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News Japan to loosen entry restrictions on new arrivals

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Unswerving cyclist
14 Mar 2002
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The new regulations allow entry for residents with permission to stay more than three months and international students, regardless of where they come from. However, the planned change will not cover tourists. Also, I am not quite sure how feasible the 72-hour limitation will be for most travellers (see quote below):

Upon arrival, all foreign nationals travelling to Japan are required to undergo coronavirus testing and observe a 14-day quarantine period. From September, all foreign travellers, including those with a legal residence status, are also required to submit proof they were tested for COVID-19 within 72 hours prior to their departure for Japan.

That 72 hours is going to be tough. In Illinois you are looking at a minimum of three days just to get a result over the phone and another week to get it in the mail (you have to request it when they call you with the result). You will have to try and guess how long it will take to get your result so that you can have it by the time you fly. Still say that it is, by some chance, possible to get a written result at one week from testing that would still put you past 72 hours.

You would need to pay for the rapid test (3 hour), which last I heard is not as accurate or get the normal three day test at a private clinic where they could give you the paper results right away. Either will cost a lot.
It's unclear if you need to have the results in hand or if you only need to prove that you took the test. How do they do it today?
When I flew to Alaska this summer, they used this rule. If you didn't have the results by your arrival, you were supposed to report the results when you received them and quarantine until you got them. If you arrive there without a test, they give you one at the airport at high cost.
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I assume that the 72-hour deadline is just another administrative hurdle... :(

Yesterday, the government announced the new regulations which will be in effect as of Thursday, 1 October. They will apply to new residents with permission to stay more than three months, regardless of where they come from.

With the revision, which will not cover tourists, non-Japanese nationals will be allowed to travel to Japan in phases, for reasons including to provide medical services, engage in cultural activities or carry out educational activities. Following the change, the scope of eligible applicants will be expanded to include privately financed international students. Since August the government has been in the process of resuming visa processing for government-sponsored students. The revised regulations will also cover visiting relatives using a family stay visa. Travellers from regions with higher coronavirus infection numbers will be subject to stricter entry procedures.

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The Japanese government is making provisions for exempting business travellers and returnees from the mandatory two-week quarantine. These measures could be in place by the end of the month.

Both Japanese citizens and foreign nationals with resident permits will be eligible for the exemption, with no restrictions on countries, the sources said. With the 14-day quarantine policy a significant stumbling block for overseas business travel, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, placing importance on restarting economic activity, has pushed for the exemptions to move forward. The government aims to draw up measures easing entry restrictions by the end of the month, the sources added. Those eligible will be required to submit a detailed plan of their movements in the 14 days following entry into Japan, including accommodation and place of employment, they said. Given the anticipated burden on airport staff to handle paperwork and other inspection measures, the government plans to impose a daily limit on the number of people eligible for the exemption based on testing capacity at airports and other ports of entry.

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Disclaimer: The following piece was written by Arudou Debitou, and while I do not agree with everything stated he vividly points out that the new re-entry rules for foreign residents still pose an almost insurmountable barrier to those who want to return to Japan.

Consider “George,” a foreign resident of Japan who told Debito.org his experience returning to Japan from Europe this month. As before, George’s Japanese spouse only had to appear at the border with a Japanese passport, take a Covid (PCR) test administered by the Japanese government, and then be let in for hospitalization or quarantine. But for George, the procedure had become Kafkaesque. Before departing Europe, he had to:

1) Apply at the nearest Japanese embassy or consulate for physical paper documents, i.e., “Certificate of Testing for Covid-19” and “Letter of Confirmation of Submitting Necessary Documentation for Re-Entry into Japan.” The certificate has to be applied for because, the embassy told him, the Japanese government wants the option to cancel the program at any time (thereby reinstating the blanket ban).

2) Physically report to the embassy to pick up the paperwork. He had to appear in person so the embassy could check his passport and residency status; never mind the potential distance between consular missions. If you want this, you’ll make the trip.

