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Entrants, Returnees Follow-up System (EFRS) Discussion (was: Japan opening up)

Entrants, Returnees Follow-up System (EFRS) Discussion (was: Japan opening up)

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Old Sep 22, 22, 12:56 am   -   Wikipost
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UPDATE Sept. 22, 2022: JAPAN WILL NO LONGER REQUIRE VISAS AS OF OCTOBER 11, 2022. As of October 11, Japan will resume visa-free entry to nationals from qualifying countries. Individuals traveling to Japan after this date DO NOT need to obtain an ERFS and visa to enter the country for individual tourism. The information below is for posterity and/or people who wish to travel to Japan prior to this change going into effect.

UPDATE Sept. 12, 2022: News media is reporting rumors of an imminent announcement which may include the reinstatement of visa waivers. Such an announcement would make most of the information below obsolete. Travelers who do not need visas immediately are advised to wait until we know more.

Overview


Until further notice, a visa is required from all foreigners to enter Japan. The visa-waiver program which previously allowed visa-free entry to nationals from certain countries has been suspended. In order to obtain a visa, a receiving agency must sponsor your application by issuing you an ERFS (Entrants, Returnees Follow-up System) certificate. ERFS certificates may be issued for a variety of reasons, including tourism, in which case a licensed travel agency must sponsor your visa application.

Tourism

As of September 7, 2022, tourists may enter Japan on unguided, unaccompanied tours as long as they are sponsored by a travel agency who arranges their flights and accommodations and acts as a point of contact for the duration of their stay in the country in the event of issues including a COVID infection. Some official documents from the Japanese government have attempted to clarify this policy (and, most notably, what it means for a receiving agency to "arrange" flights and accommodations), however in practice it has been left up to the interpretation of the sponsoring agencies. Due to the lack of clarity, there is a range of interpretations with some agencies insisting on purchasing all airfare and hotel reservations on behalf of the traveler, with others allowing travelers to keep their existing reservations as long as they share the details with them. The exact offerings and pricing from specific agencies is changing rapidly, consult this thread for the latest information.

As of now there have been no reports of denied visas or entry into the country from anyone who had a valid ERFS from a legitimate travel agency. Individuals from Australia have reported difficulties booking visa appointments, so Aussies may want to contact their local consulate and ensure they can do so before paying for a tour package/ERFS.

Visa Application and Arrival Process

The following roughly outlines the steps for obtaining a visa and entering the country:
  1. First, the traveler must obtain an ERFS certificate from their sponsoring agency. Who issues the ERFS depends on the reason for entering the country (business travelers should obtain it from the company they are visiting, tourists should obtain it from a travel agency who is arranging their visit, etc.). The ERFS certificate is a one-page document summarizing key information about the traveler and their sponsor. An example of an ERFS certificate is provided here.
  2. Once the ERFS is obtained, travelers must apply for a visa from their local Japanese consulate. Travelers from some countries (currently only the USA and Canada) may apply for an eVisa online. This process is faster and easier than physically visiting a consulate so it is recommended for anyone who has access to it.
  3. Visitors who are fully vaccinated with three doses of approved vaccine do not need to obtain a COVID test prior to traveling to Japan. A primary series consisting of one dose of J&J/Janssen is treated as two doses for the purpose of meeting these criteria (see here). Vaccination information should be submitted using the MySOS app and travelers should ensure they have a "blue screen" in the app prior to boarding their flight. Information available here.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What other documents are required for the visa application? Do I need an itinerary document?
A: For an eVisa application you only need to submit your ERFS and passport. No other supporting documentation is necessary. In-person applications may ask for more documentation and you should verify what documents are required with your local consulate.

Q: What documents are required to board a plane and enter the country?
A: Travelers who have reported their experiences have said they were asked to show their MySOS "blue screen" and their visa/eVisa by both the airline (prior to boarding their flight) and by customs (after landing in Japan). If you have an eVisa, make sure you can load the digital version of the actual eVisa website on your phone (not just the PDF) in Japan over data or WiFi, because these have a rotating QR code.

