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Can a Felon Travel to Japan?

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Traveling before your legal difficulties was easier. Following your incarceration, everything has been challenging, including travel. You might want to go overseas. This could include a trip to Japan.

Of course, the question is whether or not you can travel to Japan. Let’s take a look.

In this blog post, we’ll cover the following:

  • Travel Restrictions
  • Getting a Passport
  • Is a Visa Required?
  • Can You Enter Japan?
  • Steps to Take


Travel Restrictions

After your release, you must complete the terms of your sentence, which typically involves being on probation, reporting to your probation officer in person or checking in online monthly.  

During the probation period, you are restricted from leaving the district in which you reside without permission from your probation officer.  

Of course, travel outside the U.S. is out of the question until the conditions of probation have been satisfied entirely.  

Following completion of all aspects of your sentence, travel beyond the U.S. border is possible.

Getting a Passport

A passport is not a form of permission to leave the country. It is a form of identification, somewhat like a driver’s license might be in the U.S. 

However, it signifies that you are a citizen of this country and helps you be able to travel internationally.

The question is whether or not as a felon you can get a passport.

There are certain restrictions placed on felons being able to get a passport. First, if you have not completed all parts of your sentence, including probation, you will not be allowed to obtain a passport or travel outside the country at all.

The important factors that can disqualify you from getting a passport are having a felony drug trafficking conviction. The government doesn’t want to grant a passport to anyone who has been involved in possible smuggling drugs into or out of the country.

Basically, the federal government doesn’t want to give anyone who could be a risk for fleeing from having a passport which would help facilitate their running.

Many misdemeanor drug offenses could also keep you from having that passport.

Also, having an outstanding warrant will keep you from qualifying.

In addition to these, there are several other circumstances that will likely disqualify you. If you have outstanding child support or other financial debt to the government will not be granted a passport.

To apply for a passport, you must begin by completing Form DS-11. This is the application for a U.S. passport.

After this you must present proof of your citizenship. This can take several forms. You could present your birth certificate that shows your full name, city and state of birth along with your parents’ names.

Is a Visa Required?

Once you have applied for and received a passport, you must also consider a visa. While a passport is a form of ID, a visa is a document that allows you to enter a particular country.

A passport is issued by the U.S. government. A visa comes from the country you want to visit.

Each country establishes and maintains its standards for who is allowed to cross their border.  

A visa may be required, depending on the purpose of the trip and the intended length of stay.

While a passport is a form of identification, a visa is a document that shows a traveler is allowed to enter a specific country for a certain length of time.

Some countries require a visa, some don’t, and some require one depending on the length of stay.

A visa application can most easily be obtained from the embassy or consulate website or the country felons want to visit.

If you’re in a hurry to get your visa or want someone to walk you through the process, I recommend you use this website to help. 

A visa application usually doesn’t have questions about a criminal record.

Japan does require a visa for anyone entering the country who is not a citizen of that nation. While there are different categories for a visa, the type that is most common for visitors is valid for three months.

Can You Enter Japan?

Unlike many of the countries to which felons are able to travel with typically only minor restrictions, Japan is quite different.

Japan has the strictest laws of almost all nations regarding felons’ entry to their country. In Japan, the law prohibits most felonies and many misdemeanors regardless of the length of stay or the purpose of the visit.

The Ministry of Justice imposes the regulations to deny access to anyone sentenced to more than a year in prison and also anyone convicted of a drug offense whether it is a felony or misdemeanor no matter how long ago the conviction was.

The law states that any foreign traveler shall be barred from landing in Japan:

“A person who has been convicted of a violation of any law or regulation of Japan, or any other country, and has been sentenced to imprisonment with or without labor for one year or more, or to an equivalent penalty except those convicted of a political offense.

“A person convicted of a violation of any law or regulation of Japan or of any other country relating to the control of narcotics, marijuana, opium, stimulants, or psychotropic substances and sentenced to a penalty.”

Their statute continues to say that “the sentence per se suffices for the application of the regulation above, and it does not matter whether the person actually served or completed the execution of the sentence.”

