By Anish Chand
TOKYO – Japan may eventually consider a visa waiver for all Pacific Island countries as part of its recent Pacific Island Leaders Meeting (PALM) commitments.
However, this will take time as Japan is currently implementing a multiple entry visa offer to all Pacific Islands Forum Countries
Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has confirmed that Palau has become the first country in the Pacific whose residents can now get a multiple entry visa.
“It’s about connecting Pacific citizens with people-to-people interaction,” said Masaharu Shimizu, deputy director of the Oceania Division.
Shimizu said under this programme, once a Pacific Islander has applied for a visa to travel to Japan, the person would get a multiple entry visa instead of the current one-trip visa.
“This visa can be used many times and for many reasons to come to Japan,” said Shimizu.
He said citizens of other countries in the region, including Fiji and Samoa will also become eligible for multiple entry visas soon.
Shimizu said that at their PALM8 meeting in Fukushima in May this year, Japan and leaders of the Pacific “discussed efforts to encourage two-way movement of people between Japan and the FIC’s.”
He said this was a two-way process. “There has to be a reciprocal gesture from the Pacific countries,” he said.
Imposing a total waiver for visa requirements between Japan and the Pacific Island countries would also require an agreement between Tokyo and the FIC states.
“Visa waiver could be the third phase after this multiple entry visa offer,” Shimizu said.
Pacific Island countries that will benefit from this multiple entry visa initiative besides Palau are Samoa, Cook Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu, Australia and New Zealand.
The deputy director of the Oceania Division also praised Fiji for re-starting a direct flight between Japan and Fiji.
Shimizu said Tokyo is keenly waiting to welcome people to the 2019 Rugby World Cup and the 2020 Olympic Games and Para Olympic Games.