Japan’s new Trusted Traveller scheme allows frequent visitors to use the same automated passport lanes as Japanese locals, saving time on your next business trip by avoiding the often-lengthy queues for manual processing by an immigration officer.
However, enrolling in the program isn’t particularly straightforward, and the list of eligible users also comes with plenty of restrictions: here’s who makes the cut, and how eligible high flyers can register.
Eligibility for Japan’s Trusted Traveller scheme
To apply for the Trusted Traveller program you’ll first need to meet a few basic criteria:
- Hold an Australian passport, or a passport from a country that Japan has visa-waiver arrangements with – a list that also includes the United States, the United Kingdom and New Zealand, among others.
- Have visited (entered and exited) Japan at least twice in the last 12 months.
- Have never over-stayed your permitted visa or visa-free period in Japan, or been subjected to a removal or deportation order to leave Japan at any time during your life.
- Have never been convicted of a crime in Japan, Australia or any other country.
- You intend to stay in Japan only for a short period of time (90 days or less for Australian travellers) as an international business visitor, a tourist or to visit friends or relatives.
Seems simple enough? Here’s where things get tricky – on top of that, you’ll also need to be a current full-time employee of an eligible business or organisation, and have been working for the same for at least 12 months.
Eligible businesses and organisations include:
- A public organisation established in a country with which Japan has a visa-waiver agreement (includes Australia), such as Australia Post and the ABC
- A listed company based in those same visa-waiver countries with shares traded on a major stock exchange, such as the ASX, NYSE or NASDAQ
- An unlisted company in Japan or in those same visa-waiver countries with a capital amount of at least 500 million Japanese yen (A$6.3m)
- An international organisation, such as Médecins Sans Frontières, United Nations or the World Trade Organisation
- Japanese public organisations
- A listed company in Japan, including any affiliates of that company
If you don’t meet that second round of requirements, there’s one last option: if you have a business relationship with a public organisation or listed company of Japan, you can ask that body to endorse your application if you’ll need to frequently visit the country in the course of your business dealings.
Registering for Japan’s Trusted Traveller scheme
Provided you meet Japan’s lengthy list of requirements, the Trusted Traveller application process follows two stages.
First, you’ll need to create a User ID with the Immigration Bureau of Japan and then complete a series of online questions regarding your eligibility, which can be done via the Bureau’s website.
During that same process, you’ll also be asked to upload proof of your identity and employment or business dealings, plus a scan or digital copy of a passport-sized photograph.
This allows the Japanese authorities to conduct a preliminary assessment of your Trusted Traveller application, and once that’s complete, you’ll be alerted by email.
On your next visit to Japan, proceed through passport control the old-fashioned way one last time, and then seek out a Trusted Traveller registration counter immediately after (ask immigration staff for assistance or directions).
These counters can be found at Tokyo’s Haneda Airport, plus Tokyo Narita (terminals 1&2), Chubu Airport (Nagoya) and Kansai Airport (Osaka).
There, you’ll need to present an original copy of everything you submitted online for verification, before providing fingerprints, and finally, receiving a ‘registered user card’ for the Trusted Traveller system, valid for three years or until your passport expires, whichever is sooner.
Using your ‘registered user card’ for fast-track passport control
When you next approach Japanese passport control, head to the automated lanes with both your passport and your ‘registered user card’, and follow the instructions on the screen.
If everything is in order and your fingerprints match, you’ll be whisked through in no time at all – much to the ire of passengers stuck in the regular passport lanes, as this Japanese Government-provided illustration highlights:
You can also utilise the online User ID you created earlier to pre-fill your Japanese arrival and departure cards, saving time at the airport with the information linked electronically to your passport, or can complete any necessary information via the automated passport kiosks.
Hot tip: Japanese law requires foreign visitors to carry their passport at all times, although the Immigration Bureau of Japan shares that enrolled Trusted Traveller users can simply carry their ‘registered user card’ instead, which includes a photograph and your basic personal information.
For more information or to apply, visit the Japan Trusted Traveller website.