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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 3, 22, 9:03 pm
  #391  
 
Join Date: Sep 2022
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Has anyone gone through JGA used AirBNBs?

Has anyone from Australia had a JGA EFRS based visa approved yet?

I’ve got a 40 day trip planned in mid-November fully booked, and this thread is giving me a modicum of hope.
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Old Sep 3, 22, 9:17 pm
  #392  
 
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Originally Posted by alan11 View Post
Before Covid, 6 months validity on entry was needed for visa-waiver tourists.
I don't believe that to be true.

What Steve M says above is true about having a valid passport on both entry and departure, but a tourist definitely can not intend to renew their passport while in Japan (other than if it was lost and replaced while in the country by their embassy) That he was somehow allowed to enter with 2 week validity is an anomaly and shouldn't be expected to be OK.
I just checked TIMATIC for Japan, and it confirmed my understanding:

Passports and other documents accepted for entry must be valid on arrival.


The requirement is stated simply and means what it says. The only requirement is that be valid upon arrival. It doesn't even say "through period of intended stay" as it does for some countries. Compare this with what is on file for France - this is how TIMATIC will state such requirements:

Passports and other documents accepted for entry must be valid for a minimum of 3 months beyond the period of intended stay.


I don't think I was "somehow allowed" to enter with 2 weeks' validity. I was allowed to enter because I met the requirements.
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Old Sep 3, 22, 9:28 pm
  #393  
 
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Originally Posted by alan11 View Post
the whole visa thing now is evolving.
It will be interesting to see how things change over time.

Originally Posted by Xenochria View Post
BTW my number for my JGA ERFS application was 439xxx, and the middle name correction that I received about 24 hours later was 444xxx. Sounds like about 5000 applications in 24 hours?
And, didn't we see numbers in the 8xxx and 9xxx range just a couple of days ago? When I first saw the above, I thought "Gee, this thing is going to get backlogged very quickly." Thinking about it a bit more, probably not, at least on the ERFS site and the issuance of eVisas (depending of course on the workload at your local consulate). Since they plan to raise the number of entries allowed per day from 20k to 50k as of next Wednesday, and nothing else really has changed very recently, presumably the extra 30k per day would all come from the new tourist ERFS system that starts the same day. That means the system needs to be able to process and issue 30k of these ERFS tourist entries per day, on average, if they were to hit the new cap. I doubt JGA will be able handle that many :-), but I'm sure that JTB and others hope to have their fingers in the pie.
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Old Sep 3, 22, 9:50 pm
  #394  
 
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I don't think the expectation is the entire extra 30k people allowed in per day will be using ERFS system. I know a lot of Japanese were equally reluctant to leave the country due to the valid fear they might test positive before their return flight to Japan and be stuck in a foreign country longer than expected. With the removal of that test for them as well I expect a larger percentage of Japanese might be willing to travel internationally and make up a good percentage of that extra 30k.
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Old Sep 3, 22, 9:58 pm
  #395  
 
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Originally Posted by ts.pub View Post
I don't think the expectation is the entire extra 30k people allowed in per day will be using ERFS system. I know a lot of Japanese were equally reluctant to leave the country due to the valid fear they might test positive before their return flight to Japan and be stuck in a foreign country longer than expected. With the removal of that test for them as well I expect a larger percentage of Japanese might be willing to travel internationally and make up a good percentage of that extra 30k.
Good point - I forgot about the removal of the testing requirement. Side note: it seems to me that if they were really concerned about controlling COVID while expanding tourism, they'd have kept the testing requirement in place for everyone (citizens, residents, and visitors) instead of removing that and implementing ERFS. But I digress.

Personally, I've never considered a testing requirement to be that big a deal. I figure that if I'm leaving for somewhere and I have an active case of COVID, I'd much rather know about it before I left so I could postpone rather than not know until it flared up mid-trip. But as you point out, it's a different calculus for people returning to their own country, where a positive test could delay your return. But, that is kinda selfish, don't you think - the only time a positive COVID test would delay your return to your own country is when you had COVID, in which case a responsible person wouldn't want to board an airplane and expose everyone else to it.
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Old Sep 3, 22, 11:11 pm
  #396  
 
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I've read your updates to eVisa application.

Has your mySOS app turned from red/yellow to green/blue yet? My understanding is that this is needed to show at the airport.
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Old Sep 4, 22, 12:20 am
  #397  
 
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Originally Posted by Steve M View Post
The requirement is stated simply and means what it says. The only requirement is that be valid upon arrival. It doesn't even say "through period of intended stay" as it does for some countries. Compare this with what is on file for France - this is how TIMATIC will state such requirements:
Actually, you are correct about no 6 months (sorry to anyone for the false info! ) . I sought out the Japanese gov's actual immigration site and it says valid during the length of stay (so it does mean no intention of passport renewal while in Japan), and on the Japanese embassy of Australian website I found it specifically:

Q. Do I need at least six months validity left on my passport to enter Japan?
A. The remaining period of validity on your passport does not have to be at least six months. Please ensure your passport is valid for your trip and return. We recommend that you check the regulations of your airline before travelling with less than six months passport validity.
https://www.au.emb-japan.go.jp/itpr_en/visa_faq_en.html

As far as necessary timeframes of validity for visa issuance (which can be utilized usually up to 3 months thereafter), again, the embassy or consulate should be contacted since this info isn't explicitly stated anywhere I checked (but I would imagine they might indeed ask for 6 months from date of visa issue with a 90 day visa, which if maxxed out on a 3 month post-issue departure would then equal 6 months. But who knows with these new tourist visas, I heard they were only giving 30 day visas.)

