UPDATE March 2022: Since 1 March 2022, Japan has reopened its borders to all new foreign arrivals except for tourists. This includes international students. Read our article here for information or for the most up-to-date news, please check with your local Japanese embassy. Please also note that the re-entry procedure may differ now due to the pandemic, so please double check this with your local embassy.
Leaving Japan for a few weeks during school break? You will want to make sure you are all set and ready to leave, and don’t forget the most important thing of all: your re-entry permit. The re-entry permit for Japan, or sainyūkokukyoka (再入国許可) is permission granted prior to departure from the Land of the rising sun by the Minister of Justice in order to simplify the immigration procedures when foreign nationals residing in Japan temporarily depart Japan and intend to re-enter.
The procedure used to be more complicated, with applicants having to pay a visit to the Immigration Bureau in order to make their application, but since July 2012, a new process was implemented which made things a lot simpler: enter the special re-entry permit.
Who is the special re-entry permit for?
The special re-entry permit allows a foreign national holding a long-term visa to leave Japan and, as the name implies, re-enter the country smoothly when they return.
Important: this applies to people who intend to come back within one year of leaving Japan. So if you are only taking a short break with the intent to come back within a year, this permit is for you!
With the special re-entry permit, you can often skip the long lines through customs when coming back to Japan, but more importantly, you won’t be denied entry and subsequently deported, as would be the case if you did not have one.
What is a special re-entry permit?
Under the special re-entry permit system introduced in 2012, foreign nationals in Japan with a residence status and possessing a valid passport are exempted from obtaining an ordinary re-entry permit when reentering Japan within one year from the date of departure. This applies to any long-term visa holder who is leaving Japan temporarily.
The special re-entry permit is composed of three parts:
- the embarkation card for re-entrant, labeled 1 in the upper-right corner
- the disembarkation card for re-entrant, labeled 2 in the upper-right corner
- a little slip on the extreme left, which will remain stapled in your passport when you re-enter the country, titled 外国人用 (がいこくじんよう、for foreigners)
One simply needs to enter their personal and flight information, indicate how long they will be out of Japan, and whether they are coming back or not. The document will be stapled inside your passport, and should be kept with you during your entire travels.
Where to obtain the re-entry permit
When you are leaving Japan temporarily, be sure to present your Residence Card and tick the column (circled in above image) indicating your intention of departure and return, using the special re-entry permit system on the embarkation card for re-entrant. The embarkation cards are available at the international airports in Japan upon departure, and are to be presented to the immigration inspector upon leaving the country.
These forms are prominently placed in various areas of Japanese international airports, so don’t worry too much about whether you will be able to find them. Simply keep in mind that you need to get this document before you leave, and keep an eye out as you normally make your way through the airport. In doubt, ask the airport staff where you can find this permit: they are very helpful and will be able to guide you efficiently.
Use the special re-entry permit system every time you depart Japan to go on vacation or to visit your home country during your school breaks. Every time you leave Japan with the intention of re-entering, you will need to check the proper box on the embarkation card. Re-entry permits are valid up to one year, but you should always make sure you’ll be back by the time school resumes.
If you have any questions about re-entry permits, don’t hesitate to get in touch with Go! Go! Nihon! We will be happy to help with any question you might have.