I am about to fill out my ESTA application to come to the USA and I see a question that says:

“Have you ever been issued a passport or national identity card for travel by any other country?”

I am from Finland but I have been living in Japan and have been given a “Zairyu card” which is called a “Residence card” and was wondering does this count as a “National Identity Card” to travel? I do not think I can travel to any other country with this “Residence card” so does that mean I can safely answer “No” to this question on the application since I cannot travel to other countries with this “Residence card” ?

I just want to be safe and make sure I answer correctly

Thank you.

  • 2
    That is how I would interpret the question also - if the card is not used for travel, then the answer would be No. But I'm not familiar with that card at all
    – Midavalo
    Sep 29, 2022 at 19:06
  • This question is probably intended mainly for dual nationals to check their travel history. A Residence card is not what they are asking about. Sep 29, 2022 at 19:30
  • 3
    The description sounds as though the Zairyu card is for residence, not for travel. It's for permisson to stay there. It's not a passport, and it's not an identity card. Sep 29, 2022 at 19:39
  • the question is, does this Zairyu card gives you permission to enter Japan? Sep 30, 2022 at 12:58
  • 1
    Why, please, are you Asking a bunch of internet strangers when whatever anyone here says, will have to be taken to a Finnish or a Japanese foreign office, or your destination's immigration department, or both? Sep 30, 2022 at 21:18

2 Answers 2


The wording is to cover passport-like things that are not technically passports. If the Zairyu card does not function as a travel document, and you couldn't show it to an immigration official to get admittance to a country, then it doesn't count.

  • Yes, I thought so as well. The only time a Zairyu is used for travel is if you want to leave Japan you show it as part of “proving to them how long you’ve had residency there” you can only use it for Japan and not any other country (use it to travel to any other country) so that would mean I can answer “No” safely without getting in trouble right?
    – John G
    Sep 29, 2022 at 20:55
  • 2
    @JohnG the question says "a passport or national identity card for travel by any other country". You don't have a Japanese passport, or a Japanese identity card. The card isn't for travel, it's for residence. Sep 29, 2022 at 23:05
  • “Foreign residents of Japan above the age of 16 are legally required to carry their Residence Card at all times and must present it when leaving the country for travel outside Japan along with their passport.” Would that count it as a travel document? There is no such thing as a national identity card in Japan, instead it’s called “Residence card” but you need to show it to immigration when you leave the country or you lose your residency, and I think to renter (only Japan) they ask to see it because there’s an IC Chip on there that contains your visa information
    – John G
    Sep 29, 2022 at 23:14
  • @JohnG you have contradicted what the question says, in two ways. If in doubt, declare "Japan Residence Card". Sep 29, 2022 at 23:34
  • @Weather Vane it doesn’t allow me to change the title, just says “national identity card” used for travel
    – John G
    Sep 30, 2022 at 0:22

No, it does not count. Zairyu cards are proof of being a foreigner legally resident in Japan for Japanese authorities, but they are not internationally accepted travel documents.

In US terms, the zairyu card functions kind of like a driver's license: it's ID that you are you, but it's not proof of citizenship and it's not the kind of ID that you can travel to another country with. (And for the pedants in the audience, I know that in the past you could actually travel out of the US to Canada/Mexico with only a driver's license, but this isn't really the case anymore.)

  • 2
    Also for the pedants, it is my understanding that this does not mean that a US driver's license is a travel document but rather that those states waived the requirement for a travel document. I can cross the border from Germany into France with nothing but lint in my pocket, but that does not mean that lint is a travel document, it means that Germany and France (and many other countries) signed an agreement (the Schengen Treaty) not to require travel documents. Oct 1, 2022 at 17:24
  • 2
    @JörgWMittag: notice that all citizens of Schengen countries are advised to carry a valid ID card, as checks at the border are still possible. The requirement that German nationals carry a valid passport or ID card when entering or leaving Germany continues to apply notwithstanding Schengen. Oct 1, 2022 at 23:56
  • @JörgWMittag the Schengen treaty provides for the abolition of travel document checks but it does not abolish the requirement to carry travel documents. EU countries can require citizens of other EU countries to have a passport or ID card. Whether France requires German citizens to have one of those documents when entering France from Germany is a matter of French national law, although European Union law prevents France from imposing additional requirements.
    – phoog
    Oct 4, 2022 at 17:22

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