Temporary stay in Japan without a visa: who, how and for how long?

The Land of the Rising Sun is a fascinating – and almost magical – country, attracting increasing numbers of visitors from all over the world. And although more and more tourists come from the world’s most diverse and unique countries and regions every year, Japan only allows visa-free entry for citizens of 69 countries and regions.

As a general rule, all foreign visitors to Japan must be in possession of a passport that is valid for the duration of their stay and all visitors must comply with the terms and conditions of their visa. Nationals of the French-speaking countries listed below do not require a visa if they are visiting Japan for less than 90 days and if the purpose of the visit is not for profit or gain. In other words, a visa is not required to travel to Japan if the purpose of the trip is tourism, visiting relatives, business meetings, attending conferences or taking Japanese language courses.

  • United States
  • United Kingdom
  • Canada
  • France
  • Australia
  • New Zealand
  • Switzerland

However, whether or not you are a national requiring an entry visa, it is advisable to check the official visa requirements for Japan, as these are subject to change. Japanese law requires all short-term visitors to Japan to be in possession of an exit ticket.

Short-term visitors to Japan must be fingerprinted and photographed on arrival and must carry documentation with them at all times while in Japan. For certain countries, such as Germany, the UK, Switzerland and Mexico, it may be possible to obtain an extension for a further 90 days at the nearest Japanese immigration office for a small fee before the initial period expires.

Finally, a very important point: it is strictly forbidden to work or engage in any paid activity while on a short-stay visa. However, no one will prevent you from carrying out your usual work or professional activities online.

Up to 6 months in the country without a visa

The maximum stay for citizens of countries that have signed agreements with Japan is three consecutive months and a total of six months per year. Many people who want to spend more than three months a year in Japan without having to go through the visa formalities are clever enough to do so without breaking the law, thanks to the famous “Seoul weekend”.

All foreigners must leave the country within 90 days of arrival unless they have a special permit issued by the authorities. If they fail to do so, they risk being deported and having their passports stamped, which would prevent them from entering the country for five years. In some cases, detainees have been held in police cells for several days before being deported, at the offender’s expense. It is therefore important not to forget the expiry date stamped on the tourist visa.

As a result, there are many people who travel to another country before the expiration date of their 90-day residence permit where they can spend a few days – often a weekend – and then return to Japan with a brand new 90-day residence permit, allowing them to live in Japan almost continuously for six months. The majority of these trips are made to Seoul, the capital of South Korea, hence the name.

Stays of up to one year

Nationals of these and 50 other countries, most of which are members of the European Union, can stay longer, provided they have a valid passport. Citizens of the 69 countries with which Japan has signed agreements and who have savings of more than 30 million yen can stay in Japan for up to one year for leisure and tourism purposes under the Extended Stay Program.

The applicant and his or her spouse must have savings of more than 60 million yen if the spouse also wishes to benefit from this program. However, this entry visa must be obtained in the country of origin prior to travel.