August 16, 2016 10:48
Korean travelers will no longer have to stand in lines at immigration in Japanese airports from next year.
The Japanese government will bring back a pre-clearance program for Korean and Taiwanese travelers, the Nihon Keizai Shimbun reported on Monday. That means most of the immigration procedures can take place at their home airports before departure.
A similar program was implemented during the 2002 Korea-Japan World Cup. But it was suspended when Japan made it mandatory for all foreign visitors to get fingerprinted and photographed amid growing fears of global terrorism.
Tokyo plans to negotiate a mutual arrangement with Seoul and Taipei first and extend it to other countries later. It would mean dispatching immigration officers to major airports in Korea and Taiwan, who will fingerprint and photograph travelers before they board.
In Japan, passengers only have to pass lightly manned customs and quarantine checkpoints.
The measure aims to reduce queues at Japan's increasingly crowded airports as the weak yen has made the country a popular destination.
Visitor numbers rose from 8.36 million in 2012 to 19.74 million in 2015. Chinese (4.99 million), Korean (4 million), and Taiwanese visitors (3.68 million) accounted for 64 percent. The long lines mean immigration procedures can take more than an hour.
Tokyo plans to double the number of foreign visitors and cut the immigration processing time to less than 20 minutes by 2020.
The U.S. already stations customs officers at some airports in Ireland, the U.A.E., and Canada to reduce the misery for U.S.-bound travelers.
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