Update: JGA is no longer offering ERFS, as Japan soon plans to relax its restrictions that require tourists travel on a package tour and apply for a visa (even for tourists from the U.S. and other countries that were visa-waiver countries prior to the pandemic). Japan's relaxed restrictions could occur as soon as October, 2022 and Prime Minister Kishida is expected to make an official announcement “in the coming days,” according to Nikkei Asia.
Need to Enter Japan with ERFS Certification but wish to book your own flights and hotels? For those traveling to Japan within the next 90 days, there seems to be a good solution: Japan Guide Agency, or JGA. It's one of the few that for Entrants, Returnees Follow-Up System (ERFS) certification doesn't require travelers to book a hotel through the agency. There are already tourists in Japan who have received an ERFS certificate from JGA, gotten a Japanese Visa, and been able to enter Japan. Here are the details:
1 Go the JGA ERFS Site to Apply and Pay
Go to the JGA ERFS site, select the number of travelers, then checkout. Note that you'll need to supply the details of your flights to and from Japan, as well as the first hotel you stay at. The hotel will appear on your ERFS. At time of writing, the fee is JPY 30,000 per person (same per person pricing for adults and children, including infants).
After checking out, you'll receive a confirmation of your purchase as well as a tour itinerary to complete. You'll need to complete and return the itinerary to JGA before JGA can issue the ERFS certificate to you, typically the following working day.
2 After Receiving the ERFS Certificate, Apply for a Japanese Visa
U.S. and Canadian citizens may apply for a Japanese eVISA. The site says to allow at least 5 working days, but many have had their visas issued faster. Here's a good summary from Flyertalker seigex on the various status updates that can apply once you've applied for the eVisa:
- Application Not Made -> You didn't submit your application yet, you need to check the box to the left of the application and then click the orange “[ Application >” arrow on the bottom right of the application list to actually submit it.
- Temporarily Received -> You've successfully submitted it, there will be an OK next to it saying the basic check has been completed
- Accepted -> It's been accepted and moved in to the queue for someone to verify it, this took me about 12 hours to see the change, i would suspect yours will change in a few hours.
- Examined and Passed -> It's pending issue
- Ready for Issuance -> should be quick (thanks sensei )
- Issued -> You have an eVisa, and you should have an expiration date showing up as well. Soon after this you should be able to download the eVisa, though I've heard you need to be able to pull it up on your phone at the Japanese airport as it has a rotating QR code that needs to be refreshed.
- Withdrawal Requested -> You requested it to be withdrawn to fix an issue they alerted you about, like no middle name.
- Withdrawn -> The withdrawal has been completed, this takes about 12 to 24 hours in my experience.
3. Pre-Register on the MySOS Web Site or App Prior to Flying to Japan
As of September 7, 2022, U.S. citizens who have been fully vaccinated and boosted (triple vaccinated) with vaccines approved by Japan do not require a pre-travel COVID-19 test. See Current Japanese Border Measures.
Go to the Fast Track page. Posters have noted that the Web site tends to work better than the app; go to Web Sign Up page to register, the Log In. You'll ultimately need to upload your vaccination certificate and complete the questionnaire and pledge so as obtain the green or blue screen that you'll show at Immigration along with your eVisa and passport, to enter Japan.
My Trip to Japan is in Spring 2023; Can I Apply for an ERFS Now?
No, it's too early, because the ERFS is only valid for 3 months from the date of issue. Those with travel within the next 3 months (or a little more, given processing times) may apply for an ERFS certificate. You'll want to ensure that your ERFS is valid for stay dates in Japan, since Immigration can review ERFS validity at the time of entry into Japan. Also, it's possible that by the time of your future trip, Japan will downgrade COVID-19 from its current status (roughly equivalent to Category 2) such that independent tourists will again be permitted, without requiring ERFS certification or a Japanese host organization.
What If I Need to Postpone My Trip to Japan?
As long as you enter Japan within the validity of the original visa, you can change your dates. But if your postponed trip has you entering Japan after your original visa has expired, you'll need to redo the process of obtaining an ERFS and reapplying for a Japanese visa.
Where Should I Stay in Japan?
TravelSort Clients can ask us for our luxury travel recommendations based on their preferences. Having lived, worked, and traveled extensively in Japan we're well positioned to assist. Also see our Aman Kyoto, Park Hyatt Kyoto, Amanemu, and Ritz-Carlton Tokyo reviews, among others.
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