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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 4, 22, 7:00 pm
  #436  
 
Join Date: Oct 2021
Posts: 76
Originally Posted by atcanobbio View Post
any idea what might happen to the EFRS/VISA if there's last minute changes to flights due to cancellations/weather and one ends up arriving to TYO on the same dates but different flight numbers as previously given to JGA?
I believe the ERFS might be able to be updated and reissued by JGA? Not sure how that affects the visa though.
dyrtydave is offline  
Old Sep 4, 22, 7:09 pm
  #437  
 
Join Date: Sep 2022
Posts: 8
I emailed Japan Experience to ask if they provide a similar service to what JGA is providing. This was their response:

WHAT ARE THE NEW ENTRY RULES?
  • Book a self guided organised trip sponsored by a travel agency registered with the ERFS system (we are registered and certified)
  • Apply for a visa in your country of residence
  • Obtain a ERFS certificate through us (Please note that we cannot provide the ERFS certificates if you have not booked a tour with us, if you have already booked accommodation by yourself, regrettably we are unable to assist, but feel free to book your own flights).
  • Present adequate travel insurance (to cover medical assistance and late cancellation whatever the reason)
So they can give you an ERFS if you book their tour with hotels, but provide your own flights. That is already different from the official rules that say the agency has to arrange both flights and hotels. Is every agency just following their own rules at this point? If that's the case, I guess going through JGA is likely not an issue?
flompydomp is offline  
Old Sep 4, 22, 7:40 pm
  #438  
 
Join Date: Oct 2021
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Originally Posted by flompydomp View Post
I emailed Japan Experience to ask if they provide a similar service to what JGA is providing. This was their response:



So they can give you an ERFS if you book their tour with hotels, but provide your own flights. That is already different from the official rules that say the agency has to arrange both flights and hotels. Is every agency just following their own rules at this point? If that's the case, I guess going through JGA is likely not an issue?
Pretty clear they just want to make additional income by booking hotel accommodations with partners.

All this worrying about JAG because of what guidelines say is likely for nothing...there are currently travel agencies offering guided tours that allow travelers to book their own flights. Not really concerned with this, but we'll see.
dyrtydave is offline  
Old Sep 4, 22, 7:47 pm
  #439  
 
Join Date: Apr 2022
Location: Kanto
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Originally Posted by dyrtydave View Post
.there are currently travel agencies offering guided tours that allow travelers to book their own flights.
With the guided tours which have been happening all summer, there wasn't any requirement for flights to be booked with the agency.

The flight booking thing is a new regulation for the un-guided tours.

The reasoning is that if someone does not have a guide seeing them off at the airport on departure from Japan, then someone on an un-guided tour can change their tickets and stay longer (or enter earlier) than "allowed" and not be under the supervision of their sponsoring agency.
alan11 is offline  
Old Sep 4, 22, 7:53 pm
  #440  
 
Join Date: Oct 2021
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Originally Posted by alan11 View Post
With the guided tours which have been happening all summer, there wasn't any requirement for flights to be booked with the agency.

The flight booking thing is a new regulation for the un-guided tours.

The reasoning is that if someone does not have a guide seeing them off at the airport on departure from Japan, then someone on an un-guided tour can change their tickets and stay longer (or enter earlier) than "allowed" and not be under the supervision of their sponsoring agency.
Doesn't the visa and ERFS form say when you can enter? I guess you're right about the part of changing the departing flight I suppose? But then that would just mean you would lie to the agency? I mean, what keeps you from doing that on a guided tour? You can just decide not to actually board your flight after check in and then you're free to do the same?
dyrtydave is offline  
Old Sep 4, 22, 8:15 pm
  #441  
 
Join Date: Apr 2022
Location: Kanto
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Originally Posted by dyrtydave View Post
Doesn't the visa and ERFS form say when you can enter? I guess you're right about the part of changing the departing flight I suppose? But then that would just mean you would lie to the agency? I mean, what keeps you from doing that on a guided tour? You can just decide not to actually board your flight after check in and then you're free to do the same?
I don't know how far the guide goes in the airport with people on the guided tours, but it could be right up to immigration. But to actually ditch a flight after checking in would probably be a big issue for the airline.
As far as "lying" to the agency, do you actually think many people care? It seems like lots of people are already looking to flout some of the "rules" in order to gain entry, such that there is debate over how strict they J-authorities may be in enforcement. If there was no bending of rules, then there would be no concern about strictness.
alan11 is offline  
Old Sep 4, 22, 9:02 pm
  #442  
 
Join Date: Apr 2022
Location: Kanto
Posts: 134
Originally Posted by valdor View Post
Unless you need to be hospitalized, don't get an official test (do an antigen test at home instead). This way you won't run into any issues and can comfortably self-isolate at your hotel.
So, let's unpack this a bit. If you suspect you have Covid while in Japan through a self-booked trip via a no-frills outfit like JGA, you suggest to avoid getting tested or seeking medical treatment unless so sick you need hospitalization? And this is because... you need to fly under the radar of authorities because you'd worry about "running into issues" due to not properly booking your trip under the stated requirements?