(Steve, I edited my original post above regarding the correction)

Last edited by alan11; Sep 4, 22 at 1:13 am
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Old Sep 4, 22, 1:02 am
  #398  
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Originally Posted by DeathByOstrich View Post
I've read your updates to eVisa application.

Has your mySOS app turned from red/yellow to green/blue yet? My understanding is that this is needed to show at the airport.
You need to fill in the questionnaire and submit the vaccine certificate from 72 hours before departure and 6 hours before arrival. And gave it done in time to show a blue screen when checking in.
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Old Sep 4, 22, 1:07 am
  #399  
 
Join Date: Apr 2022
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Embassy in US says the passport must be "valid for period of stay":
Q I would like to visit Japan for one week in August as a tourist but my passport is valid until October. Does my passport have to be valid for at least six months?
A Any foreign visitor who wishes to enter Japan must have a passport, which will remain valid during the period of stay. However, if you have a U.S. Refugee travel document or a U.S.re-entry permit (permit to re-enter), we require 6 months of validity. If you have a temporary passport, emergency passport or other types of travel documents, please contact us in advance.
https://www.sf.us.emb-japan.go.jp/it...m02_01_08.html

Last edited by alan11; Sep 4, 22 at 1:14 am
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Old Sep 4, 22, 3:22 am
  #400  
 
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What’s the consensus on the new unguided tour rules in regards to having the trip fully booked beforehand? Is that a no go? I think the Japanese government recently “clarified” that flights and hotels have to be arranged by the agent. Wondering if this will be required in practice.
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Old Sep 4, 22, 3:29 am
  #401  
 
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Originally Posted by Xenochria View Post
BTW my number for my JGA ERFS application was 439xxx, and the middle name correction that I received about 24 hours later was 444xxx. Sounds like about 5000 applications in 24 hours? 150mil yen at 30k each...
ERFS numbers are systemwide and not agency specific. Also, I've seen agencies on non-english websites offering the same service, sometimes at prices significantly lower than 30k yen so it's not like JGA is the only one submitting ERFS.

One of them even "helpfully" advised me to wait and see until later this month (my trip is not until American Thanksgiving) as they think ERFS may be scrapped by then (I'm sure we've all learned our lessons over the past two years to take speculation on this topic with a massive grain of salt).
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Last edited by Agneisse; Sep 4, 22 at 3:34 am
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Old Sep 4, 22, 3:33 am
  #402  
 
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Originally Posted by Heliface View Post
What’s the consensus on the new unguided tour rules in regards to having the trip fully booked beforehand? Is that a no go? I think the Japanese government recently “clarified” that flights and hotels have to be arranged by the agent. Wondering if this will be required in practice.
​​​​​​​seems like there are a few agencies who don't care, and nobody is sure if the government could tell anyway...
so for now, the answer is "wait for people to be allowed in/denied entry"
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Old Sep 4, 22, 3:41 am
  #403  
 
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Originally Posted by dvydra View Post
seems like there are a few agencies who don't care, and nobody is sure if the government could tell anyway...
so for now, the answer is "wait for people to be allowed in/denied entry"
I've seen some agencies interpret that the rule is for them to be "involved", and which are happy to receive a copy of the itinerary followed by daily check-in text messages on health status and confirming you are in the right city/hotel while in Japan.

My personal view is that the government wouldn't check/care, the same way they have must know some people "attended conferences/meetings/events" for one day and then vacationed for multiple subsequent days, over the past few months. If they didn't clamp down on those (for instance by issuing visas for the specific number of days of the conference program) they probably wouldn't start now.

​​​​​​​
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Old Sep 4, 22, 3:49 am
  #404  
 
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Originally Posted by Agneisse View Post
Also, I've seen agencies on non-english websites offering the same service, sometimes at prices significantly lower than 30k yen so it's not like JGA is the only one submitting ERFS.
Is there a list of anywhere of agencies offering this? I've only seen JGA and heard rumours of others

I'm not travelling until mid-November, but I'll hedge with a "non-guided tour" if needed.
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Old Sep 4, 22, 3:59 am
  #405  
 
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Originally Posted by dvydra View Post
Is there a list of anywhere of agencies offering this? I've only seen JGA and heard rumours of others

I'm not travelling until mid-November, but I'll hedge with a "non-guided tour" if needed.
JGA seems to be the one making the rounds here and on Reddit.

I'm not comfortable making recommendations or lists that can give off the appearance of legitimacy as I've not properly investigated any of them beyond a PM or two, but if you can read the languages of country/ies that sent significant numbers of tourists to Japan pre-pandemic (such as Korean, Thai, or Chinese [either script]) and log on to the social media channels used in these societies, some Japan-based agencies which previously worked with these inbound markets are advertising a JGA-esque service.

I've seen some quotes of 8-10k yen per head and even offers for full payment to be due after visa granted supposedly because the agency can cancel the ERFS at any time.

Last edited by Agneisse; Sep 4, 22 at 4:13 am
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