With more than half of Japan having received one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine and 47% being completed inoculated (September 2021 reports), local wards have begun accepting applications for Covid-19 vaccine passports. A sure sign of travel relief coming our way as borders begin to ease open in the foreseeable future. The European Union has a similar certification in place—so could this be the boost that Japan needs to reopen international travel sooner rather than later?
What is a vaccine passport?
Like many other countries introducing vaccine passports, the new system will provide official documentation that recognizes you have been fully inoculated against Covid-19. The benefit to travelers here is to have shorter quarantine times or possible exemptions from certain entry measures or procedures. These will, of course, vary from country to country.
Available in English and Japanese, the current vaccine passport is a paper document and will show your name, date of birth, date of vaccination, and the type of vaccine you received. A digital format is expected at some point in the future.
Although negotiations are underway with those countries that will hopefully officially recognize the new document, countries that have agreed to officially recognize the vaccine passports from Japan—as of September 2021—are Austria, Belarus, Belize, Bulgaria, Canada, Denmark, Ecuador, Estonia, France, Gabon, Germany, Honduras, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Italy, Lithuania, Malaysia, Maldives, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Poland, Republic of Kosovo, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Samoa, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Turkey, United States (only Guam), Vietnam.
Additional countries will be joining this list as regulations become more defined.
Why do I need a vaccination passport?
If you've been vaccinated, you really have nothing to lose from getting a digital or paper vaccination passport (or both). Vaccine passports are expected to become widely accepted and used for many quality of life improvements under new Covid-19 restrictions.
Going out with your vaccine passport could mean dining out, easy domestic travel, socio-economic perks, and other activities—like admission to public events. The Japanese government is also working to allay fears that those without passports may be refused service at establishments accepting vaccine passports.
In any case, vaccine passports will likely be necessary for international travel, and having a domestic version seems to carry no demerits.
How to get a vaccine passport
The method of obtaining your paper-copy vaccine passport differs from ward to ward. The three options are in-person, by mail, or online. Regardless of the method, you’ll need to prepare the following documents:
- Proof of vaccination
- Vaccine passport application (downloadable from your local ward’s official website)
- Copy of your passport
- Copy of your vaccination coupon (if lost, alternatives are available)
Perhaps the best option for those with urgent travel plans, online applications can be made via ward websites. You’ll need to have all your documents scanned, as well as your intended travel dates and country where you’ll go.
Check ahead of time if your ward office requires reservations for appointments for the vaccine passport or if they allow same-day applications. Take your documents to the corresponding counter and you should be able to be processed on the same day.
Package all your documents and post them to your local ward office. Be sure to include an addressed return envelope with an 84-yen stamp so that your vaccine passport can be mailed back to you.
Digital Vaccination Certificates
Beginning in December 2021, vaccine passports will also become available as a smartphone app. Nikkei reports that these digital versions will be used primarily for overseas travel. Creating the vaccine certificate app is currently a priority goal for the Japanese government.
More news is expected on the process of how to get the digital app and certificate.
With the anticipated nationwide vaccination plan concluding in November (we hope), it will be fantastic to travel again—the vaccine passport will be a crucial piece of any traveler’s supplies.