And then, you say to "comfortably self-isolate at your hotel"? How many people intend to stay their entire trip at the same hotel? Most usually plan to move locations every day or two (along with often multi-hour trips on train, plane, or bus in between). Not so comfortable to do with a fever. And then there's this:

Japan to let hotels deny service to suspected COVID cases
https://asia.nikkei.com/Spotlight/Co...ed-COVID-cases

So you mean to "hunker down" by extending your booking at the current hotel (and not explain specifically why you're doing so to the front desk)? Hope they aren't already booked for the following days. It also means canceling your other bookings, maybe even changing your departure flight. Sounds like a nice extra expense...

Oh right, thats why you have travel insurance, correct? Yeah, there's a lot of talk here wondering how strict immigration will be with checking booking sources, or if hotels or airlines will do the same (I would be 99% confident they won't), but you know who almost certainly will investigate this stuff?

Insurance claim adjusters.

Do people think travel insurance companies are naive to the current entry requirements? It's literally their business to know. And aside from medical costs (whether for Covid or any other health issue needing treatment), any reimbursement for change of travel plans, like hotels and flights, would be reimbursed to whomever paid, and they would almost certainly know someone should be booking things for Japan travel through travel agents right now.

So this is what you're left with:
-if you get sick or have any health issue or accident, avoid getting medical treatment so you don't get busted by the authorities.
-if you need to change your travel plans for any reason, you may have to pay out pocket since the insurance you bought may not cover it.
-if you have a serious medical issue and finally accept the fact you need to get help but in doing so you're allowing yourself to potentially have an "issue" with authorities, you may also not get this treatment covered by your insurance since you are potentially in the country under false pretenses based on the interpretation of the requirements of an insurance company which will probably use whatever excuse possible to not pay.

Sound like a nice relaxing trip. Are people that desperate to travel to Japan?
alan11 is offline  
Old Sep 4, 22, 9:07 pm
  #443  
 
Join Date: Jan 2019
Posts: 56
im generally a risk averse person but some of yall are off the rails
ja70 is offline  
Old Sep 4, 22, 9:40 pm
  #444  
 
Join Date: Oct 2021
Posts: 76
Originally Posted by alan11 View Post
So, let's unpack this a bit. If you suspect you have Covid while in Japan through a self-booked trip via a no-frills outfit like JGA, you suggest to avoid getting tested or seeking medical treatment unless so sick you need hospitalization? And this is because... you need to fly under the radar of authorities because you'd worry about "running into issues" due to not properly booking your trip under the stated requirements?

And then, you say to "comfortably self-isolate at your hotel"? How many people intend to stay their entire trip at the same hotel? Most usually plan to move locations every day or two (along with often multi-hour trips on train, plane, or bus in between). Not so comfortable to do with a fever. And then there's this:

Japan to let hotels deny service to suspected COVID cases
https://asia.nikkei.com/Spotlight/Co...ed-COVID-cases

So you mean to "hunker down" by extending your booking at the current hotel (and not explain specifically why you're doing so to the front desk)? Hope they aren't already booked for the following days. It also means canceling your other bookings, maybe even changing your departure flight. Sounds like a nice extra expense...

Oh right, thats why you have travel insurance, correct? Yeah, there's a lot of talk here wondering how strict immigration will be with checking booking sources, or if hotels or airlines will do the same (I would be 99% confident they won't), but you know who almost certainly will investigate this stuff?

Insurance claim adjusters.

Do people think travel insurance companies are naive to the current entry requirements? It's literally their business to know. And aside from medical costs (whether for Covid or any other health issue needing treatment), any reimbursement for change of travel plans, like hotels and flights, would be reimbursed to whomever paid, and they would almost certainly know someone should be booking things for Japan travel through travel agents right now.

So this is what you're left with:
-if you get sick or have any health issue or accident, avoid getting medical treatment so you don't get busted by the authorities.
-if you need to change your travel plans for any reason, you may have to pay out pocket since the insurance you bought may not cover it.
-if you have a serious medical issue and finally accept the fact you need to get help but in doing so you're allowing yourself to potentially have an "issue" with authorities, you may also not get this treatment covered by your insurance since you are potentially in the country under false pretenses based on the interpretation of the requirements of an insurance company which will probably use whatever excuse possible to not pay.

