The Japanese government will put in place an online system that will process tourist visa applications. The first to benefit from Japan's online visa system will be Chinese citizens traveling in groups, this way Japan is getting ahead of the Tokyo Olympics to take place in the year 2020. Representatives of travel agencies serving Chinese tour groups will be able to provide information about each group member through an electronic system. It is expected that the program will expand to tourist groups from more countries, besides China.
At the moment, tourists from 68 countries and regions can travel to Japan without a visa. For visitors from non-exempt nations, the Japanese Foreign Ministry has been working to extend the duration of approved stays. An online visa system contributes to reducing administrative work and simplifying the process of obtaining a visa. Many countries have begun implementing online visa systems to promote tourism and improve migration controls. Some of the countries to have recently established electronic visa programs include Egypt and Brazil while countries like the U.S. and Canada have had these systems in place for several years.
Japan's Online Visa System available for Chinese visitors
Japan expects to receive 40 million visitors in 2020, thanks in part, to hosting the Olympics that year. However, Japan has become a favorite travel destination amongst people from all over the globe. In 2015, nearly 20 million people visited the country, led by visitors from China. According to the Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO), 5 million Chinese visitors traveled to Japan in 2015, followed by 4 million visitors from South Korea and 3.7 million visitors from Taiwan. JNTO has also reported that the estimated number of international travelers to Japan in June this year (2018) was 2.7 million, an increase of 15.3% from the previous year, being the highest June ever.
Chinese travelers are an important demographic to consider as they will travel more and more. According to The Telegraph, in the first year of the new millennium, only 10.5 million overseas trips were made by Chinese residents. Last year, 2017, 145 million Chinese residents traveled overseas, an increase of 1,380 percent. The United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) reports that Chinese tourists spent 361 billion dollars in 2016. Currently, only seven percent of the Chinese population has a passport. However, more growth is expected and countries should expect higher inbound of Chinese visitors. Japan, Thailand, Singapour, Vietnam and South Korea are among the top destinations for the Chinese.
At the moment, there are several types of visa available for nationals of China who wish to travel to Japan for short-term stays:
- Visas for short-term business affairs or visit relatives/acquaintances
- Visas for Chinese group tourists and individual tourists residing in China:
- Group tourists (single entry)
- Individual tourists that can get a single entry visa or a multiple-entry visa
- Multiple-entry visas for Chinese visitors residing outside of China with a substantially high income or a sufficient level of financial capability.
Japan still needs to define the requirements for the online visa system and whether nationals from more countries will be able to apply or not.