Guide to the ERFS Certificate

By HeiKin Wong | April 18th, 2022 

The current pandemic had caused the Japanese government to put heavy restrictions on traveling and staying in Japan. This has more or less forbade any new entry into Japan for over a year. The good news is that the Japanese government has eased its travel restrictions starting from March 1st. However, this is not without its own caveats – all foreigners must complete the new “ERFS” in order to enter Japan.

This article is a part of our extensive series on Japanese Culture and Online Japanese Lessons at Japan Switch.

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    What is the ERFS?

    ERFS stands for the Entrants, Returnees Follow-up System (入国者健康確認システム / nyūkokusha kenkō kakunin shisutemu). This is a new COVID tracking / follow-up system developed by Emergency Assistance Japan for foreigners entering Japan. The ERFS is completely online, therefore any foreign nationals can complete it with the assistance of a sponsor within Japan (more on this later). Finally, this procedure is required for both short-term (less than three months) and long-term stays. However, since more new foreign nationals enter Japan through the short-term stay method, this is what we’ll be discussing for the rest of the article.

    Do I need to get an ERFS certificate?

    In most cases, yes, you will need an ERFS certificate if you are entering Japan with a new visa. This is because the Japanese government wants to make sure they’re not letting too many people into the country at once. They also want to be certain that all foreign nationals entering Japan are accounted for and have Japanese organizations receiving them once they arrive in Japan. There were cases where foreigners who had entered Japan with special permits broke certain COVID rules which resulted in small outbreaks. The ERFS system was created, in part, to remedy this situation.

    People who don’t require ERFS

    You won’t need an ERFS certificate if You have a valid re-entry permit. This only applies to those who already have a status of residence in Japan. 

    That being said, when traveling to and from Japan, the COVID quarantine measures remain the same for everyone whether they are new entries or returning to Japan. 

    Depending on whether you have the booster vaccine shot or not. Your quarantine period may vary from none at all to around 7 days of self-quarantine. Click here to check the latest update from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on the latest border measures.

    Do I not need any of the other supporting documents?

    You will still need your usual visa documents along with your ERFS certiificate in order to enter Japan.

    Who can be my ERFS certificate sponsor?

    Any company or registered business within Japan is allowed to sponsor the ERFS certificate for foreigners. Though it is a little more difficult, anyone who is self-employed in Japan is also allowed to sponsor your ERFS certificate. While it is common that your ERFS certificate sponsor is also your visa sponsor, there are also cases where they can be different organizations. Therefore, even though almost any company can be an ERFS sponsor, almost no one would offer this without also sponsoring your visa as well. 

    Speaking of which, we are able to sponsor your ERFS certificate soon! Here at Japan Switch, we provide affordable online Japanese lessons along with your ERFS certificate. Contact us today to find out more!

    How does the ERFS application work?

    There are two parts to complete for the ERFS for your short-term stay in Japan. First, you’ll need a guarantor that will sponsor your stay throughout the time you’re in Japan. If you enter for work this would be the company you will be working for; if you are coming to study in Japan this would be the institution you are attending. 

    STEP ONE: The first part of this application is to be done by your guarantor. They must apply for a guarantor login ID under the ERFS. This will grant them access to the ERFS system. That’s the first part of the process.

    STEP TWO: After your sponsor has registered on the ERFS, the next step is for you to provide the necessary information such that your guarantor can fill in your information in the system. 

    You’ll need to provide the following to your ERFS sponsor: 

    • Your name (the exact name on your passport) 
    • country code (you can find your 3 digit iso code with this site)
    • your date of birth 
    • your passport number (exactly the same as your passport) 
    • the address you’ll be staying at during your time in Japan

    Submitting and finalizing your ERFS application

    With all the information filled in by your guarantor, they will now submit your request through the online system. Next, your guarantor will get a digital receipt certificate which they have to send to you. This will be the proof that you (and your guarantor) have completed the ERFS. 

    That’s it for the ERFS! Although in addition to this system you’ll also need to complete the usual visa application process (Certificate of Eligibility, list other parts here) and have the respective documents ready as well. So don’t rephrase this on completing this procedure first.

    If you want to know more about the visa application process, check out our Guide to Getting Your Japan Visa!

