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Refused entry to Japan

Refused entry to Japan

Old Oct 10, 2022, 9:44 pm
  #1  
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Refused entry to Japan

Curious to know if this has happened to anyone else and how you or United handled it...had plans to visit the Shigeru Kawai piano factory (Hamamatsu Japan) arranged months in advance. Hired a Japanese "government licensed tour guide" as it was required at the time of booking to obtain a visa. Booked round trip business class for a five day trip. Filled out all info on the United "travel ready" site. Tour guide requested all usual info "in order to get you your visa," such as passport number, flight info, hotel address, etc. A few days later she emailed a copy of my "visa." Arrived at Haneda two days ago and was told the visa was not done correctly. We were immediately escorted back to a United departure gate for deportation. They initially assigned me and my son coach seats which seemed like the worst part of it. Eventually moved to business when they realized business seats were going out empty. United planned on leaving me in Chicago to find my way home, though that was not my departing airport. I had to argue for them to get me back to my final US destination.

As of October 11 this is a non-issue as the visa requirement is gone for US citizens. It seems that this is something that should have been caught by the tour guide I paid to handle this matter or perhaps the United agent who confirmed to me that it was a valid visa when I checked in for the flight. Short of going to a Japanese embassy to have them review it, I'm not sure how I would know whether it was sufficient. Besides being out thousands in air fare, the discomfort of prolonged travel, we missed the piano tour which was arranged for my family. When I asked the United agent upon re-entering the US they say they bear no responsibility for checking documents. I asked them why they bother checking them then, and they had no answer. The tour guide apologized and had no answer as to why this happened. Hoping to avoid such unpleasantries in the future if anyone has been through something similar.
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Old Oct 10, 2022, 9:50 pm
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I think you need to go back to the tour organizer who "took care" of your visa and put some pressure on them. The visa was their responsibiity and Japan Immigraton is saying that it was not done correctly. The tour organizer needs to contact Immigration and find out what went wrong.
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Old Oct 10, 2022, 9:50 pm
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This is definitely not UA's problem and UA has no responsibility to you. It is 100% the traveler's responsibilty to make sure the visa is valid - not United. You paid United for transportation, not visa validation services. United did you a favor by returning you to your origin (apparently w/o extra $ paid) - they could have charged you a change fee and fare difference prior to boarding in Japan for your return trip. Applicable part of Contract of Carriage:

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Last edited by IAH-OIL-TRASH; Oct 10, 2022 at 10:00 pm
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Old Oct 10, 2022, 9:59 pm
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I wouldn't say they have "no responsibility" as by law they are responsible for removing me from Japan when immigration stated I didn't meet the entry qualifications. I'm not expecting United to be proficient in visas from multiple countries but if they can't reliably identify a good one from a bad one, what is the point of showing them this document. They vouch for the credibility of many other documents such as the passport being valid, the COVID vaccine card being legitimate, etc.
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Old Oct 10, 2022, 10:03 pm
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Originally Posted by donjo
I wouldn't say they have "no responsibility" as by law they are responsible for removing me from Japan when immigration stated I didn't meet the entry qualifications. I'm not expecting United to be proficient in visas from multiple countries but if they can't reliably identify a good one from a bad one, what is the point of showing them this document. They vouch for the credibility of many other documents such as the passport being valid, the COVID vaccine card being legitimate, etc.
At that point, UA has a responsibilty to the Japanese government (not you) to remove you from Japan - a subtle, but important, difference. If you read the CoC, at that point UA can come after you for change in fare, etc. A lot of people don't read the contract of carriage they agreed to when purchasing the ticket and assume what you are assuming. That being said, the CoC clearly negates UA's responsibility here.The fault lies with whoever arranged it.

UA is required sometimes to make a good faith effort to check visas, but they don't go into detail of them beyond a minimal scan - usually of the validity dates and country. UA can't verify the actual validity of a visa beyond a superficial check (UA puts that on the passenger) - and UA does assume the risk that the destination authorities may put a passenger back on a return flight.

Last edited by IAH-OIL-TRASH; Oct 10, 2022 at 10:21 pm
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Old Oct 10, 2022, 10:25 pm
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Originally Posted by donjo
.... I'm not expecting United to be proficient in visas from multiple countries but if they can't reliably identify a good one from a bad one, what is the point of showing them this document. They vouch for the credibility of many other documents such as the passport being valid, the COVID vaccine card being legitimate, etc.
UA does not vouch for the validity of any document. They are required to check you have the needed documents but the validity determination is made by the appropriate government / border official. If UA did as you suggested, there would be no need to the border officials.

You really expect a counter or gate agent to have the same level of proficiency as border officials when agents may be checking documents for hundreds of countries. Again their requirement is to check you have a visa and the border official will determine if is valid for entry. You are looking to the wrong party to blame. You and your tour agent bear the responsibly for this issue (assuming the border official did not make mistake).

