The Japan Entertainer Visa

Japan Visa Services

The Entertainer Visa is for Applicants who will engage in theatrical performances, musical performances, sports, or similar types of show business.

Looking at the criteria, it is possible to identify five broad classes of Applicants who may utilize Entertainer SOR.

  1. Mainstream entertainers and sportspeople. This includes individuals working in the performing arts and sports such as baseball and basketball.
  2. Those who support the individuals in i. This may include choreographers and trainers.
  3. Those who are involved in the production of TV programs or movies.
  4. Those involved in commercial photo shoots or sound recording.
  5. Those involved in the “entertainment industry”. This includes those working as “hostesses” in bars, night-clubs, etc. Much of the complexity surrounding this SOR appears aimed at ensuring the well-being of individuals in this category.

It is strongly recommended that internationally famous entertainers and sports people make direct contact with a Japanese embassy as soon as possible prior to their engagement in Japan.


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

Step 1

Confirm that the Applicant satisfies the preliminary requirements for obtaining a Japan Entertainer Visa.

The initial points that need to be confirmed prior to applying for an Entertainer Visa can be extensive and complex. The applicable requirements vary depending upon whether the Applicant will be providing Performance entertainment, Non-Performance entertainment, or will be undertaking activities deemed “Non-entertainer”. The following should be viewed as an executive summary only.

1. For Applicants involved in Performances

Performance covers activities such a singing, dancing, dramatic theatre, musical, or comedy.

The preliminary requirements in the performance category are particularly detailed and cover the Applicant, the hiring organization, and the establishment where performance will take place.

  1. Requirements for the Applicant

    The Applicant must have completed at least two years of relevant study outside Japan OR have least two years' relevant experience outside Japan.

    The requirement for groups of performers is that they must receive remuneration of at least JPY5 million per day.

  2. Requirements for the Hiring Organization

    There are extensive requirements imposed upon the hiring organization. This appears to be done in order to restrict the involvement of individuals deemed to be of unsavory character.

    These requirements include:

    1. At least three years' experience handling foreign entertainers.
    2. In the past three years the Organization must have fully paid its obligations to foreign entertainers.
    3. Have at least five full-time employees.
    4. None of the following should apply to individuals involved with the organization:
      1. Persons involved in human trafficking.
      2. Persons who have assisted non-Japanese nationals to engage in illegal activities.
      3. Persons involved in the use of false documents to assist foreign nationals to enter Japan.
      4. Persons involved with prostitution.
      5. Persons involved with organized crime.
    5. Exceptions to the above requirements may apply where the Applicant will be performing music at a foreign themed restaurant.

  3. Requirements for the Establishment where performances take place

    There are also requirements for the actual establishment where the entertainer will be performing. These requirements include:

    1. The establishment should not restrict its audience to certain groups.
    2. There should be a minimum of five employees primarily engaged in serving customers.
    3. Individuals with an Entertainer Visa should not participate in serving customers.
    4. There should be a stage area of at least 13 square meters.
    5. There should be a “Green Room” for use by the entertainers.
    6. The establishment should have at least five employees.

    Exceptions to the above requirements may apply where:

    1. The performance is organized by a government organization or by a school.
    2. Where the establishment has an area of at least 100,000 square meters and attracts tourists by way of a foreign country theme.
    3. The Applicant (or group in the case of a group performance) will receive at least JPY500,000 per day and the Applicant will reside in Japan for not more than 15 days.
2. Non-Performance Entertainment

The preliminary matters for non-performance entertainment are significantly more straightforward.

The Applicant must receive no less remuneration than would a Japanese national for comparable work.

3. Non-Entertainers

Finally, the Entertainer Visa category applies to some Applicants who are undertaking “non-entertainer” activities.

Examples in this category may include the following activities:

  1. Advertising,
  2. Movies production,
  3. Commercial photo shoots,
  4. Commercial sound recording.

In such cases, the Applicant must receive no less remuneration than would a Japanese national for comparable work.

Step 2

Confirm that the proposed employment activities in Japan are consistent with those permitted for the holder of an Entertainer Visa.

Once the preliminary items in Step 1 have been confirmed, the actual activities the Applicant will undertake in Japan need to be considered.

The permitted activities for the holder of an Entertainer Visa are:

  1. Theatrical performances,
  2. Musical performances,
  3. Sports,
  4. Any other form of show business

Step 3

Assemble the specific documentation required to support a Japan Entertainer Visa application.

Once an Applicant has confirmed that her proposed activities in Japan are consistent with those outlined above in Step 2, supporting documentation needs to be prepared.

For an Entertainer Visa application, the following documents are required:

  1. Where the Applicant will engage in theatrical performances, musical performances, sports, or other public entertainment:
    1. A personal history and documents issued by an official organization able to certify the Applicants career and qualifications to undertake the proposed activities in Japan.
    2. Regarding the organization that will hire the Applicant:
      1. Copies of the company registration,
      2. Statement of profit and loss,
      3. List of staff.
    3. Materials showing an outline of the entertainment site.
    4. In cases where the organization inviting the Applicant undertakes the entertainment, a copy of the contract.
    5. Documents that certify the position the Applicant will be taking up along with details of the activity, its duration, and the associated remuneration
  2. In cases where the Applicant will engage in show business:
    1. Materials indicating the Applicants show business achievements,
    2. Documents that certify the position the Applicant will be taking up along with details of the activity, its duration, and the associated remuneration.

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

Japan Visa’s certified immigration specialists are able to assist in the preparation and translation of all documentation required for an Entertainer Visa.

Note Regarding Tax Planning Opportunities for Entertainer Visa Applicants.

Depending on the situation, there may be tax planning opportunities for the holder of an Entertainer Visa. 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 Entertainer Visa will spend time outside Japan on business.

All these matters should be negotiated prior to finalizing the documentation needed for the Entertainer Visa COE application (see Step 4 below). The following article provides more information about this important issue Japan Taxes: Tax Planning for Foreigners Working in Japan.

Step 4

Submit an application for a Japan Entertainer Visa Certificate of Eligibility (“COE”).

Once the Applicant’s activities have been confirmed and the appropriate documents assembled per steps 2 and 3 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 Entertainer Visa application.

An application for an Entertainer 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 Entertainer 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 Entertainer Visa COE.

Step 5

Await Approval of the Entertainer Visa COE.

The processing time for an Entertainer 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 Entertainer 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 6 below).

Step 6

Obtain Entertainer Status of Residence (SOR)

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

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

There are two methods for converting the COE to Entertainer SOR:

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

This is the traditional route for obtaining Entertainer SOR.

The Applicant first exchanges the Entertainer Visa COE for an Entertainer 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 Entertainer SOR at the port of entry.

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

In some cases, an alternative may be for the holder of an Entertainer COE to enter Japan under the Japan Visa Waiver Program or some other form of short-term entry. The Applicant then applies for Entertainer 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 Entertainer SOR at the airport upon entering Japan or via a change of status application filed at a regional immigration office in Japan (see Step 6 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 your name, address, birth date, residence status (in this case, Entertainer SOR), period of stay, etc.

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

Step 7

Consider applying for a Japan Re-entry Permit.

Up until July 2012, if you held Entertainer SOR 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 Entertainer 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 Entertainer 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 Entertainer SOR

People living in Japan under Entertainer SOR will typically be working for an institution that handles at least part of their 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 some income is being paid outside Japan, 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 Entertainer SOR

If the holder of Entertainer 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 Entertainer SOR leaves Japan

Before leaving Japan, the holder of Entertainer 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.