The law also indicates the reason for these restrictions “relating to the control over narcotics and the like of the country of Japan as well as of foreign countries, with a view to preventing aliens spreading the use of drugs such as narcotics in the society of Japan.

Even those felon travelers who arrive with a passport and a visa are not allowed entry. The visa is only a recommendation and does not guarantee permission to land in Japan. All regulations in the Immigration Control Act must still be met.

Steps to Take

If you are still interested in traveling to Japan after these concerns regarding your freedom, you can make plans for that journey.

You can probably qualify for and be able to get a passport. You have to have a visa to enter Japan and then likely for only three months. However, once you are in the country, you may not feel so safe. 

You can easily be picked up by the Japanese for any reason. With a felony conviction, you can be locked up and held for an extended time with no notice of action taken to free you from incarceration. No charges against you, but you’re still locked up.

In Japan, the legal system allows you to be held without any formal charges being filed for as long as three weeks. This isn’t exactly what you want to happen.

The Japanese prison system is not exactly where you want to be. It can be a brutal existence in that environment, even worse than the prisons here in this country.

But, after all this, if you still want to travel to Japan, be forewarned. It will be essential for you to be honest in all information that you include on a passport or visa application. 

You could be in for a world of trouble if you are dishonest and are discovered in a lie. It just isn’t worth it.

Going to Japan can be a great adventure, especially if it is to take in an exciting event like the Olympics that are scheduled to be held in that country in 2021.

If you are considering a trip there, be prepared. First, check to see if your felony record can be expunged. Be ready to contact an attorney in case of trouble.

Don’t let your past mistakes take you down. Be smart and be cautious.

Is a trip to Japan in your best interest? Think long and hard about it. Don’t trade a prison term in the U.S. for one in Japan.

So what do you think about this blog post about how a felon can travel to Japan? Have you or someone you know wanted to travel to Japan with a felony? What was that like and what happened? Please tell us in the comments below.

10 thoughts on “Can a Felon Travel to Japan?”

  1. I am considering teaching English in Japan in the future. From what I understand, you need a four year degree in whatever subject you’re majoring in to get a working visa, and a passport to travel there. I have a felony involving assaulting a cop with a “deadly weapon(grapefruit spoon)” when I had a schizophrenic episode because they startled me into it by busting in the door to my place. Then, I have a misdemeanor for 2 grams of cannabis that was for my personal use(not dealing mind you). I might have to get my felony expunged before I take the trip to Japan eventually. Even if I get it sealed/or expunged I’m afraid they won’t let me teach there because of my past mistakes especially the felony where I was stuck in jail for six months before anyone got me out. Well, I guess I will have to study the resources on this site to learn more on how to go about all this.

  2. Andy,
    It will ask if you have ever been convicted of a crime, as most countries do. Then Say YES, if you have. Don’t lie. Be honest. Don’t encourage others to lie at least. Please.

  3. You will have no problem going to Japan with a felony (I have). You fill out a small form on arrival and get a 90 day stamp for tourism, no visa required. It will ask if you have ever been convicted of a crime, as most countries do. Say no, they have no way to check your background or access to the US criminal database.

      • I read that whenever you apply for a Japanese pizza you have to give your fingerprints and they can request whether you have a criminal record or not they cannot get your criminal record but they can request if you have one by your fingerprints or surgical treatment that lowers testosterone

    • How did you get into Japan without a visa? I’ve read that when you apply for a Visa for Japan you have to give your fingerprints and that The Japanese request Proof of not having a criminal record with your fingerprints to the US They cannot get your criminal record but they can ask if you have a criminal record

    • Is this still the case in 2023?! My husband and i want to travel to japan, but he has a felony and we are too afriad to even apply.

      • David, I am in the same boat, however I have had good advice that ticking No on the card is the easiest way to get in. If you are only going there for a holiday, make the most of the 90day visa free travel, tick no and just go in.

        • Would it be very troublesome to tick “yes” on the criminal offence even punishment did not involve imprisonment? and not related to drugs and prostitution?

          What would happen at the immigration?

  4. Thank you for this blog post. Very helpful, insightful and empathetic. It can be the hardest thing watching loved ones go through this process and extremely isolating for all involved due to the stigma attached.


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