Before Arrival

Planning steps

  1. Inform us about your desired term of appointment, i.e. arrival and departure days in/from Okinawa (precisely if possible) and departure airport (large international airport nearest your home institution). Note that we may not be able to accommodate you on those dates due to housing and other constraints. We usually have a zoom call with you to go over these and other points. For example, things like lectures for students and childcare have to be planned well in advance.
  2. Invitation letter from OIST (please sign and send to by the indicated Deadline).
  3. Health Insurance is required for the whole duration of your stay and travel to OIST.
    Under 3 months stay: Please send us proof (certificate/email with details/etc.) of health insurance valid during the whole duration of your stay in Japan as well as during the trip to/from Japan.
    Over 3 months stay: you will be required to join the Japanese National Health Insurance (ca. 3000 JPY per month - more details below), in addition please send proof of health insurance which is valid during your trip to and from Japan.
  4. Visa application, if required (we might ask for your passport and other information). Details below.
  5. OIST guest registration (to securely get your address, bank information, etc.)
  6. Flight booking: be sure to send us your suggested itinerary including booking class and price information and wait for our confirmation before booking (to check the reimbursement limit and other details). In general, OIST can only reimburse a simple round-trip airfare from the large international airport nearest your home institution. Arrival in Okinawa should be the day before or on the day the term of appointment at OIST starts (for visitors from Japan: not on a Saturday). Departure should be on the last day or the day after the appointment ends (not on a Sunday). Please contact us if you have special circumstances.
    After you received OIST approval and booked the flight, please send us the booking confirmation and/or detailed itinerary from the airline (email, pdf, or screenshot). The document(s) should include your full name, price information (for one adult passenger), payment confirmation, travel dates, airports, and the booked class.
  7. In case of family: do you need a larger apartment / child care? Details here.
  8. In case you want a rental car: Check if your license is valid in Japan first. If you want to pick up a rental car on campus, contact OIST Resource Center via their inquiry form to make a reservation. More information: On Getting Around Okinawa (approximate cost 40,000 - 80,000 JPY per month for small/regular cars, outside the main season).
  9. If you want a SIM card for mobile internet, it is easiest to order a prepaid card in advance and pickup at the airport in Tokyo or get it delivered. Details below.
  10. Regarding health and vaccinations, a few points are listed below.
  11. Arrival: we will arrange your on-campus apartment and transport from the airport in Okinawa (Naha) to OIST (usually a taxi)
    >> If you think you are missing a piece of information please do not hesitate to contact us (e.g. the PIN for your apartment or the room number). We strive to send you all necessary information but sometimes junk filters or other issues get in the way.

  12. After arrival: Please submit paper boarding passes and other required documents by the deadline in order to receive reimbursement.

Covered by OIST

For long-term Visiting Scholars, the following is covered:

  • A simple round-trip airfare between the international (large) airport nearest the home institution and OIST.
    • Visitor informs TSVP Team of intended flight schedule. After review, we will tell you the reimbursement price limit. Do not book before you have received approval from OIST. Reimbursement can only be made if the original paper boarding passes and other required documents are submitted by the requested deadline. The time of reimbursement might be up to several weeks after the return flight.
    • Please contact us if you have special circumstances.
    • It is the responsibility of guests to arrange transportation from their homes to the departure airport.
  • On-campus housing
  • Daily allowance (OIST per diem)
  • Transportation between Naha Airport (Okinawa) and the OIST campus
    (it is the responsibility of visitors to arrange transportation from their homes to the departure airport)

4. Visa

Stays up to 90 days

From many countries Japan now allows visa-free travel for trips under 90 days. For other countries a simplified process to get a short-term business visa (example) is available. In case a visitor earns salary in Japan the visa process via Certificate of Eligibility (CoE, see below) will be necessary.

Stays over 90 days

The usual Application procedure for a long-term "professor visa" via Certificate of Eligibility (CoE) requires five steps as described below (please click "Show Content", example form).

1. Please complete the attached Certificate of Eligibility (CoE) application form and collect necessary documents:
・ CoE application from_Professor
Please fill in sheets 1 and 2 (applicant 1 and applicant 2) of the application form and return it to us in the excel file format along with other necessary documents
・ One scanned copy of your passport
・ One ID photo 40mm x 30 mm (it should be taken within the last 3 months.)
  For further details, please visit Standards for submitted photos | Immigration Services Agency (
・ If you are a Chinese National, submit a scanned copy of Chinese ID

For your family (Please submit the following documents for each dependent):
・ CoE application from dependent (Please refer to the attached example)
・ One scanned copy of each dependent's passport
・ One ID photo for each dependent (it should be taken within the last 3 months)
・ Proof document/Certificate of relationship (e.g., Marriage certificate, Birth certificate)

 2. After preparing the form and documents,
please scan all documents and convert them to PDF, or JPEG files. Then upload the documents (pdf/jpg) and forms (in excel format) at the below URL:

