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Sunday, June 22, 2014

Travel : Japan Eases Visa Requirements for Filipinos

Mount Fuji - Japan's highest peak
Many countries do not require visa for Philippine nationals to visit their country; but other countries require Filipinos to get an entry visa, and some of them have very stringent requirements. One particular country that is quite strict in issuing visa to Filipinos is Japan. This is understandable because some Filipino tourists overstay in Japan to find jobs when their visa expires. The high exchange rate of the Japanese yen, the high-paying blue collar jobs, and job referrals from friends/relatives who are already working there, are some of the  reasons  why these Filipino visitors are enticed to find jobs in Japan. 

There are also thousands of overseas Filipino contract workers all over Japan (working mainly in the entertainment industry) and it would not be an easy task for Japanese immigration to apprehend these overstaying visitors, so this could also be one reason for them to strictly qualify visa applicants from the Philippines.  For whatever reason, getting a Japanese visa is a hurdle to many Filipinos.

A couple of weeks ago, there were "unofficial" news that Japan would be easing up on visa requirements, and many Filipinos welcomed the news with anticipation. But last  Tuesday (June 17, 2014) the Japanese embassy in Manila released the news officially :

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan has approved “substantial relaxations of visa requirements” for tourism visas issued to nationals of the Philippines, Indonesia, and Vietnam, the Japanese Embassy in Manila said Tuesday.
The policy move is just an “initial step” of the ministry's “endeavor to realize the exemption of visa requirements,” the embassy also said.
A report by Kyodo News on April 15 said the Japanese government is “making arrangements” to waive visas for tourists from the three Asian countries.

A report on Nikkei Asian Review quoted a Japanese Tourism Agency official as saying that for the Philippines and Vietnam, Japan will launch "a substantive visa exemption" by simplifying visa acquisition procedures for participants of tours offered by the travel agencies designated by the Japanese government.

Tourist visa requirements were relaxed to help achieve Japan's goal of attracting 20 million foreign visitors by 2020, when Tokyo will host the Olympics and Paralympics, according to The Yomiuri Shimbun.

“For national of the Philippines multiple-entry visa requirements will be substantially relaxed, and requirements for single-entry tourism visas will be relaxed to a quasi-exemption-equivalent level when applied via specified travel agencies,” the embassy said in its statement.

However, other details, including “the beginning date of application” are still being worked out, the embassy said.

According to The Yomiuri Shimbun, visitors from overseas surpassed the 10 million mark for the first time in 2013 due partly to the yen’s weakening.

It said Japanese officials believe that by making it easier to obtain a visa, the number of foreign tourists to Japan will double from the 2013 level by 2020.

New Source : GMA News

Indeed this is a welcome development specially to Filipinos. Japan is geographically so near to the Philippines but it seems so far to many Filipinos because of this visa impediment. 

For the three countries specifically mentioned (Philippines, Indonesia and Vietnam) who would be benefitting from this development, it is obvious that economic and political reasons had been considered for their inclusion------These three countries are the fastest growing economies in Asia these past years; and Vietnam and the Philippines are Japan's allies in fighting China's expansionist scheme in East Asia.-----

Japan is a very beautiful country with a unique and ancient culture; and the Japanese people are admired for their kindness and courteous manner. Many people would love to visit the country if given the opportunity. With the easing of visa requirements (and maybe even a complete waiving of visa requirements soon) this will give more people a chance to visit Japan. Im sure many Filipinos are already excitedly planning for a Nippon adventure. 

Let's forget Hong Kong (who likes unfriendly people anyway?). As one travel writer puts it : Japan will now be the "New Hong-Kong" for Filipinos. 

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