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UK Visa & Immigration Routes for Creative Artists

The UK has a range of immigration routes that provide both temporary and long-term opportunities for international artists, entertainers and musicians (and their personal and technical staff) to participate in creative activities in the UK.

The main immigration routes open to creative artists are:

Creative Visit Visa

The Creative Visit Visa is for amateur and professional artists, entertainers and musicians (and their personal and technical staff) who wish to visit the UK to undertake permitted unpaid creative activities for a period of up to 6 months.

The route does not lead to settlement in the UK and all visitors must make a separate application, even when travelling as part of a group.

An artist is defined as anyone coming to the UK to undertake an activity that is connected to the arts (literature, performing arts, visual arts, culinary arts).  Examples include, but are not limited to, poets, film crew (including crew for online media content, for example YouTube), photographers, designers, artists, musicians, writers and conductors. Both amateur and professional artists can qualify for a Creative Visit Visa.

An entertainer is anyone coming to the UK to undertake an activity that is connected to the performing arts, for example dancers, comedians, members of circus acts, members of film crew or those participating in e-sport competitions.

Personal or technical staff or members of the production team who are attending the same event as an artist, entertainer or musician can also qualify for a Creative Visit Visa provided they are employed to work for the artist, entertainer or musician outside the UK. Examples include, but are not restricted to, choreographers, stage managers, make-up artists, personal bodyguards and press officers.

In order to qualify for a Creative Visit Visa you will need to satisfy UK Visas & Immigration that you are genuinely seeking entry to the UK for a purpose that is permitted by the visitor routes and will not undertake any prohibited activities.

Artists, entertainers and musicians may undertake the following permitted activities with permission as a Creative Visitor:

  • Give performances as an individual or as part of a group;
  • Take part in competitions or auditions;
  • Make personal appearances and take part in promotional activities;
  • Take part in one or more cultural events or festivals on the Permit Free Festival List.

Film crew (actor, producer, director or technician) employed by an overseas company may visit the UK on a Creative Visit Visa to take part in a location shoot for a film or programme or other media content that is produced and financed overseas.

Creative Visitors are not permitted to work in the UK or, with few exceptions, receive payment from a UK source for any activities undertaken in the UK.

However, artists, entertainers and musicians visiting the UK can receive payment for performances at one or more of the festivals listed on the Permit Free Festival list.

If you wish to enter the UK for the purpose of a Creative Visit you may apply for a Visit Visa that is valid for either 6 months, 2 years, 5 years or 10 years.  You may enter and leave the UK multiple times during the validity period of your Visit Visa, unless your Visit Visa is endorsed for a single or dual entry. However, each visit to the UK must not exceed 6 months.

Permitted Paid Engagement Visit Visa

The Permitted Paid Engagement (PPE) Visit Visa is available to professional artists, entertainers and musicians who wish to visit the UK for up to 1 month in order to undertake a paid engagement relating to their profession.

For example, an artist may enter the UK as a PPE Visitor to give a paid performance and also present their work to other professionals or the public.

The Permitted Paid Engagement Visa route does not lead to settlement in the UK and all visitors must make a separate application, even when travelling as part of a group.

To qualify for a Permitted Paid Engagement Visa, artists, entertainers and musicians must be able to demonstrate that the engagement relates to their full-time profession. This will need to be confirmed through documentary evidence such as publicity material for performances, screenings, concerts, talks, readings and exhibitions, media coverage and reviews, awards and proof of recent performances.

Artists, entertainers and musicians must be invited by a creative (arts or entertainment) organisation, agent or broadcaster based in the UK.  A creative organisation is any organisation involved in artistic and entertainment activities.  For example, galleries, arts faculties or departments in universities and schools, and venues involved in producing or staging of events will all be regarded as creative organisations. Embassies putting on cultural events related to the country concerned will also qualify. UK based agents and broadcasters can also invite individuals to undertake a paid engagement in the UK.

Permitted Paid Engagement Visit Visas are valid for 1 month and Permitted Paid Engagement Visitors are permitted to undertake the paid engagement that was declared as part of their entry clearance application.

Temporary Work – Creative Worker Visa

The Temporary Work – Creative Worker Visa is for individuals who have been offered short-term work in the UK for up to 12 months within the creative sector.