Q: What if I don't want to stay at a hotel and want to stay at a friend's house/Airbnb/couch-surfing/etc.?
A: Current tourism guidelines suggest that a travel agency is supposed to "arrange accommodations" for your time in Japan. As such, you should contact your travel agency to ask them what types of accommodations in Japan they will allow. It is advisable to book a hotel in Japan for at least your first night in the country prior to applying for a visa since the visa application asks for this information. Note that hotels in Japan are currently very cheap, especially with the weakened Yen.

Q: What if I'm not traveling for (x) amount of time? When should I get an ERFS and apply for a visa?
A: Visas are only valid for 90 days after they are issued, so you should wait until your trip is at least within the next three months. There is also a good chance that the Japanese government will move to further relax entry requirements (including, possibly, re-instating the visa-waiver program which would make this entire process obsolete) in the coming months, so you should wait until your individual planning process requires you to have some assurance that you'll be able to enter the country. We may also see more competition among travel agencies offering bare-bones tour packages in the coming weeks, which could drive prices down.



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Old Sep 22, 22, 4:26 pm
  #1516  
 
Join Date: Sep 2019
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Originally Posted by The American View Post
I purchased two ERFS certificates for 60,000 JPY total for travel in November. Since the country is now open, let's review the services I have received from J G A:
  • Issuing your ERFS for your Japan Tourist Visa
  • Visa application support including preparation of the required documents
  • Itinerary management
  • Support in emergency situations
Nobody will argue they issued the ERFS form promptly and provided that part of the service. However what about the rest? They gave me no support for the visa application, I still had to do it myself. They didn't manage any itinerary, so what does that even mean if it was understood I was arranging my own tour? Support for emergency situations? They don't even know where I am except for the first night. I may contact them for a discount now that we know the country is open starting October 11. I'm willing to pay them for the service I have received, but I am not receiving all of it and considering they suspended the ERFS service I'm thinking they won't honor anything beyond the certificate itself. So I will proffer a discount on the services rendered, and then initiate a chargeback if I don't hear anything positive back from them. I'm thinking, 40k JPY instead of 60k. Not sure yet.

Anyone have any other thoughts on this since I can't be the only one thinking about this
No thoughts other than that's why I waited. Japan has been perhaps one of the most opaque countries in the world for entry and this system screamed rip off. But, alas. Looks like you are out some money and who knows. Maybe there is yet another crap rule that Japan comes up with. Maybe the have some new rip off.
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Old Sep 22, 22, 4:26 pm
  #1517  
 
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Originally Posted by The American View Post
I have done chargeback's for partial refunds in the past when I didn't receive the services as described.
Which service by JGA did you request and not receive?
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Old Sep 22, 22, 4:32 pm
  #1518  
 
Join Date: Dec 2020
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Originally Posted by The American View Post
Defrauding them would be if I say I have no idea what this agency is, or saying my credit card information was stolen and I don't recognize the purchase. Don't be so sensational. I would be completely transparent and inquiring reimbursement is not criminal.

It's in every customer's right to ask no matter what the produce or service is. If you have nothing constructive to add to the conversation you can keep emotions to yourself.
agreed, I wouldnt do a charge back, but I would ask the company if they are willing to give you a refund or a partial refund since its no longer required. Worst thing they can say is no. At the end of the day though, they provided the services and helped you get the visa. That required work on their end and its not their fault the regulations changed.
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Old Sep 22, 22, 4:42 pm
  #1519  
 
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Originally Posted by CPH-Flyer View Post
So I would not expect any announcements Thursday the 22nd. Even more so, I doubt the prime minister would make press conferences of a pure domestic nature while in New York for the UN sessions.
An issue that is 100% how foreign nationals are admitted is hardly a "purely domestic" issue. It affects not only specific foreigners, but diplomatic relations in general. As to your specific predictions, I recommend the next time you're at a craps table, bet Don't Pass.
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Old Sep 22, 22, 5:26 pm
  #1520  
 
