We are U.S citizens and will be traveling to Japan from SFO in June, originally to stay 2 weeks. We are just now thinking of adding a week in Seoul, Korea to depart from Haneda or Narita before returning to Japan for our flight back to SFO. Do we require a transit visa for traveling from Japan to Korea?


1 Answer 1


First of all, if you are a US citizen, don't worry about visas. You are allowed 90 days of visa free travel to both Japan and South Korea, which is absolutely sufficient for you.

If I am understanding you correctly, your travel route is SFO-NRT/HND(TYO)-ICN/GMP(SEL)-NRT/HND-SFO. You will transit via Tokyo from Seoul to San Francisco.

Not all transits through Japan require transit visas. If you are staying airside for the transit, you don't need a transit visa. If you either:

  • need a change of airports, e.g. NRT to HND, or vice versa; or,
  • need to stay overnight for your transit

then you will need to apply for a transit visa. When you leave Japan for Seoul, you have ended your stay in Japan and thus "used up" your single-visit temporary visitor visa.

So you have two (actually three) options:

  • book a SEL-TYO-SFO return flight that doesn't require you to change airports or stay overnight. This is very easy to do, and is probably the best option for you;
  • if you are qualified, you can apply for a multiple-entry visa. If you are the citizen of a CIS (ex-USSR) state, Georgia, India, China (PRC passport holder), Indonesia, Philippines, Vietnam, and/or Qatar, you may be qualified as a tourist;
  • failing both, apply for a transit visa. Well, why do this.
  • "If you either: •need a change of airports, e.g. NRT to HND, or vice versa; or, •need to stay overnight for your transit then you will need to apply for a transit visa" No, for overnight transit, nationals who require a visa to visit Japan can enter Japan for 72 hours by presenting their passport and connecting ticket
    – Crazydre
    Mar 25, 2017 at 18:41
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    @Crazydre Not accurate. That's a landing pass that one could get at Narita, but there is absolutely no guarantee that one will get it. In fact, according to the personal experiences of some people I know, this pass is actually harder to get than a transit visa. For overnight transit, I personally would recommend getting a transit visa.
    – xuq01
    Mar 25, 2017 at 18:57
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    There's no guarantee they'll let you in with a transit visa either, so the argument is moot. Entry is ALWAYS up to the immigration officer, but the fact is if they're satisfied that you're a genuine transit passenger who cannot make the connection on the same day, they'll give you the shore pass (what I meant by 72-hour entry). It's also the info the Japanese government has given to all airlines.
    – Crazydre
    Mar 25, 2017 at 19:07
  • Thank you both Crazydre and Xuanrui Qi for your response. We are U.S citizens. We booked our roundtrip flight from Narita to SFO back in January. We are only now thinking of adding a roundtrip flight to Seoul from Narita on our last week in Asia. Therefore, we definitely want to be back in Tokyo to make our flight back to SFO. But, if I understand correctly, I don't need a visa anyway as I am a U.S citizen?
    – urzababa
    Mar 27, 2017 at 3:48
  • @urzababa Yes. Japan doesn't forbid visa runs, so no worries at all.
    – xuq01
    Mar 27, 2017 at 8:08

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