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UK Visit Visas for Overseas Artists and Entertainers - Part 1

In this, the first of two (updated) posts on the topic, we look at visit visas for creative artists and entertainers.  If you are a musician, dancer, actor or indeed have any other connection to the arts, read on to find out more about visiting the UK as an artist or entertainer.

Inviting foreign artists to come to the UK to participate in small arts festivals or events of short duration need not be daunting.  For such events there is often no need to provide sponsorship or enter into arrangements which would tax the administrative resources of a small arts festival, music promoter or theatre company.

Who is considered to be a visiting ‘Creative Artist’?

The following definition of a ‘Creative Artist’ for immigration/visit visa purposes is taken from guidance published by the Home Office.  The definition of ‘artist’ is quite wide, and encompasses most work which might be offered to a foreign creative artist:-

“An artist can include anyone coming to the UK to undertake an activity that is connected to the arts (literature, performing arts, visual arts, culinary arts).

There is no restriction on amateur or professional artists doing permitted activities.  Examples include:-

  • poets
  • film crew
  • photographers
  • designers
  • artists
  • musicians
  • writers
  • conductors

Entertainers can include anyone coming to the UK to undertake an activity that is connected to the performing arts, for example dancers, comedians, members of circus acts or members of film crew.

Personal or technical staff who are attending the same event can accompany the artist, entertainer or musician to the UK, provided they are employed to work for them overseas. Examples include, but are not restricted to:

  • choreographers
  • stage managers
  • make-up artists
  • personal bodyguards
  • press officers

The distinction between visa and non-visa nationals

It is also important to appreciate the difference between those who need to obtain a visit visa before entering the UK (visa nationals); and those who do not (non-visa nationals).  Those who do not require a visit visa before their visit are required to make their applications to visit the UK in person at the UK border point.

Visa nationals: are citizens of countries which do require a visit visa to come to the UK.  A list of these countries can be found here.

Non-visa nationals: apply to enter the UK as visitors when they arrive at the border.  Some non-visa nationals may enter the UK as ‘standard’ visitors using the e-gates, being nationals of Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea and the United States of America (Immigration (Leave to Enter and Remain) Order 2000 (as amended), section 8B).

EU National Creative Visitors to the UK

Visa or Non-Visa Nationals?

As anticipated, EU nationals will now enter the UK under the Immigration Rules applicable to non-EEA citizens.  They are now ‘non-visa’ nationals.  Therefore if creative artists who are EU nationals wish to visit the UK to pursue creative activities, they will visit either as Standard visitors or as visitors who will engage in Permitted Paid Engagements.  In the guidance set out for EU nationals who wish to work in the the UK, the following is stated:-

“You can continue to visit the UK for up to 6 months without applying for a visa and may participate in a wide range of activities, including tourism, visiting family and friends, short term study and business-related activities, such as events and conferences.”

The Home Office website relating to EU nationals can be found here.  Under the heading ‘Business travel to the UK’ links are given to the Immigration Rules set out in the following discussion (Standard and Permitted Paid Engagement).

It is important to note, as mentioned below, that even where an artist is a ‘non-visa’ national, they should nevertheless be prepared to provide evidence of their activities and circumstances at the border point.

What work are foreign artists permitted to do in the UK on a visit visa?

If you are contemplating engaging a foreign artist, you are asking them to come to the UK to work.  This causes confusion because, generally speaking, visitors are prohibited from working under the Immigration Rules.  However, creative artists are, under certain circumstances, permitted to perform or share their creative expertise in the UK having entered as visitors.  It is therefore essential to understand precisely which activities are permitted and which are not, and which type of visit visa is appropriate for the engagement contemplated.  Advice from an immigration lawyer specialising in immigration routes for artists and entertainers will ensure compliance with the UK’s immigration rules.

Other concerns for all visitors

Frequent visitors to the UK should pay heed to the following (from the Immigration Rules):-

“Genuine intention to visit

V 4.2 The applicant must satisfy the decision maker that they are a genuine visitor. This means that the applicant:

(a) will leave the UK at the end of their visit; and

(b) will not live in the UK for extended periods through frequent or successive visits, or make the UK their main home…”

If there have been frequent visits to the UK, the creative visitor should be aware that consideration will be given to their immigration history in deciding whether they are, in fact, a genuine visitor. The issue is whether through these visits the individual has in fact made the UK their ‘main home’.

However, from the Guidance:-

There is no specified maximum period, which an individual can spend in the UK in any period such as ‘6 months in 12 months’ (as long as each visit does not exceed the maximum period for that visit, normally 6 months). However, if it is clear from an applicant’s travel history that they are seeking to remain in the UK for extended periods or making the UK their home you should refuse their application.

The factors the Home Office will take into account are (from the Guidance to their decision-makers) as follows:-

  • the purpose of the visit and intended length of stay stated
  • the number of visits made over the past 12 months, including the length of stay on each occasion, the time elapsed since the last visit, and if this amounts to the individual spending more time in the UK than in their home country
  • the purpose of return trips to the applicant’s home country or trips out of the CTA and if these are used only to seek re-entry to the UK
  • the links they have with their home country or ordinary country of residence – consider especially any long-term commitments and where the applicant is registered for tax purposes
  • evidence the UK is their main place of residence, for example:
  • if they have registered with a general practitioner (GP)
  • if they send their children to UK schools
  • the history of previous applications, for example if the visitor has previously been refused under the Family Rules and subsequently wants to enter as a visitor you must assess if they are using the visitor route to avoid the Rules in place for family migrants joining British or settled persons in the UK

The above should be kept in mind when seeking to enter either as a ‘Standard’ business visitor or a Permitted Paid Engagement visitor.

Contact Our Covent Garden Immigration Barristers

For expert advice, assistance and particular expertise with applications for visiting artists to enter the UK, contact our immigration barristers in Covent Garden on 0203 617 9173 or complete our enquiry form below.


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