The Creative Worker visa is not a route to settlement, but applicants can extend their stay up to a maximum of two years with the same employer.

A creative worker is someone who can make a unique contribution to the UK’s creative industries, for example, as an actor, dancer, musician, entertainer, fashion model or film crew.  Technical or support staff (‘entourage’) may accompany eligible creative workers.

In order to obtain a Temporary Work – Creative Worker Visa you will need to have a valid Certificate of Sponsorship issued by a Home Office approved sponsor for the job you are applying to undertake in the UK.  Your sponsor will need to hold a valid Temporary Work – Creative Worker sponsor licence.

Your sponsor will be operating in the creative sector.  Examples include, but are not limited to: a national arts body, an events organiser, a producer, a venue, an agent, a promoter or promotion company, a production company or a media organisation.  Your sponsor may or may not be your direct employer.

You will need to be paid a minimum salary as set by Equity, PACT or BECTU (except for models, musicians or circuses).

If your Temporary Work – Creative Worker Visa application is successful you will be permitted to enter and remain in the UK for either 12 months, or the time stated on your Certificate of Sponsorship plus up to 14 days before and after the period of leave granted, whichever is shorter.

Creative Workers who wish to continue working for the same sponsor may apply to extend their stay for up to a maximum  of 24 months.  Creative workers who wish to change employers may only stay in the UK for a maximum of 12 months.

If your application for a Temporary Work – Creative Worker Visa is successful you will be able to work for your sponsor in the job described on your Certificate of Sponsorship.  You will also be able to have a second job in the same sector and at the same level as your main job for up to 20 hours per week and do a job on the Skilled Worker shortage occupation list for up to 20 hours per week.

If you are not a national or citizen of a country or territorial entity listed in Immigration Rules Appendix Visitor: Visa national list (i.e. you are an EU, EEA and Swiss citizen or other non-visa national), you have a valid Certificate of Sponsorship from an approved sponsor for the Creative Worker route and the total length of your paid engagement or engagements in the UK will be 3 months or less then you may qualify to travel to the UK without a visa and instead ask for permission to enter when you arrive at the UK border under the Temporary Work – Creative Worker visa concession.  However, those who enter the UK for up to 3 months under the Creative Worker Visa Border Concession cannot extend their stay in the UK on the Creative Worker route.

Skilled Worker Visa

The Skilled Worker Visa is open to individuals of all nationalities who have an offer of an eligible skilled job in the UK from a Home Office-approved sponsor.  The route can lead to settlement.

In order to obtain a Skilled Worker Visa you must have a valid Certificate of Sponsorship for the job you are planning to do.  Your Certificate of Sponsorship will need to have been issued by an employer that is authorised by the Home Office to sponsor the job in question under the Skilled Worker route.

The job you are being sponsored for must be an eligible job at or above a minimum skill level. Under the Skilled Worker Visa route, the role you are looking to fill must be skilled to at least RQF level 3, which is roughly equivalent to A-levels. You do not need to hold a formal qualification in order to satisfy the skills level requirement. It is the skill level of the job that you will be doing that will determine whether the threshold is met.

The following creative jobs are eligible for the Skilled Worker route:

  • Artist, Illustrator, Portrait painter, Sculptor;
  • Author, Copywriter, Editor (books), Writer;
  • Actor, Disc jockey, Entertainer, Presenter (broadcasting), Singer;
  • Dancer, Ballet dancer, Choreographer, Dance teacher;
  • Arts officer, Producer, Director, Film editor, Production assistant (broadcasting), Studio manager, Television producer, Theatrical agent;
  • Photographer, Audio visual technician, Cameraman, Projectionist, Sound engineer, Theatre technician (entertainment);

In most cases an applicant for a Skilled Worker Visa must be paid a salary which equals or exceeds £25,600 a year and 100% of the going rate for the occupation, whichever is higher. The assessment of salary is based on guaranteed basic gross pay. Some sponsored skilled workers applying under the Skilled Worker route may be paid less than the above amount, where they are awarded additional so-called ‘tradable points’ for other attributes.

For example, if you have a job offer for a job in a shortage occupation you may be paid a salary which equals or exceeds both £20,480 per year and 80% of the going rate for the occupation.

