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An Overview of UK Visas for Creative, Media and Arts Professionals

The UK Immigration Rules provide various different routes by which persons involved in the Creative, Media and Arts sector can travel to the UK, work or perform and, in some cases, stay indefinitely.  In this article we provide a brief description of the main routes available for entry to the UK, as well as the basic eligibility requirements and length of stay permitted in each category. 

The main visa categories that are designed specifically for media and arts professionals are the Entertainer Visitor visa category (paragraph 46S, Immigration Rules), the Visitor for Permitted Paid Engagement category (paragraphs 56X-56Z, Immigration Rules), the Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) visa category (paragraph 245BB, Immigration Rules) and the Tier 5 (Temporary Worker – Creative and Sporting) visa category (paragraph 245ZO, Immigration Rules). Each category has its own specified requirements and conditions.  The Tier 2 (General) skilled worker category may also be used by some Media and Arts Professionals, but is beyond the scope of this article. 

Entertainer visitor visa

Entertainer visitor visas are available for persons seeking to travel to the UK in order to take part in a cultural event, music competition or charitable event.  Leave to enter will be given for a maximum period of 6 months and cannot be extended beyond this period.  As a result, this category will not lead to settlement.

The Immigration Rules set out the requirements for the grant of an Entertainer visitor visa.  The applicant must be seeking leave to enter as an entertainer visitor, must intend to leave the UK at the end of their stay, not intend to work or take any employment and have adequate accommodation and maintenance throughout their stay.

An Entertainer visitor visa will be appropriate for, for example, a musician taking part in a music competition, an actor taking part in an audition, whether paid or unpaid (provided that the audition is not taking place in front of an audience), an internationality famous person wanting to take part in broadcasts or public appearances without being paid for doing so or an amateur entertainer travelling to the UK for a specific engagement.

Visitor for permitted paid engagement

For those Creative, Media and Arts professionals who wish to enter the United Kingdom for a one off event, obtaining a visa as a visitor undertaking a permitted paid engagement is a further option.

In order to be eligible as a visitor through the permitted paid engagement route, the applicant has to be able to demonstrate that they have been invited to the United Kingdom to undertake a paid engagement because of their particular skills and expertise.

A visitor undertaking a permitted paid engagement can enter the United Kingdom on a one month visa (non-extendable) without having to be sponsored under the point-based system.  This is advantageous, but only possible if the paid engagement will not require more than one month in order to be completed. Generally speaking, a visitor will have to provide a formal invitation to the permitted paid engagement in order to be considered under this route.

Tier 5 (Temporary Worker – Creative and Sporting)

A third category exists for entertainers and creative artists who wish to travel to the UK temporarily.  The Tier 5 (Temporary Worker – Creative and Sporting) category is for people coming to the UK to work or perform as a sportsperson, entertainer or creative artist for up to 12 months.

In order to apply, applicants will need to have a sponsor and a valid certificate of sponsorship. As this is a points-based application, the applicant will be awarded points for sponsorship and available maintenance.  For the maintenance requirement, the applicant will need to provide evidence that they have held £3,100 in their personal bank account for at least 90 days prior to the date of their application (or £900 if applying from within the UK). When issuing a certificate of sponsorship, the sponsor will need to confirm that the applicant intends to travel to the UK in order to work or perform.  The applicant must also not intend to set up a business in the UK, must not present any threat to the resident labour market and must intend to comply with the conditions of their stay. If an applicant is required to attend a number of engagements and/or at a number of different venues, the sponsor may issue a single certificate of sponsorship to cover all engagements, provided that there are no more than 14 calendar days in between each engagement.

Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent)

The UK Immigration Rules also provide an immigration route for creative, media and arts professionals who wish to remain in the UK indefinitely, namely the Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) category.

The Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) category is designed for individuals who are world-leaders in their respective fields and who have an international reputation. There is a limit on the number of ‘endorsements’ available under this route, which currently stands at 1,000 between 6th April 2012 and 5th April 2013. The allocation between the ‘Designated Competent Bodies’ is as follows: Royal Society 150, Arts Council England 150, British Academy 100 and Royal Academy of Engineering 100.

Applicants are required to apply for endorsement from their respective designated competent body, each of which has its own criteria for endorsement.  For example, to document exceptional talent, the Arts Council will require evidence of the applicant’s work showing significant media recognition, any international awards made, as well as proof of appearances, performances or exhibitions in contexts which are recognised as internationally significant in the applicant’s field.

Once an applicant receives an endorsement, the designated competent body will provide confirmation to the UK Border Agency, either in the UK or in the country of application, who will then process the application, ensuring that the remaining requirements of the immigration rules have been satisfied.

Leave to enter the UK in the Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) category will be granted for an initial period of 3 years and 4 months.  It is possible to apply for an extension of stay for a further two years. After having resided in the UK lawfully with leave to remain as a Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) Migrant for 5 years, a media or arts professional in this category will be eligible for settlement in the UK.

For further information about applying to enter, or remain in, the UK as a Creative, Media or Arts Professional, contact our immigration barristers in Covent Garden, London.


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