The Japan Artist Visa

Japan Visa Services

The Artist Visa is for Applicants who earn income via the creation of artistic works.

This may include composers, songwriters, artists, sculptors, craft-persons, photographers, musicians, writer, art instructor, and painter.


In order to obtain an Artist Visa to work in Japan, an Applicant will need to complete the following six steps:

Step 1

Confirm that the proposed work in Japan is consistent with the activities permitted for the holder of an Artist Visa.

The permitted activities under an Artist Visa are defined broadly as income generating activities in the arts.

This specifically includes activities in music, the fine arts, literature, etc.

It should be noted however that entertainers are excluded from utilizing the Artist Visa category.

One key is that the activities should be income generating and sufficient to support the Applicant whilst in Japan.

Step 2

Assemble the documents required to support an Artist Visa application.

Once an Applicant has confirmed that her proposed activities in Japan are consistent with those outlined above in Step 1, specific supporting documentation needs to be prepared.

In the case of an Artist Visa, the authorities require documents that provide details of the following:

  1. Documents certifying the activity which the Applicant will undertake in Japan, its duration, and the Applicants position.
  2. Material demonstrating the Applicant’s past artistic achievements. It is recommended that this supporting material be as extensive and detailed as possible. This may include critical reviews of the artist’s work and information about past exhibitions.

Although not technically required, our experience is that providing Japanese translations enhances the quality of the application. This may minimize delays in obtaining final approval.

Japan Visa is able to assist in the preparation and translation of all documentation required for an Artist Visa.

Note Regarding Japan Tax Planning Opportunities for Artist Visa Applicants.

Typically, compensation structuring opportunities for the holder of an Artist Visa will be quite limited. However, it is worth bearing in mind that items such as employer provided housing, commuting allowance, and employer funded home leave can result in significant individual tax savings. In some circumstances, off-shore payment of compensation can result in tax savings if the holder of the Artist Visa will spend time outside Japan on business. All these items need to be negotiated with the employer prior to finalizing the documentation needed for the Artist Visa COE application (see Step 3 below). The following article provides more information about this important issue Japan Taxes: Tax Planning for Foreigners Working in Japan.

Step 3

Submit an application for an Artist Visa Certificate of Eligibility (“COE”).

Once the Applicant’s activities have been confirmed and the appropriate documents assembled per steps 1 and 2 above, the next step in most cases will be to apply for a Certificate of Eligibility (abbreviated as “COE”).

A COE is a document issued by the Japanese immigration authorities. It certifies an Applicant’s eligibility to undertake specific employment in Japan – in this case, the job associated with the Artist Visa application.

An application for an Artist Visa COE must be submitted in person at a regional immigration office in Japan. The COE application cannot be submitted by mail or at a Japanese embassy outside Japan.

Where the Applicant is not personally available (for example because she is not in Japan or due to a busy schedule) Japanese law allows a certified immigration specialist to submit an Artist Visa COE application on behalf of the Applicant.

Japan Visa’s certified immigration specialists are able to handle all the procedures associated with preparing and submitting an application for an Artist Visa COE.

Step 4

Await Approval of the Artist Visa COE

The processing time for an Artist Visa COE is generally four to six weeks.

Once approved, a notice is sent to an address in Japan advising that the COE is ready for collection at the regional immigration office where the COE application was originally submitted.

Where Japan Visa’s certified immigration specialists are handling the Artist Visa application, the notification from the immigration authorities is sent to our office. Japan Visa then collects the COE from the regional immigration office and either forwards it to the Applicant or prepares a change of status application (see Step 5 below).

Step 5

Obtain Artist Status of Residence (SOR).

Once an Applicant has the Artist Visa COE in hand, the next step is for her to exchange the COE for Artist “Status of Residence” (usually abbreviated as “SOR”).

Technically speaking, it is the Artist SOR that will form the basis of the Applicant actually living and working in Japan.

There are two methods for doing this:

1. Exchange the Artist COE at a Japanese embassy or Consul outside Japan.

This is the traditional route for obtaining Artist SOR.

The Applicant first exchanges the Artist Visa COE for an Artist Visa at a Japanese embassy or consul outside Japan. The process generally takes two to three business days.

The Applicant then travels to Japan and is granted Artist SOR at the port of entry.

2. Undertake a Change of Status to Artist SOR in Japan.

In some cases, an alternative may be for the holder of an Artist COE to enter Japan under the Japan Visa Waiver Program or some other form of short-term entry. The Applicant then applies for Artist SOR via a change of status at a regional immigration office in Japan.

A change of status takes approximately two weeks. During that time, it is not possible for the Applicant to travel outside Japan.

Where the change of status route is utilized, Japan Visa’s certified immigration specialists can undertake the necessary procedures at the regional immigration office in Japan.

Japan Residence Card

Whether you receive your Artist SOR at the airport upon entering Japan or via a change of status application filed at a regional immigration office in Japan (see Step 5 above), you will receive a Japan Residence Card.

This is an official identification card that includes an IC chip. The Residence Card contains personal information such as name, address, birth date, residence status (in this case, Artist SOR), period of stay, etc.

You are required to carry your Residence Card at all times.

Step 6

Consider applying for a Japan Re-entry Permit.

Up until July 2012, if you held an Artist Visa and wished to temporarily leave Japan (e.g., for vacation, business, etc.) it was necessary to obtain a Re-entry Permit for Japan in advance of travelling.

However, it is now possible to leave Japan for up to 12 months without a Re-Entry Permit.

If there is any possibility that a trip outside Japan will last for more than 12 months, an individual holding Artist SOR should ensure that they have a Re-entry Permit. This can be obtained at regional immigration office in Japan.

Some Important Considerations AFTER Receiving your Artist Visa.

There are three particularly important tax matters to bear in mind as you live and work in Japan:

1. Japanese Tax for holders of Artist SOR

People living in Japan under Artist SOR will typically be working for an institution that handles most Japan tax matters on their behalf. This is done by way of withholding tax deducted each month and a year-end adjustment as part of the December payroll.

However, if you have multiple jobs or if you have other sources of income you may need to submit a Japanese tax return by 15 March each year. It is very important that you understand your Japan tax obligations since no extensions are available.

Complying with your Japanese tax obligations is essential in order to renew your visa.

2. US Tax for holders of Artist SOR

If the holder of Artist SOR is a US citizen or green card holder, they will continue to have US tax obligations even while living in Japan.

The US rules applicable to Americans living overseas are complex and constantly changing. In order to avoid possible penalties, anyone with a US tax filing obligation should seek specialist advice to ensure that they fulfill their US tax obligations.

3. Taxes when the holder of Artist SOR leaves Japan

Before leaving Japan, the holder of Artist SOR is required to fully settle her taxes or appoint a tax agent.

It should also be noted that Japanese local tax is assessed based on where you live on 1 January each year. As a result, departing Japan prior to 1 January can result in significant tax savings.

The above is provided for general information purposes only and does not constitute advice to undertake or refrain from undertaking any action. Only qualified Japanese professionals are able to advise on Japan immigration, legal, and tax matters.