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    How long does it take to complete the ERFS process?

    Once your sponsor has filled in the required information to register for a login ID, it will take around 1 to 2 business days for the government to issue the login credentials to your sponsor. After that, you only have to provide the necessary information (mentioned in the previous section) to your sponsor. They will have to fill in the application and your ERFS certificate will be issued 10 minutes after filling out the application form. 

    Please note that your sponsor will still have to manually send the digital certificate to you. Therefore, it might take longer for you to actually receive the certificate depending on your sponsor.

    Do I need to renew the ERFS with my visa?

    No, you do not. Unless there are changes to any of the information you’ve declared on the ERFS certification then no changes are needed even if your visa situation has changed. 

    Based on the information you filled in on your application, the only thing you’ll have to be careful about is your passport number after renewing it (which might or might not change based on where you’re from). So make sure to double-check before giving it out to your sponsor.

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    How to fill in the ERFS system

    This section is mainly aimed at organizations who want a brief rundown on how to apply and fill in the ERFS system. The Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare actually have a great step-by-step guide through the whole process (albeit only in Japanese). Click here for the official guide on the ERFS system.

    For an English rundown of the application process, here's a screenshot of the application page and we’ll give a brief explanation of what to fill in for each column:

    applying for ERFS login
    1. 受入責任者法人番号 (ukeire sekininsha hōjin bangō) / Corporate number for the sponsoring organization (find it here)
    2. 水際対策措置代替法人番号 (mizugiwa taisaku sochi daitai hōjin bangō) / Border measures alternative corporate number (find it here)
    3. 受入責任者名称 (ukeire sekininsha meishō) / Name of sponsoring organization
    4. 受入責任者担当者名 (ukeire sekininsha tantōshamei) / Name of person in charge of sponsorship (E.g Personnel Department Manager it’s a company and your name if you're self-employed)
    5. 受入責任者担当者メールアドレス (ukeire sekininsha tantōsha mēruadoresu) / Email address of the person in charge of the sponsorship
    6. 受入責任者担当者メールアドレス(確認用)ukeire sekininsha tantōsha mēruadoresu (kakuninyō) / Email address of the person in charge of the sponsorship (for confirmation)
    7. 受入責任者担当者電話番号 (ukeire sekininsha tantōsha denwa bangō)
    8. gBizID if you have one. Find out more here (Japanese site)
    9. 委任状等 (ninjōtō) / Authorization letter if you’ve hired a lawyer to apply the ERFS ID for you
    10. その他必要書類 (sonota hitsuyō shorui) / Any necessary documents to upload if you’re self-employed (usually proof of your employment status)

    *This is not legal advice and we’re not responsible for any mistakes you make while filling out your ERFS ID application. If you have the slightest doubts about how to apply please consult a lawyer or your sponsor.

    After filling in all the necessary information and clicking apply you will receive an email to confirm your application. After 1 to 2 business days you will receive another email with your ERFS ID and password if the application is successful. 

    Now you’ll have to log in to file for an ERFS certificate for the foreigner coming into Japan. Consult this article on how to fill in the ERFS certificate application (the site is Japanese but Google Translate works quite well, any new English guide will be updated here).

    Is there anything that would disqualify you from getting the ERFS certificate?

    No, nothing would disqualify you from getting the ERFS certificate. However, you will get questioned or even deny entry if you filled in your personal information incorrectly. So please check whether the information on your ERFS certificate is correct before coming to Japan.

    Is my ERFS certificate valid if I change my flight and decide to come to Japan later?

    No, nothing would disqualify you from getting the ERFS certificate. However, you will get questioned or even deny entry if you filled in your personal information incorrectly. So please check whether the information on your ERFS certificate is correct before coming to Japan.

    Is my ERFS certificate valid if I change my flight and decide to come to Japan later?

    Since there’s no expiry date for your ERFS certificate, your ERFS certificate is still valid as long as you’re sticking with the same sponsor. However, if there is a change in your accommodation in Japan, then you will have to contact your sponsor to issue a new ERFS certificate.

    What happens if I give the wrong personal information to my sponsor?