3) Get your PCR test in the foreign country, but do it to Japanese standards. Japanese bureaucrats are very pernickety about this–the doctor or laboratory carrying out the test must physically sign and stamp the actual paperwork issued by the Japanese embassy. Japan’s bureaucrats will not accept paperwork issued by the lab alone. They will also not accept PCR results that have been downloaded from the lab’s webpage, or sent by email, which is their usual way of reporting. This means you must, after receiving your negative results, go back to the lab and have them fill Japan’s forms out. George noted that in his part of Europe, this was particularly difficult. The regular health care systems don’t test asymptomatic people. People wanting to be tested nonetheless must pay a princely sum, plus find a lab that would fill out the Japanese paperwork afterwards. Most wouldn’t.

4) Depart for Japan within 72 hours of your PCR test. A negative PCR result starts a ticking clock. Not only must you lose time going back to the lab for signed paperwork, but also you have to buy a plane ticket within that window, at often double or triple the price of a plane ticket reserved in advance. George in fact bought his cheaper plane tickets weeks beforehand, hoping for a negative PCR result. If it had turned out to be positive, he would have lost his ticket. The PCR was, fortunately, negative, so the saga continues.

5) Head for Japan. At the boarding gate, airlines will have additional forms to fill out about your riskiness as a passenger, as will the Japanese government before you land. These documents are on the Honor System, so there is no clear way for them to verify if you’re actually infected.

6) Go through Japan Immigration. According to George, in addition to at least two rounds of document checking, Japan administers another PCR test on the spot. It all took some time, but he got through. Again, George’s spouse was exempt from all this, except for the PCR spot test.

7) Then go into quarantine for two weeks, but you are forbidden to use public transportation to get to your hotel. Figure out your own way there.

What’s the conclusion to draw here, aside from the embedded racism of treating only one of these people, traveling together under the same conditions, as the real contagion risk?

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Here's another article on the challenges of non-Japanese travellers attempting to enter Japan under the current restrictions:

This passage on the 'pledge' might be of particular interest to @Rokeya:

Another stumbling block that is impacting new residents coming to Japan for work or school is an intimidating pledge that organizations must sign when an employee or student — and their spouse or other dependents — comes into the country on a new visa. It requires the organization to “state concretely the reason why it is truly urgent and vitally necessary” for the individual to enter the country. The pledge outlines a complicated regimen of quarantine and the recording of health data that new entrants must do, with their employers on the hook for it being completed properly. At the end of this pledge, the company must acknowledge that if the pledge is deemed to have been broken — in other words, if some problem happens — the company will be held responsible. As a result, they could be publicly shamed and find it hard to bring people to Japan in the future.

It’s natural for anything so complex, unfamiliar and weighty to make an organization nervous. As a result, many firms and schools are hesitating to sign the form and are asking employees and students to wait even longer before coming to Japan to start their new lives here.The situation has been particularly challenging for those who are seeking to bring dependent spouses to Japan. Many companies and universities are hesitating or outright refusing to sign for employees and students’ spouses, who they may never have met and don’t have any direct connection to. This was the situation that Tomasz and Valeriya Fajst faced when they asked Valeriya’s school to sign the pledge on behalf of her husband. Tomasz left Japan in the spring to return to his native Poland to update his visa in accordance with government guidelines. The pandemic hit and Tomasz was stuck in Poland, while Valeriya continued her linguistics studies at Tokyo University. School officials told Valeriya that they needed to discuss whether or not they could sign a document on behalf of Tomasz, who is Valeriya’s dependent but has no link to the school itself.

Last week, the Fajsts received some good news. Although the university still hasn’t gotten back to them, through a separate route they were able to get Tomasz approved to enter Japan on a humanitarian basis. Not all couples are so lucky. Many have taken to Facebook groups to look for tips and solutions in dealing with bureaucratic procedures. One group, Return to Japan Support Group, conducted a quick poll recently and found that of those wanting to bring family members to Japan as dependents, 30% had their company or university refuse to sign the pledge, while another 30% said they were still waiting for a decision.
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