The following creative jobs are on the Shortage Occupation List and so applicants may qualify for a Skilled Worker Visa if they are are paid at least £20,480 per year and 80% of the going rate for the occupation:

  • Artists;
  • Skilled classical ballet dancers and skilled contemporary dancers;
  • Skilled orchestral musicians;
  • Arts officers, Producers and Directors;

In order to qualify for a Skilled Worker Visa you will need to demonstrate English language ability on the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages in all 4 components (reading, writing, speaking and listening) to at least level B1 (intermediate).

If your application for a Skilled Worker Visa is approved you will be granted entry clearance or permission to stay for a period ending 14 days after the end date of your Certificate of Sponsorship (which may be up to a maximum of 5 years after the start date of your Certificate of Sponsorship).

After 5 years in the Skilled Worker route you may be eligible to apply for indefinite leave to remain.

Skilled Worker Visa holders are permitted to work in the job they have been sponsored for.  They may also undertake supplementary employment provided they continue to work in the job for which they are being sponsored.

Global Talent Visa – Arts & Culture

The Global Talent Visa – Arts & Culture route is open to talented and promising individuals in the fields of arts and culture wishing to work in the UK.  Applicants will be leaders in their field, or have the potential to be leaders, as determined by Arts Council England.

The Global Talent route does not require a job offer and can lead to settlement in the UK.

In order to qualify for an Arts and Culture endorsement by Arts Council England you will need to be professionally engaged in producing work of outstanding quality which has been performed, presented, distributed or exhibited internationally.

You must have been regularly engaged as a professional practitioner in your field within the last 5 years and be able to show a substantial track record in more than one country (if applying on the basis of Exceptional Talent) or a developing track record in one or more countries (if applying on the basis of Exceptional Promise).

Once you have received your Arts Council endorsement, you will have a period of three months from the date of the endorsement letter to make your application to enter or remain in the UK in the Global Talent category.

If you have won a qualifying prestigious award, you will be able to fast-track the endorsement application and instead proceed directly to making a single visa application.

Global Talent visa applicants can choose how much leave, in whole years, up to a maximum of 5 years, they wish to be granted in a single application.

Global Talent Visa – Arts & Culture migrants who are endorsed under the “exceptional talent” criteria by Arts Council England are eligible to apply for indefinite leave to remain after spending a continuous period of 3 years in the UK. Applicants who are endorsed under the “exceptional promise” criteria for Arts Council England need to spend a continuous period of 5 years in the UK before being eligible to apply for settlement.

Global Talent Visa – Film & Television

The Global Talent Visa – Film & Television route is open to talented individuals in the fields of film and television wishing to work in the UK.  Applicants will be leaders in their field as determined by the Producers’ Alliance for Film and Television (PACT) acting on behalf of Arts Council England.

The Global Talent route does not require a job offer and can lead to settlement in the UK.

Individuals who work in the film, television, animation, post production and visual effects industries will need to demonstrate ‘exceptional talent’.  PACT does not endorse ‘exceptional promise’ applications.

The criteria for an endorsement by PACT within the film, television, animation, postproduction and visual effects industries all essentially relate to recognition by awards.

Once you have your PACT endorsement, you will have a period of three months from the date of the endorsement letter to make your application to enter or remain in the UK in the Global Talent category.

If you have won a qualifying prestigious award, you will be able to fast-track the endorsement application and instead proceed directly to making a single visa application.

Global Talent visa applicants can choose how much leave, in whole years, up to a maximum of 5 years, they wish to be granted in a single application.

Global Talent Visa – Film & Television migrants who have been endorsed by PACT are eligible to apply for indefinite leave to remain after spending a continuous period of 3 years in the UK.

Contact our Immigration Barristers

For expert advice and assistance with an application for an artist, entertainer or musician (and/or their personal and technical staff) to enter the UK to participate in a creative activity, contact our immigration barristers in Covent Garden, London on 0203 617 9173 or complete our enquiry form below.

SEE HOW OUR IMMIGRATION BARRISTERS CAN HELP YOU

To arrange an initial consultation meeting, call our immigration barristers on 0203 617 9173 or fill out the form below.




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