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Dual citizen of USA/Japan over the age of 22.

What I want to do:

  1. Fly USA to China
  2. 15 hour layover in China (use 72 hour visa-free thingy to see Beijing)
    • Would China care about which passport is used?
  3. Enter Japan with US passport so that I can get a tourist visa stamp and get the JR rail pass
  4. Exit Japan within 90 days for an exit stamp on US passport.
    • Not sure if I should enter destination country with US or Japan passport. Maybe there's not really a risk there of showing both if necessary?
  5. Go back to Japan and enter with Japanese passport for long term stay.

What should I watch out for?

I'm very lightly aware of Advance Passenger Information Systems (APIS)...

  • 3
    You don't need the tourist visa stamp to get the JR rail pass. Dual nationals who live outside Japan are also eligible. – Michael Hampton Aug 18 '16 at 7:26
  • @MichaelHampton Thanks for your reply. Your link doesn't seem to mention anything about dual nationals. Sources like this suggest that I'd indeed need a tourist visa. – user49977 Aug 18 '16 at 7:44
  • Er, it does. Did you read it? Though technically you don't have to be a dual national, just a permanent resident of the other country. – Michael Hampton Aug 18 '16 at 7:46
  • 1
    Though, I think your real problem will be that Japan will not be happy to find out you have a second nationality. If you use both passports, even on separate trips, there's a good chance they'll figure it out. – Michael Hampton Aug 18 '16 at 8:01
  • @MichaelHampton Hey didn't mean to offend. But that page doesn't specifically mention dual nationals, probably because we technically aren't supposed to exist (past the age of 22). So I'd have to assume that showing the second (American) passport as proof of "right of permanent residence" wouldn't fly. – user49977 Aug 18 '16 at 8:57
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The basic advice at I have two passports/nationalities. How do I use them when I travel? applies, which means your plan should work.

More broadly speaking, Japan is not one of those countries that makes an active effort to determine if you are a naughty dual citizen, so you don't need to engage in complex passport switching shenanigans. The primary problem is renewing your Japanese passport, but that's another story.

Japanese citizens can enter China without a visa for 15 days, not just 72 hours. But if your layover is only 15 hours, this is of no use to you, and I would just stick with the US passport for the whole journey to make life easier.

One thing you will want to watch out for is airline/country requirements for return tickets. For example, if you try to exit Japan to country X on your US passport, the airline may not let you board or immigration enter unless you have a ticket out of X -- and if that ticket out is back to Japan, but in a different name because it's for your Japanese passport, things may get complicated.

  • What if I use the Japanese passport for everything (including China layover) up until I show the US passport upon arrival through customs in Japan, and the last name on my air ticket doesn't match the one on my US passport? Would the customs official in Japan be able to look up flight data linked to my US passport and see that no flights were booked under that identity, and then ask me how I got into the airport? (Unfortunately I booked the ticket without plans to use the JR pass, so I put the last name on my Japanese passport. Called airline, they are unwilling to change the name). – user49977 Aug 18 '16 at 20:01
  • Also if I did that would I have to take precautions to make sure that my US passport record has a recorded exit from US? Or would the official in Japan not be checking this when I hand them my US passport? (From what I understand, US passports have a record attached with entering/leaving data.) – user49977 Aug 18 '16 at 20:08
  • @user49977 Japanese immigration does not care about the boarding pass for your incoming flight. They do care about your outgoing flight though. Also, while you should always enter/leave the US with your US passport to keep the US happy, Japan has no direct access to US immigration records. – lambshaanxy Aug 19 '16 at 2:05
  • Thanks a lot. I understand it's the law that dual US/xxx citizens must use the US passport "to leave and enter the US." If my ticket has the name on my Japanese passport, I should still be able to "leave the US with my US passport" by showing both if necessary, is that correct? The Japanese one for the purpose of matching to the flight, and the US for the purpose of "leaving the US." And then as long as I have documentation of my flight out of Japan, I should be able to both board my flights, and get the travel visa stamp in Japan... ? – user49977 Aug 19 '16 at 2:13
  • @user49977 Yes, it's possible, but expect delays leaving the US. I did exactly that once, and the agent initially tried to deny us boarding before her supervisor sorted things out. – lambshaanxy Aug 19 '16 at 2:16

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