Many felons can recall having the desire to travel back when life was different and simpler, before their felony conviction.
They may have traveled abroad or dreamed of it before their conviction.
This blog post will address the question of whether a felon can travel to Japan.
- Travel Restrictions
- Japanese Law
- Traveling to Japan Anyway?
- Supporting a Felon Not Being Able to Travel to Japan
Upon release, felons must complete the terms of their sentence, which typically involves being on probation.
During the probation period, felons are restricted from leaving the district in which they reside without permission from their probation officer.
Of course, travel outside the U.S. is out of the question until the conditions of probation have been satisfied entirely.
Once this is accomplished, travel beyond the U.S. border is possible.
They must obtain a passport, allowing international travel. Felons are able to obtain a passport.
Unlike many of the countries to which felons are able to travel with typically only minor restrictions, Japan is quite different.
Japan has the strictest laws of almost all nations regarding felons’ entry to this nation. There the law excludes most felonies and many misdemeanors regardless of the length of stay or the purpose of the visit.
Canada, which has strict regulations about felons, will make an allowance for business executives traveling there while those same executives continue to be barred from Japan to attend meetings at their Japanese headquarters.
The law enforced by the Ministry of Justice states that the following foreign traveler shall be barred from landing in Japan no matter how long ago the conviction was:
- A person who has been convicted of a violation of any law or regulation of Japan, or any other country, and has been sentenced to imprisonment with or without labor for one year or more, or to an equivalent penalty except those convicted of a political offense.
- A person convicted of a violation of any law or regulation of Japan or of any other country relating to the control of narcotics, marijuana, opium, stimulants, or psychotropic substances and sentenced to a penalty.
Their statute continues to say that “the sentence per se suffices for the application of the regulation above, and it does not matter whether the person actually served or completed the execution of the sentence.”
The law also indicates the reason for these restrictions “relating to the control over narcotics and the like of the country of Japan as well as of foreign countries, with a view to preventing aliens spreading the use of drugs such as narcotics in the society of Japan. Japan is strongly invested in protecting its citizens.
Even those felon travelers who arrive with a passport and a visa are not allowed entry.
The visa is only a recommendation and does not guarantee permission to land in Japan. All regulations in the Immigration Control Act must still be met.
An example is an American student who arrived to study in Japan with the proper visa was denied access due to a 14-year-old misdemeanor possession of marijuana committed as a teenager for which the sentence was a $50 fine.
Even so, exceptions to the Japanese law have been made upon appeal to the Japanese government. The process for this appeal are unclear.
However, the cases in which an exception was granted was for certain persons of high status.
Paul McCartney of the Beatles was allowed entry to the country in 1980 after being caught trying to bring in 220 grams of marijuana. The Rolling Stones were granted entry despite drug-related issues. Paris Hilton gained access even with convictions for drugs and other offenses.
More recently, Martha Stewart was granted entry, although she was convicted and served time in prison for a financial crime.
While these are exceptions, the law remains clear. Japanese immigration lawyers indicate that travel to Japan for a week’s vacation is highly unlikely for felons.
Traveling to Japan Anyway?
Why not deny any felony conviction in order to visit Japan?
After all, felons can obtain a passport, which is the essential requirement for entry to Japan for those without a criminal record. So, why not deny any felony in order to travel to Japan?
First, felons who have completed their sentence are starting over and usually have committed to live an honest life. Entering Japan by use of deceit is inconsistent with this new life they want to lead.
It is a matter of integrity, which felons are usually not noted for anyway. This goes against that principle and is just another step in returning to a life of crime and returning to prison.
Next, entering Japan under false pretenses is extremely unwise.
Felons who are stopped upon entry could be denied entry or could be detained and arrested.
In Japan, those arrested for any reason are viewed largely as guilty. The conviction rate in Japan is 99%, so the chances of being acquitted are slim.
Then, the law in Japan allows persons arrested to be held up to 23 days without even being charged with a crime.
Those who maintain their innocence are treated more harshly during questioning, in the court, and in any sentencing. Japanese society views those who confess their crime as being more likely to be rehabilitated upon release.
For felons especially this is quite serious.
Not only are they viewed as guilty, but their status as offenders anyway makes it extremely unlikely they would be able to gain their freedom without being convicted and serving a lengthy sentence.
It is not worth the risk.
Supporting a Felon not Being Able to Travel to Japan
For families of felons who are unable to travel to Japan, continue to be there and be supportive.
Do not allow your loved one to get discouraged or give up.
They have lived with their criminal record and the consequences this long, and they can continue their quest for a better life even without visiting Japan.
While they may have wanted to travel to Japan in the past for vacation or because they have family there, not being able to go there isn’t the end of the world. There are many other locations in the world with great, beautiful sights to see.
If felons have family or friends in Japan, those persons can travel to visit felon loved ones in the U.S. or at many other places in the world.
Continue to encourage them to live life the right way and not return to their criminal behavior. Don’t let them become one of the 2/3 who return to prison within the first two years following release.
So what do you think about this blog post about how a felon can travel to Japan? Have you or someone you know wanted to travel to Japan with a felony? What was that like and were they successful? Please tell us in the comments below.