Sound like a nice relaxing trip. Are people that desperate to travel to Japan?
I mean, how is this any different from travel anywhere else in the world? Covid is part of every day life, and traveling during this time is fraught with more worries than usual. It's not unmanageable, you just know it going in.
Steve M and HarryLime like this.
dyrtydave is offline  
Old Sep 4, 22, 10:05 pm
  #445  
 
Join Date: Apr 2022
Location: Kanto
Posts: 134
Originally Posted by dyrtydave View Post
I mean, how is this any different from travel anywhere else in the world? Covid is part of every day life, and traveling during this time is fraught with more worries than usual. It's not unmanageable, you just know it going in.
How is Japan different than anywhere else with Covid? Please give one example of any country on earth which has a similarly strict entry situation to consider and ridiculous travel requirements to deal with. North Korea? Russia?
alan11 is offline  
Old Sep 4, 22, 10:11 pm
  #446  
 
Join Date: Oct 2021
Posts: 76
Originally Posted by alan11 View Post
How is Japan different than anywhere else with Covid? Please give one example of any country on earth which has a similarly strict entry situation to consider and ridiculous travel requirements to deal with. North Korea? Russia?
Oh, I didn't mean in relation to the ridiculous policies. You're absolutely right there. I meant, your options if you get covid though are largely the same traveling anywhere else (without some added Japanese wrinkles).
dyrtydave is offline  
Old Sep 4, 22, 10:44 pm
  #447  
 
Join Date: Mar 2013
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Originally Posted by alan11 View Post
So, let's unpack this a bit. If you suspect you have Covid while in Japan through a self-booked trip via a no-frills outfit like JGA, you suggest to avoid getting tested or seeking medical treatment unless so sick you need hospitalization? And this is because... you need to fly under the radar of authorities because you'd worry about "running into issues" due to not properly booking your trip under the stated requirements?

And then, you say to "comfortably self-isolate at your hotel"? How many people intend to stay their entire trip at the same hotel? Most usually plan to move locations every day or two (along with often multi-hour trips on train, plane, or bus in between). Not so comfortable to do with a fever. And then there's this:

Japan to let hotels deny service to suspected COVID cases
https://asia.nikkei.com/Spotlight/Co...ed-COVID-cases

So you mean to "hunker down" by extending your booking at the current hotel (and not explain specifically why you're doing so to the front desk)? Hope they aren't already booked for the following days. It also means canceling your other bookings, maybe even changing your departure flight. Sounds like a nice extra expense...

Oh right, thats why you have travel insurance, correct? Yeah, there's a lot of talk here wondering how strict immigration will be with checking booking sources, or if hotels or airlines will do the same (I would be 99% confident they won't), but you know who almost certainly will investigate this stuff?

Insurance claim adjusters.

Do people think travel insurance companies are naive to the current entry requirements? It's literally their business to know. And aside from medical costs (whether for Covid or any other health issue needing treatment), any reimbursement for change of travel plans, like hotels and flights, would be reimbursed to whomever paid, and they would almost certainly know someone should be booking things for Japan travel through travel agents right now.

So this is what you're left with:
-if you get sick or have any health issue or accident, avoid getting medical treatment so you don't get busted by the authorities.
-if you need to change your travel plans for any reason, you may have to pay out pocket since the insurance you bought may not cover it.
-if you have a serious medical issue and finally accept the fact you need to get help but in doing so you're allowing yourself to potentially have an "issue" with authorities, you may also not get this treatment covered by your insurance since you are potentially in the country under false pretenses based on the interpretation of the requirements of an insurance company which will probably use whatever excuse possible to not pay.

Sound like a nice relaxing trip. Are people that desperate to travel to Japan?
I wasnt referring to the risk of getting busted by the authorities, I was referring to the risk of being sent to managed quarantine.
valdor is offline  
Old Sep 4, 22, 10:50 pm
  #448  
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Originally Posted by valdor View Post
I wasnt referring to the risk of getting busted by the authorities, I was referring to the risk of being sent to managed quarantine.
The place you'd be sent after a positive test would be worse in mainland China or Hong Kong. There was also a report here on FT of this happening to someone during a trip to South Korea and their quarantine place sounded gruesome too.
MSPeconomist is offline  
Old Sep 4, 22, 11:24 pm
  #449  
 
Join Date: Apr 2022
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Originally Posted by MSPeconomist View Post
The place you'd be sent after a positive test would be worse in mainland China or Hong Kong. There was also a report here on FT of this happening to someone during a trip to South Korea and their quarantine place sounded gruesome too.
Actually, a business traveler to Japan on FT described his quarantine in Yokohama a couple months ago. Not really 'gruesome" but certainly not fun. Had to change his flights and arrange the quarantine via his company sponsor.
Fortunately the government paid for his quarantine, food, transport, etc but with tourists the government is pretty clear they won't cover any such bills. Hence the need for insurance... and hence the issue of wondering if insurance will actually cover such a claim if one is not traveling "by the book".
alan11 is offline  
Old Sep 4, 22, 11:35 pm
  #450  
 
Join Date: Sep 2022
Posts: 9
Originally Posted by alan11 View Post
Actually, a business traveler to Japan on FT described his quarantine in Yokohama a couple months ago. Not really 'gruesome" but certainly not fun. Had to change his flights and arrange the quarantine via his company sponsor.
Fortunately the government paid for his quarantine, food, transport, etc but with tourists the government is pretty clear they won't cover any such bills. Hence the need for insurance... and hence the issue of wondering if insurance will actually cover such a claim if one is not traveling "by the book".
The quarantine hotel in Yokohama is the APA hotel that the government leased completely from the company. small business hotel rooms. and cold bento box food
mintmajesty is offline  

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