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Japan eases rules for medical tourists


Published on Dec 20, 2010

Japan is easing visa regulations for medical tourists, Kyodo News has reported. The country’s Justice Ministry said on Friday that it will allow international visitors coming to Japan for medical treatment to stay for up to six months, doubling the current maximum length of stay. The change will come into effect in January 2011. To accommodate this change, Japan will create a new visa category - the ‘medical stay visa’, which is valid for up to six months. Tourists who want to receive medical services currently need a tourist visa, which is valid for just three months.

“We need to drastically lower the barrier on country borders in medicine,” Kyodo quoted Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary and Justice Minister, Yoshito Sengoku, as saying. Medical tourism was identified as a key aspect of Japan’s new growth strategy, outlined in June 2010. According to the Justice Ministry, it will give ‘special activity residential status’ to those seeking medical treatment in Japan. The status will also apply to carers.

The global medical tourism sector is expected to be worth US$78.5 billion by the end of 2010, rising to US$100 billion by 2012. Japan however, receives a tiny fraction of this, with Asian destinations such as India, Thailand and Malaysia traditionally more popular. The high quality of medical services in Japan however, combined with expanding demand from China, has the potential to turn the country into a major player.

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