New Japanese immigration rules start on Nov. 20
October 26, 2007
NAHA, Okinawa — Americans covered by the Status of Forces Agreement soon could face long delays when entering Japan if they forget their orders or military identification cards.
If they fail to bring proper documentation, they will have to be fingerprinted and photographed like all other foreign nationals entering the country.
The revised Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act, effective Nov. 20, requires fingerprints and facial photos of all foreign nationals at immigration checks.
SOFA personnel are exempt from the requirement and only have to present their orders or military identification cards, along with their passports, when passing through immigration checkpoints, Japanese immigration officials say.
But it’s not very unusual for an American to be missing the necessary documents, said Takeshi Azuma, a spokesman for the Fukuoka Immigration Control’s Naha bureau.
“From what I have observed as an immigration officer during the past several years at Naha Airport is, from time to time, people do not carry their travel orders or military ID cards with them,” he said.
If a person refuses to go through the new process, he or she will be denied entry into the country, he said.
And there will be no further appeals at the point of entry.
In the past, persons rejected at an immigration checkpoint could file an objection to the deportation order.
That is no longer an option under the revised law, Azuma said.
“Refusal to submit the identification information will be an instant rejection of entry to Japan,” he said.
Japan amended the immigration control law as part of anti-terrorism measures, according to the Immigration Bureau of Ministry of Justice.
All foreign nationals entering Japan are subject to the new provision, except those under the SOFA, diplomats or other exempt officials, permanent residents, and children under the age of 16.