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Japan Eases Restrictions on New Entries, Vaccination Certificate Holder Activities

November 12, 2021

The Japanese government has relaxed its restrictions on new entries of foreign nationals and on activities for holders of COVID-19 vaccination certificates. These changes went into effect as of November 8, 2021.

New Entries of Foreign Nationals

Under the new rule, if a sponsor company applies for a preliminary review to obtain a certificate of inspection clearance to a competent ministry on behalf of a foreign national and is responsible for such foreign national’s activities, the following foreign nationals are permitted to enter Japan as persons under “special circumstances”:

  • Foreign nationals who newly enter Japan as temporary visitors for no more than three months for the purpose of a business trip or for the purpose of working in Japan
  • Foreign nationals who newly enter Japan with the intention of a long-term stay

A sponsor company—rather than the foreign national—needs to apply to obtain a certificate of inspection clearance to a competent ministry for the above relaxation measures to apply. Upon receiving a certificate of inspection clearance, the sponsor company should provide such certificate to the foreign national, who may then file a visa application together with the certificate. By relying on this relaxation, technically companies may resume transferring their employees to Japan.

It should be noted that the Japanese government maintains the basic framework of border control measures (i.e., foreign nationals are still temporarily suspended from entry to Japan). However, by expanding the scope of “special circumstances,” the Japanese government is able to allow the aforementioned foreign nationals to enter Japan. Therefore, competent ministries have broad discretion to provide inspection clearance to sponsor companies, and could suspend entry to Japan again depending on the COVID-19 infection status. Also, because new entry of foreign nationals has been suspended (with narrow exceptions) for a substantial time since the COVID-19 pandemic began, the Japanese government may control the number of issuances of inspection clearances, and many sponsor companies are likely to apply for inspection clearance at the same time, it is likely that the procedure will take much longer than expected. It is difficult at this stage to foresee how the Japanese government will exercise its discretion on these relaxations on new entries of foreign nationals. Morgan Lewis will carefully monitor how the Japanese government and relevant ministries operate these new relaxation measures.

The validity of visas which have already been issued under the Business Track and the Residence Track and visa exemption measures will continue to be suspended for the time being. Also, the Japanese government decided not to resume the entry into Japan for tourists at this time, and will continue to review the effectiveness of its monitoring of activities.

Activities for Holders of COVID-19 Vaccination Certificates

Under the new rules, certain holders of valid COVID-19 vaccination certificates are permitted to conduct activities that are designated in an activity plan from the fourth day after entering Japan at the earliest—even during the 14-day quarantine period. Furthermore, if such holders take a PCR exam or quantitative antigen test on or after 10 days (and before the 14-day quarantine period is over) from entering Japan and submit a negative result to the Health Monitoring Center for Overseas Entrants, the remaining quarantine period can be shortened to the day when the negative result is submitted.

The following persons and their relatives who enter Japan under the same time schedule and are subject to the same sponsor company are eligible for the relaxation of activity restrictions:

  • Japanese nationals returning from foreign countries
  • Foreign nationals who re-enter Japan from foreign countries with proper residential status
  • Foreign nationals who newly enter Japan as temporary visitors for no more than three months for the purpose of a business trip or for the purpose of working in Japan
  • Foreign nationals who newly enter Japan with the intention to stay long term

In order to rely on this relaxation, these eligible persons must meet certain requirements, including the following:

  • Not staying in designated countries in the last 14 days prior to entry in Japan
  • Holding a “valid” COVID-19 vaccination certificate—which requires, among other things, having received two doses of the vaccines specified by the Japanese government (i.e., Pfizer, Moderna, and AstraZeneca)
  • Submitting to the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare a negative result of a PCR exam or quantitative antigen test which the foreign national voluntarily took on or after three days have passed after entering Japan
  • Being subject to a sponsor company’s supervision

It is important to note that if foreign nationals enter Japan as international students or technical intern trainees, the above relaxation of activities during the 14-day quarantine period does not apply to such foreign nationals because they are expected to remain in Japan for a long time and the necessity of such activities during the quarantine period are not recognized for them. On the other hand, the 14-day quarantine period could be shortened to the minimum days of 10 days if these foreign nationals meet the requirements described in this section.

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Certified administrative procedures legal specialists Mai Ishii and Ayako Hiraiwa contributed to this LawFlash.

Contacts

If you have any questions or would like more information on the issues discussed in this alert, please contact any of the following Morgan Lewis professionals:

Tokyo
Tomoko Fuminaga
Kyoko Nagano
Mai Ishii (Certified Administrative Procedures Legal Specialist)
Ayako Hiraiwa (Certified Administrative Procedures Legal Specialist)

Washington, DC
Shannon A. Donnelly

Hong Kong
Vivien Yu