, foreign residents must go through certain procedures before re-entry.
Those who departed Japan on or before Aug. 31 must contact the nearest Japanese Embassy or other diplomatic office to receive a "re-entry confirmation letter." This will require a valid passport, residence card and an application form. It can take several days to process an application so those planning to travel should do this well beforehand, a Foreign Ministry official said.
Foreign residents leaving Japan on or after Sept. 1 must receive a "receipt for request of re-entry" from the Immigration Services Agency before departure. This can be obtained by sending an email to the ISA with the required information. Details including the ISA email address can be found here: http://www.moj.go.jp/nyuukokukanri/kouhou/nyuukokukanri07_00245.html
Once the foreign residents know when they will fly back to Japan, they must be tested for COVID-19 within 72 hours prior to their departure time at a medical institution and have the doctor sign a certificate saying the results were negative.
The Foreign Ministry provides printable versions of both the application form for the re-entry confirmation letter and the certificate for COVID-19 test results here: https://www.mofa.go.jp/ca/fna/page25e_000334.html
When the foreign residents arrive at the airport in Japan, they will be asked to submit the COVID-19 certificate to a quarantine officer and submit either the confirmation letter or receipt to an immigration officer and take another test to confirm they do not have the coronavirus. They will then be required to self-isolate for 14 days and not use public transportation.
If any of the required documents are missing -- or if the test document they acquired outside Japan states they are actually positive but they boarded a flight regardless -- then foreign residents will be denied entry. They will then be detained at the airport until a seat becomes available on a return flight, for which they may be billed by the airline.
Foreigners who test positive for COVID-19 on arrival in Japan but who tested negative before leaving for the country will not be denied entry and will be quarantined in the same way as Japanese nationals.
Foreign nationals without resident status such as tourists from the countries and regions subject to the travel restrictions are prohibited from entering the country until further notice.
Q: How have the travel restrictions impacted the public?
A: Tourism from abroad has dwindled under the entry ban, with the number of foreign visitors to Japan marking a 99.9 percent year-on-year drop for four straight months through July and dealing a blow to an economy already in recession.
Although the government has now relaxed restrictions on foreign residents from Sept. 1, the country's expatriate community has been outraged by measures that discriminate against them compared to Japanese nationals and have prevented them from traveling to their native countries. The procedures for re-entry have also been criticized as being too complicated.