Japan looks to promote electronic visas amid inbound tourist recovery

The Japanese government is looking to expand its electronic visa services system to streamline application procedures for foreign visitors amid a resurgence of tourism after the end of coronavirus-related border control measures, according to government officials.

The Foreign Ministry began the online service in March in 11 countries and regions, with China added to the system in June. Among its conveniences, it enables eligible applicants to obtain short-term stay visas without going to their local Japanese embassy or consulate.

In the first eight months of this year, some 15.19 million foreign tourists entered Japan, data from the Japan National Tourism Organization shows. The figure represents about 69 percent of the total number recorded in the same period of 2019, before the coronavirus pandemic emerged.

An official from the ministry’s Foreign Nationals’ Affairs Division said that “the rate of online applicants is increasing. The system allows for smooth issuance of documents, and it is very likely to be contributing to the recovery in inbound tourism.”

The ministry is currently assessing whether to make the scheme available in more countries.

Computerization of the visa system has sped up processing times and reduced staff workload, according to another government official.

“Inbound tourist numbers are on an upward trend, meaning we could at some point become unable to respond with the current workforce. I hope we can progress further with bringing the system online,” the official said.

Under the scheme, applicants from all eligible countries and regions except China can pay for visa fees using credit cards.

Users are informed of the results of their screening by email. By accessing the system’s website, successful applicants can present their visa issuance notice from their smartphones when boarding a flight to Japan or entering the country.

The 12 countries and regions are Brazil, Britain, Canada, Cambodia, China, Mongolia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Africa, Taiwan, the United Arab Emirates and the United States.

By Usmana Kousar