Relaxed entry procedure now in effect.

The reopening of Japan’s borders is coming in incremental steps as coronavirus countermeasures are gradually eased. One of the biggest milestones is coming on June 10 with the resumption of inbound leisure travel to Japan, although with the stipulation that travelers will have to be arriving for guided group tours,

As of June 1, though, there’s another group of overseas travelers who now have a pathway into the country: people with a fiancé who’s living in Japan.

On Tuesday, Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs released a statement on updated eligibility for foreign nationals (i.e. non-citizens) entering Japan. Essentially, travel into Japan is limited to those with “special exceptional circumstances,” and the list of examples includes temporary visitors entering Japan “for the purpose of visiting a relative / an acquaintance (in a case of visiting an acquaintance, only a foreign national who have a relationship to him/her equivalent to a relative, or who is recognized his/her necessity to visit Japan.) .”

So what qualifies as “an acquaintance equivalent to a relative?” According to a separate statement released on Friday by the Immigration Services Agency of Japan, part of the Ministry of Justice:

“A foreign national who has relationship with a person residing in Japan equivalent to a relative as listed below;
・Common-law marriage”

This is a big development for international couples, as Japan has not previously extended entry eligibility to non-citizens in long-distance relationships with a Japanese resident during the pandemic.

▼ This woman may have been standing on the beach like this for the last two years.

The specification of “a foreign national who has relationship with a person residing in Japan” indicates that the in-Japan fiancée does not necessarily have to be a citizen, and so if you’re engaged to a foreign resident in Japan, you too are eligible for the visitor visa.

Bear in mind that all non-residents seeking entry to Japan are currently required to apply for a visa, so you’ll want to consult with your closest Japanese embassy or consulate before you go booking airline tickets or building a raft to come see your Japan-based fiancé. Also important to note is that neither the Ministry of Foreign Affairs nor the Ministry of Justice has specified what criteria must be met in order to prove that you’re genuinely engaged or in a common-law marriage, and odds are some minimum amount of time since the engagement was agreed to will be required.

▼ Saying “Naw, dude, we totally got engaged through text messages last night, so where’s my visa?” probably won’t be seen as adequate proof.

The hosting party in Japan will also be required to file an official written invitation form regarding the overseas traveler who is coming to see them as well as a written pledge regarding coronavirus infection countermeasures, potential home quarantining procedures, and to “confirm that the purpose of the applicant’s visit is not for tourism.”

And what about the eligibility based on “necessity to visit” a non-fiancé acquaintance in Japan that the Ministry of Justice mentions? The statement says:

“A foreign national could be recognized his/her necessity to visit Japan.
・A person who attend to wedding or funeral
・A person who is visits a sick acquaintance”

Again, what constitutes an eligibility-granting sickness isn’t specified, but the most plausible scenarios would be ones in which the visitor is coming to act as caretaker or when the inflicted person’s condition is terminal, so coming to Japan to make chicken soup for your friend who has a sniffle isn’t likely to qualify. As with those coming to visit a fiancée, entries under the necessary visit category also require official invitations and conduct pledges from the hosting party.

But even if there are a lot of hoops to jump through, for those who can make those jumps, they finally have a way to see their loved ones in Japan.

Sources: Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Foreign Affairs (1, 2, 3)
Top image: Pakutaso
Insert images: Pakutaso (1, 2)
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