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Permit Free Festival or Permitted Paid Engagement Visa?

When entering the UK on a Standard Visitor visa, you will generally not be allowed to accept payment equivalent to a salary (i.e. beyond reasonable expenses incurred for travel and living costs) for any activities undertaken in the UK whilst here as a visitor. The only exceptions to this are listed under paragraph 4.6 of Appendix Visitor. 

This allows for payments to be accepted when the visitor:

  1. Is an artist, entertainer or musician attending a Permit Free Festival in the UK; or 
  2. Has permission as a Permitted Paid Engagement Visitor.

In this post we consider the circumstances in which you can apply to visit the UK for either a Permitted Paid Engagement or to attend a Permit Free Festival, and what you should have in mind when making your application.

What is a Permit Free Festival?

If you are an artist, entertainer or musician who will be performing at a festival on the Appendix Visitor: Permit Free Festival List and you are a visa national, you can enter the UK as a Standard Visitor to attend the festival. If you are a non-visa national you will be able to use the ‘e-gates’ as normal, but should nonetheless carry evidence of the festival(s) you will be performing at e.g. an invitation letter in case it is requested by a border official. 

You can see the full list of festivals here. This includes:

  • The Belfast International Arts Festival, 
  • Cheltenham Festivals (Jazz, Science, Music & Literature Festivals)
  • Edinburgh Festival Fringe
  • Glastonbury Festival
  • Hay Festival
  • Isle of Wight Festival
  • Southbank Centre Festivals
  • The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo
  • WWE Live. Please note that WWE performers are classed as ‘entertainers’ rather than ‘sportspersons’ due to the non-competitive elements of WWE. See our previous article here and our guide to immigration routes for international sportspersons for more information on the routes available for professional sportspersons.

Who Is Considered an Artist, Entertainer or Musician?

Home Office guidance sets out how these definitions are interpreted. 

Artists are defined as anyone (whether they are an amateur or professional) undertaking an activity related to literature, the performing arts, visual arts or culinary arts. The guidance sets out a non-exhaustive list including:

  • Poets
  • Photographers and film crew (including for social media content)
  • Writers
  • Conductors
  • Designers

Entertainers are defined as anyone undertaking an activity related to the performing arts specifically. The guidance sets out a number of examples:

  • Dancers
  • Comedians
  • Circus performers
  • Film Crew
  • E-sport competitors

If you are a personal or technical staff member of the artist, entertainer or musician then you can also attend the event as long as you have a contract to work for them in the UK. This widens the scope of the permit to include:

  • Choreographers
  • Make-up artists
  • Personal bodyguards

How Long Can I Stay In the UK When Attending a Permit Free Festival?

If you are successful in your application, you will be granted permission to stay in the UK for up to 6 months.

Who Can Undertake a Permitted Paid Engagement and What Type of Work Does This Include?

There is an exhaustive list of types of paid engagements set out in Appendix Visitor. These are specific work activities that professionals can come to the UK to undertake as visitors and accept payment equivalent to a salary for. The work must have been arranged before you travel to the UK, and you should provide a formal invitation setting out the details of the engagement. The work must also be related to your particular expertise and career overseas.

You must be over the age of 18 and one of the following:

  • An academic coming to the UK either to examine students and/or participate in or chair selection committees. This does not include academics who are otherwise fully retired.
  • An expert lecturer. This must not equate to filling a teaching position. This does not include academics who are otherwise fully retired.
  • An overseas designated pilot examiner assessing UK-based pilots on meeting regulations of other countries.
  • A qualified lawyer advocating for a hearing, arbitration or dispute resolution for proceedings based in the UK. This includes barristers, solicitors, counsel, attorneys and advocates.
  • A professional artist, entertainer or musician carrying out an activity directly related to their career (that is not a Permit Free Festival) e.g. judging panels, attending a conference or interviews, modelling on a fashion runway, launching their work. 
  • A professional sportsperson carrying out an activity directly related to their career.

To be considered as a professional sportsperson or arts professional, you must show that it is your full-time profession. The Home Office will look at factors including your reputation and earnings in assessing this.

Who Can You Work for During a Permitted Paid Engagement?

In all cases, you must have been invited to the engagement by a UK-based organisation or client based in the UK.

An artist, entertainer or performer can be invited by any agent or creative organisation i.e. an organisation which is involved in the arts and entertainment. This covers galleries, museums, broadcasters, and venues which stage events. Similarly, sportspeople can be invited by any agent, broadcaster or sports organisation i.e. an organisation which is involved in the organisation or staging of sporting events, competitions, or matches.

An academic or expert lecturer can be invited by any higher education institution. This is where the education leads to the award of an academic degree, rather than further education which is at a non-degree level. An academic may also be invited by a research or arts organisation in relation to their quality assurance processes.

An overseas designated pilot examiner must have been invited by a training organisation regulated by the UK Civil Aviation Authority.

How Long Can I Stay In the UK on a Permitted Paid Engagement Visa?

This route is intended for short term employment, therefore if successful, you will be granted a stay of up to 1 month. If you apply for subsequent Permitted Paid Engagement visas, the Home Office will want to be satisfied that you are not actually residing in the UK through multiple visits.

What Else Do I Need to Show for a Permitted Paid Engagement Visa Application?

As the application will be made as a visitor, rather than for a longer term work visa, you must satisfy the Home Office that you intend to leave the UK at the end of the engagement.

You must also demonstrate that you have sufficient funds to maintain and accommodate yourself during your stay in the UK. This should cover the costs of travel, living expenses and any other expenses you intend to incur during your visit.

Other Immigration Routes for Artists and Entertainers

The UK is a world-leading hub for the creative industries. Whether you are an actor, musician, dancer or other performing artist, our immigration barristers in Covent Garden are well versed in the full range of UK visas available to artists and entertainers who wish to visit or work in the UK.  For more information, download our Guide to Immigration Routes for Artists and Entertainers.

Contact our Immigration Barristers

For expert advice and assistance with an application for a visit visa to enter the UK to participate in paid activities, contact our immigration barristers in London on 0203 617 9173 or complete our enquiry form below.


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