Application procedure for CoE and VISA:
3. TSVP staff will apply for your CoE at the local immigration office. It usually takes 1-4 weeks for the CoE to be issued.
4. We will send the issued CoE to you by e-mail (PDF), or courier (FedEx, DHL or EMS - in that case it may take up to 4 to 7 days to reach you).
5. Please apply for your visa at the embassy or consulate general of Japan that has jurisdiction over your place of residence. It usually takes about 5-10 business days for visas to be issued.
Please confirm with the local embassy/consulate if an appointment is required and whether they accept the electronic CoE. -----------------------------------------------------------------------------

The below websites cover additional details about coming to OIST. While it is designed for new employees and not visitors, the information is likely to be useful. For example, there is a section covering the details of getting a visa to work at OIST. OIST administration will help you through the visa process, usually a so-called Certificate of Eligibility (CoE) is issued on the Japanese side, after which the visitor applies for a visa at their local embassy/consulate (list of Japanese Embassies and consulates).


Entry into Japan

We recommend using the "Visit Japan Web" forms to perform arrival procedures (immigration, customs) to save time when entering Japan at the airport.
COVID-19 related border measures are no longer in place since April 29, 2023.

Leaving and Re-entering Japan

If you acquired a visa through the Certificate of Eligibility (COE) you may leave and re-enter Japan as many times as you wish during the period of stay (usually one year or less). The visa you receive may have written "single entry", but once you enter Japan the first time with that visa you will receive a Residence Card which gives you a "special re-entry permit". 

Please make sure to always bring your residence card when leaving Japan and go to the special queue at the immigration on exiting / re-entering (see e.g. point 2.8.5 here).

8./9. Getting around / SIM card

Rental Car

OIST is located in Onna village in the middle of the main island of Okinawa. The area is quite rural, so only a few small shops and restaurants are in walking distance. There is public transport and the OIST shuttle bus with which you can reach nearby towns, but most visitors decide to get a rental car. If you do, please be sure to check if your driver's license will be valid in Japan. See here (also about bicycle rental):

SIM Card/Internet/Communication

The OIST Lab Buildings as well as the on-campus have Wi-Fi internet access, however, many visitors prefer to also have internet/mobile network away from OIST.

The two most common options are SIM cards and pocket WiFi. Both of these you can order in advance and pick up at an airport in Japan. It is easier to order in advance then trying to find a shop in Okinawa. Note that you might need a proof of your address in Japan to get a phone contract (see details below).

So-called Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO) are the cheapest option. Some common providers are listed at the below guide by OIST's resource center, or at and You might also consider an international eSIM card with which you can access the internet in Japan, e. g. from airalo, nomad, or ubigi. (external links; not intended as endorsement of the listed products).

Finally, if you are already in Okinawa, you have the following options:

Lawson in Onna village (ローソン 恩納万座毛入口店) recently started providing SIM cards. →

Other shops, e.g. Bic Camera (3rd floor at AEON shopping mal in Okinawa city) also offer short-term Data-only Sim cards:
3 GB --- 2,480 yen
6 GB --- 2,980 yen

When you visit them, please head to the cashier and show the following sentence.
(I would like to purchase 6 GB travel SIM.)

Detail of the SIM Card

Phone number

If you require a phone number (e.g. necessary if your child is going to OIST's childcare), it is slightly more complicated because the phone contract requires and address. However, at least one company called Mobal (Softbank network) can provide it easily and has the following advantages:
(1) You can get a Japanese phone number before you get a residence card.
(2) You can receive a SIM even before you enter Japan.
(3) They accept foreign credit cards
(4) English customer support is available

(1) Slightly more expensive than other services like Linemo

Please check the Resource Center website and inquire with them for more details:

10. About Health and Vaccinations

Japan National Health Insurance (NHI): for adults of working age 70% of health expenses are covered by the insurance while the rest is paid out of pocket. A threshold for out-of-pocket payments protects enrollees from catastrophic costs (the limit is about 90,000 yen per month). More details can be found, e.g. on this website.

Information from the OIST Health Center: It is recommended to complete the routine vaccination recommended for Japan in advance, however there is no vaccination legally required when you enter the country. List of routine vaccination in Japan is HERE.

Regarding Japanese encephalitis: Since most of Japanese children are vaccinated with Japanese encephalitis at very young age, risk of getting infected with Japanese encephalitis in Japan is very low. Because of this, OIST Health Center is not strongly recommending people to get vaccinated prior to your visit to Okinawa. It takes about a year to complete a course of Japanese Encephalitis vaccination. You receive the first 2 doses with about a month of interval between them, then receive the 3rd dose after at least 6 months from the 1st shot (ideally about 1 year). The cost of receiving the Japanese Encephalitis vaccination at a local clinic in Okinawa is about 5000yen/dose.
If a visitor is likely to visit areas such as pig farms, open water area (swamp, etc.), participating in field work, please consider getting vaccinated.
For more details, please check National institute of Infectious Diseases’s webpage HERE.

Regarding bringing medicine to Japan, please see this summary from the OIST Health Center:

For more information, please check "Q&A for those who are importing medicines into Japan" by Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, Japan.

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