Japan has released its digital vaccine passport. Here’s what you need to know.

Two apps became available on Monday that will make the lives of travelers to and from Japan easier, as the COVID-19 pandemic has meant they need to submit extra documentation upon entering the nation.

One of the apps is a digital version of the paper-based vaccine passport municipalities have been issuing since late July, while the other allows holders to upload necessary documents for customs, immigration and quarantine (CIQ) procedures.

The first app — called the COVID-19 Vaccination Certificate Application — is for residents of Japan who need to show proof of vaccination in English at destination countries when they travel overseas. It can also be used domestically when they want to dine out with a large crowd, travel nationwide or attend large-scale events even when infections are spreading — activities that have been restricted or advised against based on government guidelines.

The second app — called Visit Japan Web — is for travelers arriving in Japan going through the entry process, which has become lengthier because more paperwork is required due to the pandemic. Having all those documents uploaded to the app beforehand will allow CIQ officials to make the process smoother and reduce the risk of infections.

Here is how they work.

How do you get the digital vaccine passport app, and what do you need to get started?

The app is available for iOS 13.7 or later and Android 8.0 or later. Once you’ve downloaded the app, you can choose the international version, which is in English, or the domestic version, which is in Japanese.

For the international version, you need your My Number card — an ID card used for social security and taxation — the four-digit password for the My Number card and your passport.

After you follow the instructions on the app, you will be asked to enter the My Number card password you set when you applied for it, and to scan your My Number card and passport using the app.

You then need to select the municipality where you live, which is in principle where your vaccination voucher was sent from, to access your vaccination data, and the vaccination certificate will then appear on screen. The entire process takes several minutes.

A QR code for a digital vaccine passport | KYODO
A QR code for a digital vaccine passport | KYODO

For the domestic version, you only need your My Number card and password. It can be used as part of the so-called vaccination/testing package, under which those who have been fully vaccinated or have tested negative for COVID-19 can, for instance, attend large-scale events or are no longer asked to heed government advisories on dining with a larger number of people or traveling across Japan.

What kind of information is included in the digitized vaccine passport?

The information includes:

  • Name
  • Birthday
  • Passport number (for the international version only)
  • QR code
  • Vaccine manufacturer
  • How many times the holder has been vaccinated
  • Last vaccination date
  • Issue date

Relevant parties can scan the QR code to make sure the app is authentic.

The app for the domestic version allows holders to hide their name and birthday for privacy reasons when they show it to others.

As of Dec. 13, Japan’s vaccine passports can be used in 76 countries, including the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia. But it is not guaranteed that holders can use them to gain entry to restaurants, bars and events in those countries.

Why is a My Number card necessary?

Government officials say it is to make sure that the vaccine passport is issued to the right person, and at present the My Number card and its password are the best way to do that.

As of Dec. 1, about 50 million My Number cards had been issued, equivalent to about 40% of the population.

How does the Visit Japan Web app work?

Users of the app, which also became available from Monday on iOS and Android, need to create an account in the app, register their email address and upload the files necessary to enter Japan, including a negative COVID-19 test result, quarantine questionnaire and customs declaration. Each traveler needs to create an account, which may be bothersome for families.

The new service is expected to shorten the length of entry procedures, since CIQ officials will only need to scan the QR code on their device to see the traveler’s relevant information.

The app will initially be available in English and Japanese, with other languages expected to be added in the future.

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