Japan to test system to precheck foreign visitors for entry permission

Japan's immigration authorities will trial a new system aimed at preventing terrorists from entering the country and easing congestion during immigration procedures by screening foreign visitors before departure.

The Immigration Services Agency will begin experimental adoption of the preclearance system in the upcoming fiscal year, which starts in April.

Under the system, airlines will provide immigration officials with data, including passport information, about foreign travelers headed for Japan during the check-in process at airports.

Immigration officials will cross-reference the information with a database.

Foreign visitors who are flagged as terrorists, have served a prison sentence of one year or more in Japan or elsewhere, or have been accused of illegal stays in Japan may not be allowed to enter the country.

The airlines will be notified, and they can then decide whether to allow the tourists to board their flights.

Agency officials say that in some years, about 10,000 foreign visitors were denied entry to Japan upon arrival. They say those who refuse to return to their countries are extradited at state expense.

About 25.8 million foreigners came to Japan last year. That is around 80 percent of pre-pandemic levels. Immigration procedures have become congested as a result.

The United States, South Korea and other countries have already introduced the system.