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Asia travel

Hongkongers can soon apply for Japan visas at new application centre

Consulate hopes centre, which opens December 9 and will be run by a third party, will offer better service amid jump in number of visas issued

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 01 December, 2016, 4:50pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 01 December, 2016, 10:57pm

The Japanese consulate will stop taking visa applications directly in Hong Kong from next Friday, and will open an application centre operated by a third party the same day, as application numbers in the city see a sharp increase.

The consulate issued 24,345 visas last year, a 43.5 per cent spike from the previous year, and an almost 80 per cent jump from 2013.

The diplomatic office announced on Thursday that it would open a “Japan Visa Application Centre” in North Point, to be operated by VFS Global, in order to provide a better consular service.

“Applicants are advised to submit visa applications and collect their passports at the centre, as the Consulate General Japan will no longer accept visa applications directly,” the consulate said in a statement.

Applicants are advised to make appointments online – a service to be made available soon, – but walk-ins are also allowed.

It said the number of foreign travellers visiting Japan exceeded 20 million in the first 10 months of this year. The Japanese government hopes the number can reach 40 million in 2020, and 60 million in 2030.

“We hope the improved consular service will help attract more people from Hong Kong and Macau to visit Japan,” the statement continued.

Currently, those who want to apply for a visa for the purposes of travel, business, a working holiday, education and a medical stay have to make their submissions to the Japanese consulate in Central.

Those holding valid Hong Kong passports can stay in Japan for up to 90 days without a visa if the purpose is a short-term visit.

The new measures come after Japan raised the annual quota for the working holiday scheme between the country and Hong Kong from 250 to 1,000 in October.

Steve Huen Kwok-chuen, executive director of EGL Tours, welcomed the new arrangement, but said foreigners living in the city would benefit more as locals did not need a visa to visit the country.

“Many of them have been ­living in the territory for several years waiting to become permanent residents. Taking mainlanders in Hong Kong as an example, they have to go through a complex procedure to obtain a travel visa to Japan,” Huen said, adding he ­believed the new measures could boost tourism to Japan as it had long been a top travel destination.

But Huen said the new application centre would not help lure people to make applications for working holiday visas as the number had not been particularly high in past years.

Japan Visa Application Centre

Operating hours

Submission : 8.30 am to 3.00pm (Monday to Friday, except on public holidays)

Collection : 8.30am to 4.45pm (Monday to Friday, except on public holidays)

Address: Unit 3, 16/F, 148 Electric Road, North Point, Hong Kong

Helpline: (852) 3167 7033