In Japan, COVID-19 Vaccination Certificates (Vaccine Passports) are a hot topic, with the government looking to start issuing digital versions by the end of 2021 to people fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
How do vaccine passports differ from the vaccination certificate you can get at an inoculation facility? When would you use a vaccine passport? How do you apply for one, and what are the requirements? Here we will answer some of these frequently asked questions as well as introduce Japan's vaccine passport guidelines.
*The information in this article is from September 2021.
1. Japanese vaccine passports are limited to overseas travelers
After getting the Covid-19 vaccination, you will receive a vaccine certificate and a vaccine record (a sticker with your vaccination lot number is placed on both documents).
However, the vaccine passport, officially known as the COVID-19 Vaccination Certificate, differs from the other two documents in that it can only be issued to those planning to travel abroad.
Having a vaccine passport may exempt you from quarantining and taking PCR tests when arriving at your destination.
Furthermore, it might even lessen the number of preventative measures you have to take.
Please refer to the following official websites or the Ministry of Affairs of Japan’s website for more details.
The details printed on the vaccine passport include your name, date of birth, nationality/region, and passport number. In addition to this, the document will also list the type of vaccine you got for both your first and second shot, the manufacturer, the product name, and the date of vaccination. Lastly, it will list the municipality you belong to as well as your certificate ID.
As of September 2021, vaccine passports in Japan are only available in the form of a document. A digital version is scheduled to be ready for use by December 2021. This will allow travelers to issue their vaccine passport online and show it by using a QR code from their smartphone.
2. Japanese vaccine passports cannot be used in all countries and regions
When traveling abroad, it’s important to know that not all countries currently accept vaccine passports. This must be checked in advance. It's also good to know if the certificate can be used as a way to reduce the number of days you have to quarantine etc.
Furthermore, every country has its own terms and conditions they ask you to follow upon entering their country. This might include handing in a Certificate of a Negative Test Result that was issued three days before your flight or quarantining for a set amount of time at a government facility. Depending on the situation, some countries may even refuse entry to any foreign travelers.
Please make sure to check the following website or the Ministry of Affairs of Japan’s website before booking a trip.
3. How to apply for a vaccine passport in Japan depends on the municipality
According to the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, Japan's vaccine passport is for those who have gotten a Covid-19 vaccination and need a vaccine passport to travel abroad. You must meet both of these conditions to apply.
Where to Apply for a Vaccine Passport
You must apply at the municipality where your vaccine ticket was issued. Generally, it should be the same municipality as where you issued your certificate of residence.
Required Documents for a Vaccine Passport
(1) An application form. You can find these in every municipality. (As of September 2021, this information has not been consolidated. Search for "COVID-19 vaccine certificate" or "vaccine passport" on the website of your ward office for more information relevant to your case.)
(2) A passport that will be valid during the period you travel. Please note that the passport number listed on your vaccination certificate must match the passport number you use when traveling overseas. Also, make sure to apply for your vaccine passport only after confirming that your passport is valid.
(3) Please have the pre-vaccination screening portion of your vaccination ticket ready. You can also show your My Number card or documents, such as a copy of your certificate of residence, that lists your My Number. It’s also possible to show the form of identification (your address must be included) you used when first getting the vaccine.
(4) Your vaccination certificate or vaccination record. If these documents have been misplaced, you can also submit a copy of your pre-vaccination screening ticket.
The way to apply can differ depending on each municipality. Some will require you to send your application and have it issued by post. Others will require you to go to the municipality’s office and apply in person.
When applying through the post, it can take anywhere from five to twenty days to get your vaccine passport issued. Also, you may be required to make a reservation for in-person applications, so it’s important to check your local municipality’s website beforehand.
What’s more, postal applications require you to include an envelope and a stamp so that the issued vaccination passport can be sent back.
How Much is a Vaccine Passport in Japan?
In general, it’s free to apply. However, documents such as a copy of your residence certificate, envelopes, and stamps must be paid for out of pocket.
Q. Can you apply even if you don’t plan to travel overseas?
No, only people who are planning to travel overseas can apply.
Q. Does the type of vaccine you get affect whether or not you can apply?
If you got the vaccine in Japan, you can apply no matter what the brand is.
Q. Can people who got their vaccine abroad apply?
No, only vaccinations that follow Japan’s Immunization Act will be accepted.
Q. Can you apply if you just got one vaccine shot?
It’s possible to get a vaccine passport after one vaccine shot, but please note that the country you’re planning to travel to may not deem the vaccine passport as valid. Getting your second shot is highly recommended.
Q. Can you apply for multiple vaccine passports in the case you plan to stay overseas for more than two months?
Because vaccine passports only need to be shown and not handed in, you do not need multiple passports. Only one vaccine passport can be issued when applying.
Q. Can you use the vaccine passport when returning to Japan?
Vaccine passports cannot be used when re-entering Japan. When traveling from a foreign country to Japan, you must get a Certificate of a Negative Test Result that shows you were negative 72 hours before your flight back.
In addition, you will be asked to quarantine at a facility provided by the testing center, refrain from using public transportation for 14 days, quarantine at home, and be willing to show your location status.
4. The Future of Vaccine Passports: Going Digital? Domestic Use?
The Digital Agency, an organization run by the Japanese government, intends to make digital vaccine passports available by the end of 2021.
Not limited to traveling overseas, the government aims to make certificates that can also be used for domestic travel. The vaccine passport will be downloaded from an app and issued by using a QR code. What’s more, the government also wants to create an API so that information can be shared.
In France, it’s required to show a sanitation pass when eating out, going to the movies, or traveling on public transportation for long periods of time. Japan is still trying to figure out where and in what situations the vaccine passport has to be shown.
As of September 23, 2021, 55.8% of Japan’s population has gotten the required amount of vaccination shots it takes to be fully vaccinated.
However, no matter the type of vaccine, the shots do not necessarily protect you completely. Even if you are vaccinated and take preventative measures, you can still get Covid-19 through what’s called a breakthrough infection. It’s important to keep avoiding the Three C’s. These include Closed spaces with poor ventilation, Crowded places with many people nearby, and Close-contact settings such as close-range conversations.
Getting the Covid-19 vaccine in Japan is still voluntary. Some cannot get the shot due to medical reasons or because they are anxious about the side effects. Moving forward, the main focus will become keeping people who are not vaccinated, safe.
5. Contact Information for Questions Regarding Vaccine Passports and Procedures
Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare’s Covid-19 Call Center
Tel: 0120-761-770 (toll-free)
Languages and Hours (Open Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays）
・Spanish: from 9:00 a.m.~9:00 p.m.
・Thai: from 9:00 a.m.~6:00 p.m.
・Vietnamese: 10:00 a.m.~7:00 p.m.
*Prices and options mentioned are subject to change.
*Unless stated otherwise, all prices include tax.
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