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Introduction of Japanese “Vaccine Passports” for international travel
Japan Tax & Legal Inbound Newsletter August 2021, No. 69
On 26 July 2021, local municipalities began accepting applications for the issuance of COVID-19 vaccination certificates for international travel, known as “vaccine passports,” for residents that have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19. The vaccine passport may not be used for domestic purposes but may eventually replace the current vaccination certificate issued as official proof of inoculation against COVID-19.
Overview of current vaccination certificate
The current vaccination certificate for COVID-19 is attached to the vaccination ticket ( or “coupon”) and is the official proof of inoculation for domestic purposes. Local governments and companies are offering gift certificates or discounted services to vaccination certificate holders to stimulate the local economy. Although the certificate is recognized as an official document, it cannot be used for international travel. Proof of a negative COVID-19 test (as specified by the destination country) generally is required for traveling abroad.
Overview of vaccine passports
The Japanese vaccine passports are designed for international travelers who are residents of Japan and have been vaccinated under the Preventive Vaccination Act. The purpose of the vaccine passport is to relax the quarantine measures required by certain destinations. Initially, a paper-based vaccine passport with forgery prevention will be issued by local municipalities and available both in Japanese and English. For the future digital version, it is expected that a QR code will be placed on the vaccine passport. Foreign nationals that are resident in Japan can apply for the vaccine passports by using their foreign passport.
Countries that will accept Japanese vaccine passports
As of 21 July 2021, the Japanese vaccine passports are valid for the following countries (the exemption or relaxation of quarantine measures are subject to the regulatory requirements of each country):
- South Korea: The Japanese vaccine passports can be a replacement of the certificate of immunization
- Estonia: PCR test and self-isolation are not required upon entry
The Japanese government still is negotiating with other countries and aims to expand the list to approximately 30 countries in the near future.
Currently, foreign nationals who wish to newly enter Japan are required to apply for a visa, except for those who have a valid re-entry permit (in some cases, re-entry permit holders currently are subject to denial of entry if from certain countries). The issuance of visas has been suspended due to the entry ban to Japan and it is anticipated to be continued into the foreseeable future. The vaccine passports are expected to be an effective method to re-open the border in the current COVID-19 environment. Even with a Japanese vaccine passport, a negative COVID-19 certificate issued by the local medical authorities from the country of departure within 72 hours prior to departure is still necessary for those returning to Japan. Upon re-entry to Japan, quarantine procedures must be followed and self-isolation for 14 days is still required. At present, foreign vaccine passports are not accepted for entry into Japan; however, mutual agreements for the use of vaccine passports between Japan and other countries are expected to be negotiated in the future.
* This Article is based on the relevant Japanese or specific country’s tax law and other authorities in effect on the date of this Article. This Article would not be guaranteed updating if there are any changes in Japanese tax law, any other law, or interpretations by the courts or tax authorities thereof after the date of this Article.