New Visa-free entry to Japan for same-sex partners in U.S. military

Japan and the United States have agreed to allow visa-free entry to Japan for same-sex marriage partners of U.S. military personnel and civilian base workers, according to sources privy to Japan-U.S. relations.

Under the new visa exemption, which has already been put into effect, same-sex marriage partners of U.S. military personnel and civilian components working for U.S. forces stationed in Japan are recognized as “spouse,” the sources said.
As same-sex marriage has not been legalized in Japan, even if a foreign national in a same-sex marriage obtains a working visa or long-term stay visa, the visa holder’s partner, in principle, cannot obtain a visa as a family member based on the definition stipulated by the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Law.

Article 1 of the Japan-U.S. Status of Forces Agreement also mainly defines “dependents” as “spouse, and children under 21.”

Therefore, for same-sex marriage partners of U.S. military personnel and civilian base workers to stay in Japan, they individually had to obtain a working visa. Otherwise they would have to leave and enter the country repeatedly under a short-term stay visas valid for 90 days, forcing them to shoulder a huge financial burden.

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