Japan Self-Guided Tour and Issuance of ERFS for Tourist Visa Purposes
Japan began allowing small-scale tourist arrivals in June this year under rigorous organized tours, and just over 8,000 visitors arrived in June and July.
The government then decided that it would start allowing self-guided tours (read more here and here) on August 31. Nevertheless, all visitors should engage with a local travel agency (pay $$$) to get them to issue an ERFS (Entry, Returnees, Tracking System), required for visa issuance (it no visa-free entry to Japan at this time).
It was expected that Japanese travel agencies issuing ERFS would take care of booking flights to/from Japan and hotel accommodation for the duration of the stay. Japanese embassies and consulates that issue visas informed applicants and agencies that they should not book anything before the visa was issued.
As is often the case with these issues we cover, I decided to apply for an ERFS through an agency to see how the process works and keep my options open if I travel to Japan this fall.
I submitted the application for the ERFS at Café Air Canada in Toronto on September 1 while waiting for a flight to Vancouver. The JGA website asked me for my basic information, in and out dates and flight numbers, and the name and address of the first hotel where I intend to stay.
The price for this service was 20,000 yen a few hours ago, but I ended up paying the updated price of 30,000 ten (just over $200). (They have now stopped issuing ERFS.)
I quickly received confirmation of the product I had purchased and a receipt. And then the wait began.
Since it was already Friday in Japan when I made the purchase, I figured it would probably be Monday when they processed it. However, I heard nothing from them on Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday, and they were not responding to my emails regarding the issuance of the ERFS.
My friend in Japan also emailed them, and I soon received the ERFS in my email on Friday (September 9), and it was released a week before (September 2) on the date to which I applied.
I followed the Japanese Embassy’s instructions on applying for the visa, and they asked for the documents to be emailed first for “review”, which I did over the weekend .
The embassy quickly replied on Monday (September 12) that the documents were in order and that I could either deposit the passport or send it to the consular section. I chose the latter and sent it via FedEx. A few days later, I received an email stating that the passport would be ready for collection on September 26.
Note that it seems that all embassies and consulates take five working days to issue visas (the day you leave or they receive the application and the day you can collect them are not counted).
US, Canadian and Taiwanese citizens are eligible for an e-visa which greatly simplifies the visa application and approval process. Unfortunately, this facility is not available to other nationals and you may have to wait months for an application slot at some Japanese embassies and consulates.
What has happened so far:
- Japan’s prime minister set to announce easing of entry changes to New York
- Japan set to announce entry changes as early as this week
- Japan to remove cap on daily arrivals and scrap ‘Not-so-distant future’ visa requirement
- Unguided tours of Japan partially clarified
- Japan raises daily arrivals cap to 50,000 and soon allows tourists to take unguided tours
- Japan drops PCR-RT test requirement before departure September 7, 2022
- Japan plans to scrap Covid-19 testing requirement, raise cap on daily arrivals to 50,000 and self-guided tours?
- Japan opens eVISA applications for US and Canadian citizens on August 18, 2022
- Japan tourism trial disaster, strict entry requirements and long-term goals
- Japan tour canceled after Thai visitor tests positive for Covid
- Japan allows international visitors on package tours from June 10, 2022
- Japan doubles arrival cap and test changes June 1, 2022
- Japan Tourism Lawsuit Disappointment
- Japan begins tourism trial in May for fully vaccinated people from the United States, Australia, Thailand and Singapore
It’s not clear if I even need this visa, as there have been rumors coming out of Japan that there are major changes coming to allow visitors easier access to the country.
The Japanese Prime Minister was supposed to announce something this week in New York, but I don’t know if it’s delayed due to the typhoon.
It’s unclear if an announcement is coming this week and what it will include. However, I should at least have a visa to enter the country next week, and I already have a few plane tickets booked (issued using miles for maximum flexibility).
I thought the price I paid JGA was fair, and I guess Japan decided to implement this ERFS to discourage visitor arrivals while letting those who are determined in.
Hopefully they will soon announce the reinstatement of visa waiver facilities; otherwise they will lose winter and sakura visitors for the third year.
As many of our readers know, I spent six months in Japan in 2020 when covid-19 was spreading rapidly and wreaking havoc initially in North America and Europe. I arrived a few hours before they closed the border in March of that year and left in September. Can’t wait to be back for a month.