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Moving to Japan

This fact sheet covers basic information regarding entry into Japan for military personnel as well as foreign entry requirements for those with family members that are not U.S. citizens. There is also a new comers memrandum located to the right of this page.

Information on consular services for all of Japan, including registration, passport renewal, legal matters and safety and security. An alphabetical listing of State Department services is at http://www.embassy-worldwide.com/embassy/u-s-embassy-in-tokyo-japan. Read the Department of State Background Notes on Japan for additional information.

Military/SOFA travelers

While active-duty U.S. military personnel may enter Japan under the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) with proper Department of Defense (DoD) identification and travel orders, all SOFA family members, civilian employees and contractors must have a valid passport and, in some cases, a SOFA visa to enter Japan. Active-duty military personnel should obtain a tourist passport prior to leaving the United States to accommodate off-duty travel elsewhere in Asia as obtaining one while in Japan can take several weeks. Personnel whose duties will include official travel should also obtain an Official Passport before coming to Japan to avoid delays of up to two months, as from overseas these applications must be referred to a special office in Washington, adding to processing times. DoD travelers should consult the DoD Foreign Clearance Guide, DoD 4500.54, http://www.fcg.pentagon.mil, before leaving the United States.

Passports and Visa

Entry Requirements
A valid passport and an onward/return ticket are required. Passports must be valid for the intended period of stay in Japan. A visa is not required for tourist/business stays up to 90 days. Americans cannot work on a 90-day "visa free" entry. As a general rule, "visa free" entry status may not be changed to other visa status without departing and then re-entering Japan with the appropriate visa such as a spouse, work or study visa.

Passport Validity
U.S. citizens entering or transiting Japan should ensure that their passports and visas are up to date before leaving the United States. Many Asian countries deny entry to travelers whose passports are valid for less than six months. It is not usually possible to obtain a new U.S. passport and foreign visa during a brief stopover while transiting Japan, as tourist passport processing in Japan can take two to three weeks. Airlines in Japan will deny boarding to Americans who seek to transit Japan without the required travel documents for their final destinations in Asia.

Expired Passports
Airlines have mistakenly boarded American citizens coming to Japan, even though that person's passport has already expired. The U.S. Embassy or Consulates cannot "vouch for" an American citizen without a valid passport, and passport services are not available at the airport. In some instances, travelers have been returned immediately to the U.S., while in other cases, they have been issued 24-hour "shore passes" and were required to return the next day to Japanese Immigration for lengthy processing.

Japanese Visa
For information about the Japanese visa waiver for tourists, Japan's strict rules on work visas, special visas to take depositions, and other visa issues, travelers should consult the Consular Section of the Embassy of Japan at 2520 Massachusetts Ave. N.W., Washington, D.C. 20008, tel. (202) 238-6800, or the nearest Japanese consulate. State Department posts in Japan cannot assist in obtaining visas for Japan. See the Foreign Entry Requirements brochure for more information on Japan and other countries.

Safety and Security

The events of September 11, 2001 serve as a reminder of the continuing threat from terrorists and extremist groups to Americans and American interests worldwide.

There have been no major terrorist incidents in Japan since 1995; however, since terrorists can strike at any time and at any place, American citizens should be aware of the potential risks and take these into consideration when making travel plans.

The Department of State offices in Japan disseminate threat information through their nationwide email warden system and posts current threat information on their ACS Web site at http://japan.usembassy.gov/Anyone may sign up for emailed warden system messages through the Web site. The Department of State continues to develop information about potential threats to American citizens overseas and to share threat information through its consular information program documents available on the Internet at the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov. The government of Japan is vigilant in tracking terrorist threat indicators and remains at a high state of alert. Local police substations (Koban) and police emergency dispatchers (tel. 110) should be contacted to report suspicious activity.

For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department's Internet Web site at http://travel.state.gov where the currentWorldwide Caution Public Announcement, Travel Warnings and Public Announcements can be found.

Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the United States, or, for callers outside the United States and Canada, a regular toll line at 1-202-501-4444. These numbers are available from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

The Department of State urges American citizens to take responsibility for their own personal security while traveling overseas. For general information about appropriate measures travelers can take to protect themselves in an overseas environment, see the Department of State's pamphlet, A Safe Trip Abroad.


Crimes against U.S. citizens in Japan are rare and usually only involve personal disputes, theft or vandalism. Crime is at levels well below the U.S. national average. Violent crime is rare, but does exist. Incidents of pick-pocketing of foreigners in crowded shopping areas, on trains and at airports have been a sporadic concern. Some Americans believe that Japanese police procedures appear to be less sensitive and responsive to a victim's concerns than would be the case in the United States, particularly in cases involving domestic violence and sexual assault. Few victim's assistance resources or battered women's shelters exist in major urban areas, and are generally unavailable in rural areas. Investigations of sexual assault crimes are often conducted without women police officers present and typically involve inquiries into the victim's sexual history and previous relationships. Quality of translations can vary significantly, and has proven unsettling to some American victims.