Following the UK’s withdrawal from Europe, many musicians complained about the sudden need to obtain visas in order to spend long periods of time touring or working in EU countries. A petition to Parliament for visa-free travel, whilst unsuccessful in its ultimate aim, revealed that the UK government had apparently sought to obtain such a deal in the withdrawal process but was rebuffed by the EU. With the EU saying the same thing, I guess we will never know.
Now, some 2 years on, any artists and their technical or personal crew wishing to come and work in the UK must grapple with the UK Visas & Immigration Service’s visa application process. Unfortunately, this is not always a straightforward process. However, with specialist immigration advice at an early stage, individuals and businesses can minimise the number of mistakes made in any such applications and save money on UKVI fees.
This article is the first in a series of two on possible immigration routes to the UK for creatives and sportspeople. It shall explore the different options and practical considerations to be aware of.
What are the possible immigration routes for artists looking to come to the UK and be paid?
There are several different routes for musicians and artists (and any of their technical and personal support staff) seeking to come to the UK for paid gigs. These include:
- The Permitted Paid Engagement (PPE) Visit Visa;
- The Temporary Work – Creative Worker Visa;
- The Skilled Worker Visa; and
- The Global Talent Visa, which is split into two sub-routes: Arts & Culture and Film & Television.
The precise route to be chosen will depend on the individual’s job title, sub-sector, and the proposed length of stay in the UK.
For those musicians who may be touring the UK, they may want to look at applying for a PPE visa as this will allow them up to 30 days in the UK to carry out paid engagements. To be eligible for this route, the particular individual must prove they are a professional musician and be invited by an established UK business or agent. The engagement must relate to their full-time profession, and this must be confirmed with documentary evidence (such as publicity material). Of course, this may be difficult for anyone just starting out.
If the individual needs to be in the UK for a longer period of time, they could apply for a Temporary Work – Creative Worker Visa. They will need to prove they can make a unique contribution to the UK’s creative sector. Their entourage may also apply for such visas. Individuals will need to have been assigned a Certificate of Sponsorship by a Home Office approved sponsor operating in the creative sector. The sponsor does not have to be the individual’s direct employer. A minimum salary must be paid, unless you are a model, musician, or circus performer. If successful, they will be entitled to work in the creative sector for up to 12 months (which can be extended by a further 24 months if remaining with the same sponsor).
The Skilled Worker Visa route provides an alternative longer term arrangement for artists looking to come and work in the UK. It applies to those with a skilled job offer from an approved sponsor (as above) and allows for individuals to be granted entry clearance to the UK for up to a maximum of 5 years at a time. Whilst this route is generally more suited to individuals in other business sectors, it does support actors, authors, artists, producers, studio managers, sound engineers, and singers (among others). However, there are strict requirements for the level of salary, skills required and English language competency.
Finally, the Global Talent Visa route allows for talented and promising individuals in the fields of art and culture and film and television to come and work in the UK. Such individuals will (generally) need to have obtained an endorsement from either the Arts Council England or the Producers’ Alliance for Film and Television (PACT). This route does not require a job offer but instead requires producing work of outstanding quality or demonstrating exceptional talent. As with the Skilled Worker Visa, an individual applying for a Global Talent Visa can seek entry to the UK for a maximum of 5 years at a time.
What about unpaid arrangements?
If amateur and professional artists, entertainers, and musicians (and their support staff) are happy to visit the UK and not be paid, they should apply for the Creative Visit Visa. This will allow them to come to the UK for a period of 6 months to carry out several permitted activities. Separate applications will need to be made for each individual, if they are travelling as part of a group.
The permitted activities include: performing as an individual or as a group; taking part in competitions; making personal appearances and carrying out promotional activities. Paid work is not permitted unless it is for performing at one or more of the festivals on the list of Permit Free Festivals.
What are the practical considerations I should be aware of?
In light of the above, there are a number of practical points for artists who are looking to come to the UK (or their managers) to consider, including:
- How long the artist and their crew need to be in the UK and whether the particular engagements will be paid or unpaid. This will determine the precise visa to apply for.
- How many people within the artists’ crew and staff will need to obtain visas. If an artist is looking to bring all their staff with them, separate visa applications will need to be made for all of them.
- When any engagements in the UK will take place. Whilst UKVI will endeavour to decide on any visa application within its standard processing times, some decisions may be delayed if an application has been submitted incorrectly or without the correct supporting documents.
It is critical that artists and their staff plan ahead before applying for visas to work in or visit the UK. If the correct steps are not taken, this could affect planned engagements or touring and potentially lead to delays or cancellations of such events.
The Immigration and Employment Teams at Leathes Prior Solicitors are highly experienced in dealing with visa applications and business immigration and are able to assist clients (including artists, musicians, managers, agents or other employers) with any such enquiries. We offer a fixed fee service to provide advice on the merits of a potential visa application. Please contact us on 01603 281153 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information or assistance.
Note: The content of this article is for general information only and does not constitute legal advice. Specific legal advice should be taken in any specific circumstance.