Join Date: Jan 2010
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Originally Posted by The American View Post
I purchased two ERFS certificates for 60,000 JPY total for travel in November. Since the country is now open, let's review the services I have received from J G A:
  • Issuing your ERFS for your Japan Tourist Visa
  • Visa application support including preparation of the required documents
  • Itinerary management
  • Support in emergency situations
Nobody will argue they issued the ERFS form promptly and provided that part of the service. However what about the rest? They gave me no support for the visa application, I still had to do it myself. They didn't manage any itinerary, so what does that even mean if it was understood I was arranging my own tour? Support for emergency situations? They don't even know where I am except for the first night. I may contact them for a discount now that we know the country is open starting October 11. I'm willing to pay them for the service I have received, but I am not receiving all of it and considering they suspended the ERFS service I'm thinking they won't honor anything beyond the certificate itself. So I will proffer a discount on the services rendered, and then initiate a chargeback if I don't hear anything positive back from them. I'm thinking, 40k JPY instead of 60k. Not sure yet.

Anyone have any other thoughts on this since I can't be the only one thinking about this
I find it hard to believe anyone paid for the "visa application support", "itinerary management", and "support in emergency situations" or interpreted them to be anything other than lip service for bureaucracy. Everyone was after the backdoor ERFS so they could have certainty on the ability to (apply for a visa to) travel to Japan. How many of us even WANT people meddling with our (very straightforward) visa application and itinerary planning.

This reads like buyers remorse aka salt rather than genuinely feeling one did not receive the services paid for. It therefore seems unethical to threaten a chargeback. It is fair game to *ask* (and be willing to accept no) but at the end of the day they provided the ERFS, it's not their fault the ERFS is now obsolete.

Out of curiosity If JGA charged 20k (like Holigoes) or 10k (like jiankangshuo) to begin with would that have been acceptable or would there still be a chargeback threat?

Last edited by Agneisse; Sep 22, 22 at 5:33 pm
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Old Sep 22, 22, 5:34 pm
  #1521  
 
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Originally Posted by Agneisse View Post
Out of curiosity If JGA charged 20k (like Holigoes) ... to begin with would that have been acceptable or would there still be a chargeback threat?
Actually this was the original price. I paid 20,000 yen ($144) as one of the first people to purchase it before they raised prices due to the overwhelming amount of requests I'm sure they received.
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Old Sep 22, 22, 5:37 pm
  #1522  
 
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Originally Posted by seigex View Post
Actually this was the original price. I paid 20,000 yen ($144) as one of the first people to purchase it before they raised prices due to the overwhelming amount of requests I'm sure they received.
I mean, fair play to JGA for being the first agency to advertise and deliver this service in English, and thus got the traction that many people were willing to pay 30k for it. I hope their web editor gets a nice bonus.
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Old Sep 22, 22, 5:38 pm
  #1523  
 
Join Date: Nov 2020
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Originally Posted by seigex View Post
Defrauding is also getting your money back for services you say weren't rendered through the payment processor by, when they were definitely rendered in support of your ERFS certificate as per MOFA requirements. Don't be an entitled prick.



This wasn't just asking for services or reimbursement, you specifically mentioned pursuing a chargeback if you didn't get "a positive answer" from them.
Originally Posted by Andrew Davidson View Post
agreed, I wouldnt do a charge back, but I would ask the company if they are willing to give you a refund or a partial refund since its no longer required. Worst thing they can say is no. At the end of the day though, they provided the services and helped you get the visa. That required work on their end and its not their fault the regulations changed.
Thank you for your polite comment unlike some others here. Yes I agree they definitely did provide a service and I don't want to screw them either. I figured I'd ask and see if they can shave some off the price considering the circumstances now. The government's inept policy requiring them to provide all this lip service doesn't help anyone. I know some others also purchased airport transfers which was a nice addition to the certificate if indeed the certificate was no longer required on the mysterious future date that happened.
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Old Sep 22, 22, 5:39 pm
  #1524  
 
Join Date: Jan 2022
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Fun fact

Originally Posted by Agneisse View Post
I find it hard to believe anyone paid for the "visa application support", "itinerary management", and "support in emergency situations" or interpreted them to be anything other than lip service for bureaucracy. Everyone was after the backdoor ERFS so they could have certainty on the ability to (apply for a visa to) travel to Japan. How many of us even WANT people meddling with our (very straightforward) visa application and itinerary planning.

