The Japan Journalist Visa

Japan Visa Services

The Journalist Visa is for Applicants who will come to Japan for the purpose of carrying out journalistic activities based on a contract with foreign news organization.

Foreign organizations that typically support such applications include foreign newspapers, foreign news agencies, foreign broadcasters, and documentary movie companies.


In order to obtain a Journalist 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 a Journalist Visa.

The permitted activities under a Journalist Visa consist of news coverage and other journalistic activities. These activities should be based on a contract with a foreign journalistic organization.

Step 2

Assemble the documents required to support a Journalist 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 a Journalist Visa, the authorities require documents that certify the following:

  1. The journalistic activity that will be undertaken by the Applicant,
  2. The proposed duration of the Applicants activities in Japan,
  3. The Applicants proposed position, and
  4. The Applicants proposed 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 is able to assist in the preparation and translation of all documentation required for a Journalist Visa.

Note Regarding Japan Tax Planning Opportunities for Journalist Visa Applicants.

Typically, compensation structuring opportunities for the holder of a Journalist 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 Journalist 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 Journalist 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 a Journalist 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 position associated with the Journalist Visa application.

An application for a Journalist 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 a Journalist 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 a Journalist Visa COE.

Step 4

Await Approval of the Journalist Visa COE.

The processing time for a Journalist 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 Journalist 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 Journalist Status of Residence (“SOR”).

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

Technically speaking, it is the Journalist 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 Journalist COE at a Japanese embassy or Consul outside Japan.

This is the traditional route for obtaining Journalist SOR.

The Applicant first exchanges the Journalist Visa COE for a Journalist 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 Journalist SOR at the port of entry.

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

In some cases, an alternative may be for the holder of a Journalist COE to enter Japan under the Japan Visa Waiver Program or some other form of short-term entry. The Applicant then applies for Journalist 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 can undertake the necessary procedures at the regional immigration office in Japan.

Japan Residence Card

Whether you receive your Journalist 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, Journalist 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 a Journalist 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 Journalist 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 Journalist 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 Journalist SOR

People living in Japan under Journalist 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 Journalist SOR

If the holder of Journalist 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 Journalist SOR leaves Japan

Before leaving Japan, the holder of Journalist 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.