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Japan immigration

Less paperwork for Chinese visitors as Japan allows online visas

Government launches digital services to take pain out of bureaucracy

Applying for Japanese visas will be less cumbersome for some tourists from next year.

TOKYO -- Foreign travellers will be allowed to apply online for visas needed to visit Japan starting next fiscal year, part of a government initiative to make bureaucratic procedures paperless and more convenient, Nikkei has learned.

Citizens of China and other countries that send many visitors to Japan will be eligible for the program. Currently, visitors from 68 countries and regions, including the U.S., U.K. and South Korea, are exempt from the visa requirement. But those from such nations as Russia and Brazil need to acquire visas.

The effort to cut bureaucratic paperwork will also benefit Japanese citizens, who will be allowed to apply for passports online starting as early as fiscal 2024.

Roughly 4.3 million Japanese passports were issued in 2018, with one in four Japanese citizens holding one. There have been calls for launching online applications to alleviate congestion at passport offices ahead of major holidays.

Britain and France already allow online applications for passports. In Britain, applicants do not need to visit an office when applying, and they can receive their passports in the mail. In the U.S. and China, applicants generally need to submit documents in person.

In Japan, applicants need to visit the passport office at least twice, to submit documents and to receive their passports. Whether to allow mailing of passports will be deliberated later. Nevertheless, digitization will cut the number of trips required.

Furthermore, Japan will begin accepting credit card payments for necessary fees. Japanese living abroad, who now must pay with cash for passport renewals, will also be able to use their credit cards.

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