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UK Visit Visas for Overseas Artists and Entertainers - Part 2

In this, the second 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.

What UK visit visa is appropriate for an artist or entertainer?

Most of the activities which a foreign artist would be engaged for are actually permissible under the terms of a visit visa to the UK.  It is therefore important to understand what are permissible activities under the visit visa regime, what constitutes a ‘standard’ visit and one which would be a ‘permitted paid engagement’ visit.  With this information to hand the artist can be advised how to prepare for an application for entry clearance into the UK, or for the approach to border officials seeking entry into the UK.

‘Standard’ visitor visa or ‘Permitted Paid Engagement’ visitor visa?

A preliminary consideration would be whether the artist is to be paid for their participation.  An artist entering for a short unpaid engagement should be able to enter on a ‘Standard’ visitor visa. Artists entering for a short paid engagement may be able to obtain a ‘Permitted Paid Engagement’ visitor visa.

Permitted activities – ‘Standard’ visitor visa

Artists entering the UK as ‘Standard’ visitors should not be paid for their engagements.  They may, however, be compensated for their reasonable expenses, which would include ‘per diem’ expense payments. Payments for expenses should be ‘reasonable’, both in scope and in respect of the amounts paid.

Permitted activities as a ‘Standard’ visitor are as follows (from the Immigration Rules):-

Creative (‘Standard’ visitors)

PA 14.1. An artist, entertainer, or musician may:

(a) give performances as an individual or as part of a group; and

(b) take part in competitions or auditions; and

(c) make personal appearances and take part in promotional activities; and

(d) take part in one or more cultural events or festivals on the list of permit free festivals in Appendix Visitor: Permit Free Festival List.

PA 14.2. Personal or technical staff or members of the production team of an artist, entertainer or musician may support the activities in PA 14.1. or Appendix V: Visitor at V13.3 (e) provided they are attending the same event as the artist, entertainer or musician, and are employed to work for them outside of the UK.

PA.14.3. Film crew (actor, producer, director or technician) employed by an overseas company may visit the UK to take part in a location shoot for a film or programme or other media content that is produced and financed overseas.

Note that there are particular festivals for which payment is permitted.  The exhaustive list of these festivals can be found here.

Non-visa nationals are able to enter the UK as ‘Standard’ visitors, using the ‘e-gates’.  However, they should be able to provide evidence of their engagements in the UK, and of their own circumstances if requested.  ‘Standard’ visitors are usually permitted entry into the UK for six months.  

A ‘Standard’ visitor who is a ‘visa national’ (and therefore must apply for entry clearance before coming to the UK) will need to provide evidence of their engagements and of their personal circumstances.  Such visitors may only be granted enough leave to attend the engagement before returning to their home country.

Permitted Paid Engagements

The requirements for creatives entering as visitors to undertake paid engagements (Permitted Paid Engagements/’PPE’s) are as follows (from the Immigration Rules):-

V13.1. An applicant as a permitted paid engagements visitor must be aged 18 or over on the date of application.

V 13.2. The applicant must intend to do one (or more) of the permitted paid engagements set out in V 13.3. which must be:

(a) arranged before the applicant travels to the UK; and

(b) declared as part of the application for entry clearance or permission to enter the UK; and

(c) evidenced by a formal invitation; and

(d) relate to the applicant’s area of expertise and occupation overseas.

V 13.3. The following are permitted paid engagements:

(a) an academic who is highly qualified within their field of expertise, coming to examine students and/or participate in or chair selection panels, and have been invited by a UK higher education institution, or a UK-based research or arts organisation as part of that institution or organisation’s quality assurance processes; and

(b) an expert coming to give lectures in their subject area, where they have been invited by a higher education institution; or a UK-based research or arts organisation, and this does not amount to filling a teaching position for the host organisation; and

(e) a professional artist, entertainer, or musician coming to carry out an activity directly relating to their profession, where they have been invited by a creative (arts or entertainment) organisation, agent or broadcaster based in the UK; …

Entry will only be granted for up to one month for Permitted Paid Engagement visitors.  Entering by ‘e-gate’ is not appropriate for non-visa national visitors in these circumstances; they should present themselves to Immigration Control with the evidence required for entry.

What evidence should all visitors prepare to provide before entry?

All visitors to the UK must be able to evidence or demonstrate that they will meet the following requirements (from the Home Office website), that they are:-


You must show that:

  • you’ll leave the UK at the end of your visit
  • you’ll not live in the UK for extended periods through frequent or successive visits, or make the UK your main home
  • you’re able to support yourself and your dependants during your trip (or have funding from someone else to support you)
  • you’re able to pay for your return or onward journey (or have funding from someone else to pay for the journey)
  • you have proof of any business or other activities you want to do in the UK, as allowed by the Visitor Rules

See also the visit visa guidance here and the Home Office website.

What circumstances or engagements would require ‘sponsorship’ from the UK?

Engagements which will require presence in the UK for longer than 1 month in the case of paid work will require a Sponsor (i.e. the UK entity employing or sponsoring the artist or entertainer during their stay in the UK).  The Sponsor will need a specific Sponsor’s Licence in order to be able to issue a Certificate of Sponsorship to the foreign artist for the engagement. The conditions for the issuing of such visas vary, and depend on whether the engagement is for more than one year.

As can be seen, inviting a foreign artist to perform at small festivals or for short engagements need not necessitate a complicated process; it is a question of properly preparing the evidence which will meet the visit visa requirements, and advising the artist accordingly.  Advice from an immigration lawyer with experience of advising artists and entertainers will ensure that any visa application is both professionally presented and technically correct. 

Contact Our Immigration Lawyers in Covent Garden

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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