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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 5, 22, 7:37 pm
  #511  
 
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Originally Posted by Fluff Ermine View Post
The euro is below parity, the won is almost 1400 to the dollar, and Latin America is in shambles. Arguably almost any country outside of the US is ripe for pickings. It's fine if you're desperate to get into Japan because you like it a ton / are a weeb (lol), but it's not as if there aren't many other attractive countries right now for visiting.
I don't care about the euro or the won though. I have a long history in Japan, lived there for a decade, have lots of friends I haven't been to an izakaya with in a couple years. I spent decades of my life learning the language. It's in important part of my life. $144 is a drop in the bucket.

I'm sitting here right now sharing some 25 year old Okinawan koshu and Hibiki 21 with the most important friends in my life. Japan obviously means something to me.

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Old Sep 5, 22, 7:38 pm
  #512  
 
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Originally Posted by Fluff Ermine View Post
The euro is below parity, the won is almost 1400 to the dollar, and Latin America is in shambles. Arguably almost any country outside of the US is ripe for pickings. It's fine if you're desperate to get into Japan because you like it a ton / are a weeb (lol), but it's not as if there aren't many other attractive countries right now for visiting.
Frankly this line of thinking is idiotic. Not everyone who loves Japan loved it because they're a weeb who watches anime. But even if they are, who are you to crap on them?

Also, you do realize you're in a forum specially for people who want to travel to Japan right?
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Old Sep 5, 22, 7:49 pm
  #513  
 
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Originally Posted by TravisMT81 View Post
When did they raise the fee to 30,000 yens?
Overnight (US) last Friday I think? It was basically 20k yen for the first two days after they launched the service, then as word spread they obviously were getting slammed with requests. I'm more surprised they haven't raised it again.
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Old Sep 5, 22, 9:26 pm
  #514  
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I guess in a year from now we will find out who the bag men are and who was being paid off.......
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Old Sep 5, 22, 10:37 pm
  #515  
 
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Originally Posted by seigex View Post
Frankly this line of thinking is idiotic. Not everyone who loves Japan loved it because they're a weeb who watches anime. But even if they are, who are you to crap on them?

Also, you do realize you're in a forum specially for people who want to travel to Japan right?
For me I want to go before the crowds hit Japan again.
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Old Sep 6, 22, 1:39 am
  #516  
 
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Originally Posted by justxmoiii View Post
I was kinda curious whether there were any other companies that could help get an ERFS if you have pre-existing flight tickets & booked hotels. I then stumbled upon 'Japan Adventure Club' (but their website is called japanexpotours for some reason). Anyone know this company? I'm not sure how I feel about their legit-ness, but they offered some interesting ways to get the ERFS. This is what they sent me:OPTION 1:

We will book the first night hotel for you. You can tell us which hotel we should book and what type of room you will need. Yes, we only need to book you for one night. You can book the rest of your stay. Then there is a USD199/person ERFS filing fee. The hotel will appear on the ERFS and proves that we have booked for you. If you have booked your first night, you may change your reservation to the second night.

OPTION 2:

You can book a round-trip airport transfer plus a one-day city tour transfer (any day tour, for example, a day tour to Mt Fuji). You book the hotels and everything yourself. We will only take the $49/person ERFS filing fee. If you book multiple transfer services in the cities or between the cities (for example, from Osaka to Kyoto), we will waive the ERFS fee.

Option one seems like a way to circumvent the possible problem where they immigration officers might check whether the hotel was booked by the agency or not (if they were to only check for the first night of course). This might be an interesting extra safety step for those just wanting the ERFS but are afraid of the process at immigration. Not sure if they'll provide a stamped itinerary though, like JGA does. Just wanted to throw this out there as a possible alternative to JGA, although as I said myself, I'm not sure about their legitimacy and I don't feel confident booking with them ATM.
I'm skeptical because:
* I don't find any credentials or registration as a travel agency in Japan.
* You listed prices, but I can't find any prices on their site. Why they don't list them on their website?

These points may be minor, but:
* Their phone numbers are a US toll free and a Texas numbers. I get their customer base is mostly in US, but why they don't list their number in Japan?
* No pages in Japanese. Some visitors to Japan may be more fluent in Japanese than in English, I find it odd all information is in English.

On the other hand, JGA looks a lot more legit, it claims to be registered as a TA in Shizuoka. Their capital however, is really small at mere JPY 10 million or USD 71k. I can't find their phone numbers, though, they seem to be reached by only emails or web forms:
https://www.j-g-a.org/company.html

Last edited by maverikbc; Sep 6, 22 at 2:07 am
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Old Sep 6, 22, 2:12 am
  #517  
 
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Originally Posted by Heliface View Post
Is **eVisa** for GUIDED tour only? This is the language on the eVisa website when beginning the first steps of the evisa process:



Hoping this is just outdated information.

EDIT: I'm also finding this information on their main page:


Wondering if anyone here is getting approved for eVisas for self guided tours stays.
Not to worryI asked about it by email, and I received a reply saying the eVIsa is good for unguided tour as well.
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Old Sep 6, 22, 3:27 am
  #518  
 
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Originally Posted by maverikbc View Post
I'm skeptical because:
* Their phone numbers are a US toll free and a Texas numbers. I get their customer base is mostly in US, but why they don't list their number in Japan?
they do have some kind of Japanese presence, but its pretty thin online.

1-16-15 Minami-Ikebukuro, Tokyo 171-0022 Toll Free: (81) 0120-260-230

From: https://japanexpotours.com/contact-us

Ive had some correspondence with them, Ill ask them for proof of their travel agent registration in Japan next.
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Last edited by dvydra; Sep 6, 22 at 3:36 am
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Old Sep 6, 22, 7:30 am
  #519  
 
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Any update on this?
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Old Sep 6, 22, 8:41 am
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Originally Posted by MrJBoy View Post
Not to worryI asked about it by email, and I received a reply saying the eVIsa is good for unguided tour as well.
Thank you! That helps.
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Old Sep 6, 22, 9:19 am
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Does anyone know what happens if you do not have a middle name?
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Old Sep 6, 22, 9:22 am
  #522  
 
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Originally Posted by TravisMT81 View Post
Does anyone know what happens if you do not have a middle name?
If you dont have a middle name, thats fine. The ERFS name just has to match your passport name exactly. A lot of people with middle names in their passports were forgetting to put them on their ERFS certificates.
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Old Sep 6, 22, 10:54 am
  #523  
 
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Guidelines seem to be out, in Japanese: https://www.mlit.go.jp/kankocho/content/001510889.pdf
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Old Sep 6, 22, 10:57 am
  #524  
 
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are these guidelines different than the ones released last week to the tour companies ?
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Old Sep 6, 22, 11:01 am
  #525  
 
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Originally Posted by justcry22 View Post
are these guidelines different than the ones released last week to the tour companies ?
Yes, this is the Q&A document that clarifies the previous guidelines.
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