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Japan to accept tourist visa applications online

Chinese tour groups first to benefit ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics

Tourists take pictures of a famous railway crossing in Kamakura. (Photo by Shohei Nomoto)

TOKYO -- The Japanese government will put in place an online system for accepting tourist visa applications, starting with Chinese traveling in groups in fiscal 2020, ahead of the Tokyo Olympics.

Representatives from agencies handling Chinese tour groups will be able to submit traveler information electronically. The program will be gradually expanded to other nations and could eventually cover individual tourists and those coming for short-term business visits. 

As the nation looks to achieve an annual 40 million visitors in 2020, easing the visa application process has become imperative.

Currently tourists from 68 countries and regions are exempt from obtaining visas. As for visitors from non-exempt nations, the Foreign Ministry has been working to extend the duration of approved stays and simplify the process. Electronic applications will also help reduce the administrative work.

Australia and the U.S. are among the nations ahead in adopting online visa applications, with some countries completely eliminating the need to visit embassies or visa-issuing outposts for approval. Japan will try to develop an online system that does not compromise on necessary screening, with implementation targeted for April 2020.

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