For my semester abroad, I will be staying in the country for over four months as a direct exchange student. This means that I had to get a Student Visa to visit the country, and it ended up being the main cause for concern in whether or not I would be able to travel abroad.

I originally intended to study in Japan during the Spring of my junior year, but due to complications surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, my trip was postponed for a semester. Specifically, this was because it was only around October of 2021 that the Japanese government finally made the decision to open its borders specifically to non-tourists visiting the country (such as those with student visas or business visas). Unfortunately, the backlog of student visas for the Japanese Embassy to approve was so long that it would have been impossible for me to obtain the visa in time to leave.

To obtain a student visa, you have to first be given a Certificate of Eligibility (COE) from the university you will be attending. Due to international shipping, this can take 1-2 weeks, and then you must take the COE and other related documents to the nearest Consular Office of Japan. For me, it was the actual Embassy in Washington, D.C., but for those in the midwest the Consular Office could be several states away. With the backlog, obtaining the visa could have taken anywhere from 1-3 months. The university I will be attending, Kansai Gaidai University, judged that it would be better to postpone the study abroad program until further notice.

Fortunately, the visa process went relatively unhindered when I went through with it this summer. KGU mailed the COE to me at the end of June, it arrived in the first week of July, and I travelled to D.C. to apply for my visa in person. After one week, I was able to go back and pick it up without any complications. Travel to Japan was opened back up to the general public to a limited extent in July as well, provided that a tourist visa is obtained in advance. However, for those who would intend to travel to Japan as a tourist, I would advise caution- COVID-19 cases have been skyrocketing recently, which could make tourist travel much more volatile. It's a huge relief that even with these circumstances, it still looks like I will be able to get to Japan.


Published: 8/16/22

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