You are lucky UA had business class space because there was no obligation to provide you with a business class seat -- UA was required by Japan to get you out of Japan as soon as possible, on the next flight and not the next flight with business class seats.

Last edited by WineCountryUA; Oct 10, 2022 at 10:31 pm Reason: typo
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Old Oct 10, 2022, 10:32 pm
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On the whole I agree with you. The responsible person is the traveler. My question is how/where to verify such a document prior to landing 12 hours across the globe. And certainly UA "does vouch" for the validity of certain documents, such as their own boarding passes. I would never assume that an average gate agent possesses the discernment of a border crossing agent with regard to documents unique to that process. I'm just trying to learn from those of you with knowledge in this area. It is appreciated.
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Old Oct 10, 2022, 10:42 pm
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Originally Posted by donjo
Arrived at Haneda two days ago and was told the visa was not done correctly.
In what way exactly was the visa "not done correctly"?

Originally Posted by donjo
...if they can't reliably identify a good one from a bad one, what is the point of showing them this document.
If OP, a seasoned traveler, could not identify that the visa was a 'bad one' then is it not too much to expect the United agent to do so?
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Old Oct 10, 2022, 10:46 pm
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Originally Posted by donjo
... And certainly UA "does vouch" for the validity of certain documents, such as their own boarding passes. ....
UA vouches you posses entry documents but not that the documents are valid or appropriate for you. BPs are a internal UA document, not a government issued document.

There is a Japanese Consulate in Houston, they may have been able to exam the document
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Old Oct 10, 2022, 10:50 pm
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Originally Posted by ani90
In what way exactly was the visa "not done correctly"?
I was not told. I called the travel agent I had hired and allowed her to speak to the border agent. I still do not know in what way it was insufficient.

If OP, a seasoned traveler, could not identify that the visa was a 'bad one' then is it not too much to expect the United agent to do so?
Although I have been to Japan a number of times, this was the first time which required a visa. What I was emailed looked very much like a Turkish e-visa I had recently used. Thus my question, is there a clearinghouse which can validate important documents such as these prior to departure to prevent another passenger like myself being inconvenienced.
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Old Oct 10, 2022, 10:50 pm
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Originally Posted by donjo
...And certainly UA "does vouch" for the validity of certain documents, such as their own boarding passes....
They don't "vouch" for visas - they do look to at it to see that it looks legit, but they do not verify that it IS legit. UA hopes the passenger has seen to it themselves that they have the correct entry documents so UA doesn't have to bring you back.

I managed an office in Russia for 3 years a while back, so visas were a regular hassle. One of our people got on the corporate jet in Nagoya and flew into Sakhalin (NNW of Hokkaido Island) with a visa not valid for 3 days. We didn't have a flight scheduled for a while, so the Russians allowed him to sleep in the airport immigration meeting room for that time. None of us liked him, so I made no effort to get him out early and we sent him cold leftovers to eat It was definitely on him to check his visa.

Last edited by IAH-OIL-TRASH; Oct 10, 2022 at 11:02 pm
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Old Oct 10, 2022, 11:00 pm
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Originally Posted by donjo
On the whole I agree with you. The responsible person is the traveler. My question is how/where to verify such a document prior to landing 12 hours across the globe.
As you proposed in your post, a Japanese embassy or consulate would be a good choice; the Japanese ISA would be another good choice.
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Old Oct 10, 2022, 11:05 pm
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Originally Posted by donjo
Although I have been to Japan a number of times, this was the first time which required a visa. What I was emailed looked very much like a Turkish e-visa I had recently used. Thus my question, is there a clearinghouse which can validate important documents such as these prior to departure to prevent another passenger like myself being inconvenienced.
Maybe use a reputable visa handler next time and maybe fly with NH/JL who's agents might be more familiar with the types of visa.

Short of checking with the Japanese consulate or pressing the "tour guide" for an explanation, there's really no way to validate every piece of document.
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Old Oct 10, 2022, 11:20 pm
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A wild guess, any chance you considered ERFS as your visa? Since usually this is the document you need to obtain from the tour operator in Japan, after which you need to apply the actual entry visa at the embassy or online.
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Old Oct 10, 2022, 11:44 pm
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Most countries have a process to assess an individual case and if no intentional misrepresentation was found, along with the traveller presenting no risk, they will often grant permission to enter, perhaps with some additional restriction like reporting to officials on the day of departure.

If this is as described, Japan acted in their all too typical, bordering on xenophobic, manner regarding foreigners by acting this way. After all, in a few short days NO visa would be required.

Most immigration authorities, even in the notoriously strict United States, would have exercised some discretion in this set of circumstances and almost certainly allowed short term entry.

Last edited by Ghoulish; Oct 10, 2022 at 11:49 pm
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