This reads like buyers remorse aka salt rather than genuinely feeling one did not receive the services paid for. It therefore seems unethical to threaten a chargeback. It is fair game to *ask* (and be willing to accept no) but at the end of the day they provided the ERFS, it's not their fault the ERFS is now obsolete.

Out of curiosity If JGA charged 20k (like Holigoes) or 10k (like jiankangshuo) to begin with would that have been acceptable or would there still be a chargeback threat?
I paid holigoes 20k, they sent the invoice with the details. They didnt force it on me. Said things could change, and no refund would be given. I waited close to 3 years for this trip. So I went ahead and secure the certificate for the Visa. Woke up to the news about japan opening up. Oh well, Im out about 140usd, not a big deal. I still get to come to japan.
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Old Sep 22, 22, 5:48 pm
  #1525  
 
Join Date: Sep 2022
Posts: 13
I bought from JGA and my trip is shortly after the requirement drops. Would it be great if I hadn't paid? Sure. But I'm glad I did. I was able to secure good reward flights, super cheap hotels and peace of mind after 2.5 years of cancellation. I'm convinced I saved more on hotels booking early than if I'd booked over the next week in any event.

JGA did a risky thing and it worked. Good for them.
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Old Sep 22, 22, 6:00 pm
  #1526  
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Originally Posted by williamluk View Post
I know the Japanese are xenophobic, but hearing from you just gives me a whole new perspective why they don’t like foreigners lol.
They don't call FT "Pirates Cove" and "Scam-o-rama" for nothing.......
Wouldn't it be hilarious if JGA is owned by some LDP'ers family and associated with the moonies !?
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Last edited by Q Shoe Guy; Sep 22, 22 at 6:14 pm
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Old Sep 22, 22, 6:12 pm
  #1527  
 
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Originally Posted by The American View Post
Thank you for your polite comment unlike some others here. Yes I agree they definitely did provide a service and I don't want to screw them either. I figured I'd ask and see if they can shave some off the price considering the circumstances now. The government's inept policy requiring them to provide all this lip service doesn't help anyone. I know some others also purchased airport transfers which was a nice addition to the certificate if indeed the certificate was no longer required on the mysterious future date that happened.
I did say you an entitled prick Honestly though this has been discussed in the past and the answer was the same, you're free to ask for a refund, but once they say no, then that's pretty much where it ends, as they did their part. I think what set people off this time was the chargeback comment. That's a good way to screw over a business trying to be legit as there are penalties by the credit card companies when a business is hit with too many chargebacks like increased merchant fees or even altogether losing access to visa/mastercard/etc..
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Old Sep 22, 22, 6:16 pm
  #1528  
 
Join Date: Nov 2020
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Originally Posted by seigex View Post
I did say you an entitled prick Honestly though this has been discussed in the past and the answer was the same, you're free to ask for a refund, but once they say no, then that's pretty much where it ends, as they did their part. I think what set people off this time was the chargeback comment. That's a good way to screw over a business trying to be legit as there are penalties by the credit card companies when a business is hit with too many chargebacks like increased merchant fees or even altogether losing access to visa/mastercard/etc..
Wow I didn't know that. Last time I did a partial chargeback was when we fell for the taxi scam in Paris (early in our travels, never again), I gave Chase the clear listing on the airport website thats the max that can be charged and she said are you sure you don't want to do a full one? I mean he did give me a ride it was just 3x the price everyone else charges!
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Old Sep 22, 22, 6:17 pm
  #1529  
 
Join Date: Sep 2022
Posts: 21
I arrive one week after Japan will drop the visa requirement, but I don't regret going the ERFS route since that is cutting it really close. I've been able to make plans having had my visa secured, and I don't expect a flood of visitors right away anyway. At least it'll be easy to get back in when I want to go again for future trips on short notice. I'm happy for everyone that it'll be easy to get in like before.
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Old Sep 22, 22, 6:17 pm
  #1530  
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A lot of winners and losers with this announcement. At least they waited until after the October long weekend !
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