Aim of this page
The aim of this page is to set out the entry requirements for travelling to Japan and when you may be asked to disclose details of your criminal record.
It’s part of our information on travelling abroad.
Why is this important?
Applying for any type of visa can be expensive and time consuming and so it’s important to know what, if anything, you’ll need to disclose about your criminal record. Also, if you do disclose a conviction, it’s useful to know how this will impact on you being granted permission to enter Japan.
Do I need a visa to travel to Japan?
If you are a British citizen or British national, you will be able to enter Japan as a visitor for up to 90 days without a visa. You will need to provide evidence that you have a return or onward ticket.
If you have a different type of British nationality or you wish to enter Japan for another purpose (for example a longer stay, study, settlement or employment), then you will need to apply for the relevant visa.
What do they ask about criminal convictions on the visa application form?
If you need to apply for a visa, then it’s important to note that Japan has some of the strictest conviction-related bars to entry, covering many offences and having little regard to the length of stay or the purpose of the stay.
An excerpt from the visa application form (as of September 2016) can be found below.
The Japanese Ministry of Justice has interpreted the restrictions imposed by Japan’s Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act to bar entry to anybody sentenced to more than a year in prison, and anyone convicted of a drug offence, no matter how old or minor the conviction is. Further information can be found at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan.
Are there any other occasions when I would need to disclose my criminal record?
If you are visiting Japan as a tourist or visiting family or friends, you will need to complete an Embarkation and Disembarkation (EDcard) before being allowed entry into Japan. There is a question on the form which asks:-
Have you ever been found guilty in a criminal case in Japan or in another country?’
Whether you disclose your conviction on the EDcard is something only you can decide. Japanese Immigration have no links to the Police National Computer and officials would need to seek permission through Interpol to be provided with criminal record information. We have little evidence on what happens if you do tick yes to this question.
However, when you present your EDcard, the immigration officer will take your photograph and will scan both your index fingers. This is part of recently introduced anti-terrorism laws but can worry some people who believe that it will flag up their criminal record – they don’t have access to UK police records, so this process is only likely to flag something up if the Japanese authorities hold any information about you.
I have just returned from a trip to Japan and am not the sort of person to lie on a form so did tick “yes” to the question, “Have you ever been found guilty in a criminal case in Japan or in another country?”
In my case my conviction was within what Japan deems acceptable as it was not a prison sentence of more than 1 year and not related to any of their restrictions.
The border guard asked me why I had ticked “yes”, and I gave a brief description of my conviction. I was then taken to a side room and after a short wait another guard handed me a form in English to fill in about my conviction. I filled this in and handed it back with my basic DBS check certificate which I had recently received and had decided to take with me. This disclosed my conviction as it was unspent. They seemed happy that I had bought a certificate disclosing my conviction with me and took the form, my basic DBS check and my passport and went behind a counter for a few minutes. When they came back they had put a normal temporary visitor sticker in my passport and one of the guards showed me across the border.
I would say the whole procedure only took about 10 minutes to complete, so I wasn’t delayed for too long.
From my experience I would say that if your conviction is within what is OK for Japan then don’t be afraid to tick the “yes” box. They did seem happy I took my Basic DBS check with me. I don’t think it’s necessary but it seem to speed things up.
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