    Say you have forgotten to check whether the information you gave is correct and there’s a small mistake on your ERFS certificate. Don’t panic! All you have to do is to contact your sponsor again and have them issue a new ERFS certificate with the correct credentials. It only takes around 10 minutes for the system to issue another digital certificate so this is not a difficult fix. Though we recommend that you double (or triple) check the spelling of everything before you submit!

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    Why can’t I apply for the ERFS myself?

    Because a company / sponsor can only have one account at a time under the ERFS system. All foreigners who are sponsored by a company will be issued their certificate under the same ERFS system account. This means companies would naturally like to keep you from peeking into other people’s applications. Although it is possible for you to fill in and issue the certificate yourself if your sponsor is willing to divulge its ERFS login credentials with you.

    What do I need to prepare for the ERFS certificate application?

    While we’ve mentioned this briefly in a previous section, here’s the concise version of the information you will need to send to your sponsor:

    1. Full Name as shown in your passport
    2. Date of birth
    3. Passport Number (exactly the same as your passport!)
    4. Nationality (as shown in your passport)
    5. Address of the accommodation during your time in Japan
    6. Name of the accommodation (hotel / building name)

    Your sponsor will then fill in the rest of the required credentials. After that, you should receive a PDF version of your ERFS certificate from your sponsor. Although you can show the digital version of the certificate to customs when you arrive, we’d advise you to have a physical copy printed out as well.

    Sample ERFS Certificate

    Note that aside from the ERFS certificate, you’ll also need to prepare all the necessary documents based on the visa you’re entering with. Usually, this will be your Certificate of Eligibility (among other things) for short-term stays. Make sure, not to focus just on the ERFS certificate and forget everything else!

    What happens if I don't stay with the company or school that provided my ERFS certificate?

    Say you have changed your mind or the sponsor of the ERFS certificate is no longer willing to give you your documents. Evidently,  you will have to find a different school / company that is willing to sponsor your ERFS certificate. However, because the organization that sponsors your ERFS certificate is also the one that is responsible for sponsoring your visa, you will ultimately need to find a new visa sponsor.

    Since Japan Switch sponsors the ERFS, you will not have to worry about your ERFS as long as you’re a student. 

    Do I need to keep my ERFS Certificate after the customs check?

    No, after going through Japan’s customs then there’s no need to keep your ERFS certificate. This is because the ERFS certificate is only used to show you have registered on the ERFS system to the customs. After showing the certificate to the customs, the ERFS system will handle the rest. We recommend you keep a copy for your records but you will not need to present it again.

    Does the ERFS certificate have an expiry date?

    Once your ERFS certificate is issued, you’ll notice that it has no expiry date. That’s because it doesn’t! The government is quite loose on when you and your sponsor have to apply for the certificate. However, because your Certificate of Eligibility usually lasts for only 3 months, you’re still on a timer in terms of when you can enter Japan. Speaking of which:

    You will still need your Certificate of Eligibility

    Keep in mind that the ERFS certificate is only a letter of guarantee to the government that you and your sponsor would follow any COVID restrictions and check-ups. This is not the same as your Certificate of Eligibility, which you will need regardless of the pandemic. The Certificate of Eligibility is a document that basically describes you have met the conditions for landing in Japan and the activities you're engaged in are approved by the Japanese government. This is the most crucial document for your entrance to Japan as you’ll need it to obtain your first residence card. Furthermore, based on the visa types you’re entering Japan with, your period of stay might also differ.

    While there are technically 7 visa types in Japan, most foreign nationals entered through one of the following 4 visa types - Professional visa, Working visa, General visa, and Specific visa. Here’s a quick summary of these visas:

    Professional Visa: 

    If you have certain outstanding abilities and credentials, (e.g. athlete, experienced researcher, etc.) this will be the visa you apply for. It gives you a 5 years period of stay upon arrival in Japan. Although in this case no one is required to sponsor your visa, thus you’ll have to find an employer who is willing to sponsor your ERFS certificate.

    Working Visa:

    The most common visa type foreign nationals use to enter Japan. From professors to English teachers to engineers, they all fall under this category. In most cases, this type of visa will need to be sponsored by an employer located within Japan. 

    General Visa:

    Students of language schools or universities fall under this category. In all cases, you will have some receiving organization in Japan so the ERFS should not present an issue.

