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ESTA for Japanese Citizens

If a Japanese citizen plans to visit the United States of America, they must receive prior permission from the U.S. government. Japanese nationals are eligible for the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA), a visa waiver system that can be used instead of a traditional U.S. visa. Travelers from 39 countries around the world can apply.

When Do Japanese Travelers Need to Apply for an ESTA?

Japanese citizens should apply for ESTA if they are planning to visit the United States for the purposes of business, tourism or medical treatment (trips of 90 days or less).

Please note that Japanese nationals are also required to apply for ESTA for transit journeys through the USA, no matter how much or how little time they will be spending within American territory.

Applications must be submitted at least a few business days prior to the intended date of departure in order to allow the U.S. authorities enough time to process the request.

Making an ESTA Application From Japan

Submitting an ESTA application from Japan involves filling out an online form and is a fast and simple process. Completing the form generally takes no longer than ten minutes and can be done from anywhere in the world.

In order to successfully complete the ESTA application, applicants should confirm that the following is true:

  • All information entered is factual and accurate, especially passport details
  • All questions have been answered truthfully and fully
  • All information supplied has been reviewed and verified before submission

Individuals wishing to travel to the U.S. with their family should be aware that minors and dependents of applicants need to apply for ESTA independently and cannot share the ESTA visa waiver of a parent, guardian, etc.

The average ESTA application gets approved instantly, but travelers should be aware that in some circumstances, it may take up to 3 working days for an application to be reviewed. This happens especially when the form presents inaccurate or incomplete information.

For this reason, travelers are strongly encouraged to apply for ESTA from Japan no later than 72 hours before they plan to leave for the USA.

Please also note that a processing fee must be paid in order for the application to be processed.

Once all the necessary information and documents have been submitted, applicants can check the status of their ESTA Japan online, and can look up the issue date and expiry date of their travel permit, verify the passport details they’ve submitted, etc.

When do Japanese Nationals Need to Apply for a Visa Instead of an ESTA?

Certain groups of Japanese nationals are not eligible to apply for ESTA even if they own a valid Japanese passport. These categories are the following:

  • Anyone with a criminal record
  • Any traveler currently with a contagious disease that might pose a serious public health risk to the American population
  • All individuals who have, in the past, been refused entry to the U.S., been deported from American territory, or taken a trip to the United States that lasted longer than 90 days on an ESTA permit
  • Any visitor to the nations of Iran, Iraq, Sudan, or Syria on or after March 1, 2011

However, Japanese citizens who are ineligible to apply who have had their ESTA application rejected may be able to apply for a U.S. tourist visa. There are 2 different categories of US tourist visa:

  • A B1-category visa, called a U.S. Business Visa. This visa is for individuals intending to travel to the United States for business and related activities
  • A B2-category visa, called a U.S. Travel or Visitor Visa. This visa is for visitors to the U.S. who come for the purposes of leisure, tourism, family visits, or medical treatment

Applications for both categories of tourist visas must be submitted at a United States embassy or consulate.

Entry Requirements for Japanese Citizens Visiting the United States

Any Japanese citizen wishing to travel to the United States must possess the following documents:

  • A machine-readable Japanese passport with an electronic chip
    • This passport must have at least 6 months of validity left from the date the holder intends to arrive in the USA
  • A valid ESTA Japan (or visa)

Holders of a valid ESTA permit should be informed that this remains valid for 2 years from its date of issue, and that travelers may make a trip of up to 90 days to the USA at any time within that 2-year period.

Please note that the ESTA visa waiver is a pre-screening evaluation system. It gives its holders the right to travel to America, but U.S. Customs and Border Protection make the ultimate judgment on whether a holder may enter the United States of America.
However, very few Japanese citizens who apply for ESTA from Japan encounter trouble when entering the USA.

ESTA—Quick Facts for Japanese Citizens

  • ESTA applications should be submitted online no later than 72 hours before departure
  • Some travelers whose ESTA application is denied may still apply for a U.S. tourist visa
  • Holders of ESTA for Japanese citizens may make multiple trips of less than 90 days to the United States within the 2-year validity period of their permit
  • Decisions on applications are usually provided instantly
  • The ESTA system may be accessed conveniently online

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