    Specific Visa:

    If you have a spouse in Japan or you’re a spouse of a permanent resident, then you’d apply for this visa. Although with the current regulation you will still need an ERFS certificate sponsor if you wish to enter Japan with this type of visa. 

    *Special COVID measures have extended the expiry date of some Certificates of Eligibility (COE), here’s the TL;DR version of the measure:

    • If your COE was issued between January 1, 2020 to January 31, 2022, then it is valid until July 31, 2022.
    • If your COE was issued between February 1, 2022 to July 31, 2022, then it is valid for 6 months from the date of issue

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    Every sponsor is different

    It’s an important point to note since every company / school has different conditions and policies on their ERFS sponsorship. Thus it is crucial for foreign nationals to check with their respective sponsors to see what other additional steps they might need to take to get the ERFS certificate. 

    To hear more about how Japan Switch can help you with your ERFS Certificate and make your move to Japan a little easier, click here to book a free consultation and level check with us!

    Experience Tokyo by getting your ERFS certificate

    What happens after you land in Japan?

    Well it's more or less the same as anybody entering Japan. You will take a COVID test at the airport and if the result is negative, you will either go free or enter self-quarantine based on whether you have taken the booster vaccine shot.

    *Side note for those who’ll need to enter self-quarantine: You are now allowed to take public transport from Narita Airport to Tokyo provided that you go directly to your accommodation and have complied with relevant COVID regulations. (link to regulations) You are only allowed to take public transportation within the 24 hours of the initial PCR test you’ve taken at the airport (same for Haneda Airport).

    Are there any differences in quarantine measures compared to people who don’t have to get the ERFS certificate?

    In terms of actual regulations (i.e. travel on public transportation), they are the same.. However, there are two major differences compared to a normal entry. 

    First is that your sponsor will receive a notice if you failed any of the COVID restrictions implemented by the Japanese government. For example, if you failed to respond to any follow-up checks conducted by the Health Monitoring Center for Overseas Entrants (HCO), then your sponsor will receive an email notifying them of your misconduct. Based on the conditions / policies of your sponsorship, this might have significant consequences for your visa in Japan. 

    Second is that, since your sponsor is making a guarantee of your visa in Japan, they have a responsibility to manage your behavior in Japan. Therefore, if you’ve breached any of the COVID restrictions, not only you but your sponsor might also get in trouble for sponsoring your visa. In other words, make sure to follow your COVID restrictions/rules and everything will be just fine.

    Current COVID quarantine regulations

    We’d also thought it helpful to put in a brief summary of the current COVID restrictions for your reference (as of March 1st, 2022):

    1. In principle, all foreign nationals who are entering Japan would have to go through at least 3 days of self-quarantine if they have not taken a booster vaccine shot.
    2. If you have taken the booster shot and displayed the relevant valid vaccination certificate, then you can walk right out of the airport! No quarantine required!
    3. If you have not received your booster shot, then you’ll be required to self-quarantine at home / designated accommodation for 7 days. You can further reduce this to around 4 days by taking a COVID test on the third day and submitting the result to the Health Monitoring Center for Overseas Entrants (HCO)
    4. Some additional measures are in place for certain designated countries. Click here to find out whether your country falls within this category.

    Japan Switch can sponsor your ERFS certificate!

    Here at Japan Switch, we are currently creating enrollment plans for students who are in need of an ERFS certificate. Contact us to get the latest update on our ERFS certificate offer!

    Final Thoughts

    The ERFS certificate is a crucial requirement for any new foreign nationals who wish to enter Japan. However, do not forget that the Certificate of Eligibility is also equally if not more important to your entrance into Japan. So take care of that first before worrying about your ERFS certificate. Finally, while the relaxed measures have allowed more foreign nationals to enter Japan compared to the past two years, it is still way below the number of people Japan used to receive. It is our hope that more passionate students of the Japanese language can enter Japan and learn through their experience in this country.

    If you’re struggling to find some interesting activities after finishing your quarantine in Tokyo, why not check our Guide to Visiting Shrines in Tokyo? Alternatively, you can also learn some useful Japanese phrases with our Ultimate Guide to Useful Japanese Phrases to prepare for your journey across Japan!

    Contact Japan Switch today and we'll help you get your ERFS Certificate!


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