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Work visa options for artists and entertainers

In a previous article, we looked at the visa options available to artists and entertainers who wish to visit the UK for a short period. In this article, we examine the three main routes under the Points Based System for artists and entertainers wishing to come and work in the UK.

Temporary workers – Tier 5 (creative and sporting)

Tier 5 is for paid, temporary work for up to 12 months (with a sponsor in the UK), and people coming to the UK for short-term contracts or engagements such as actors or musicians on tour, etc. Temporary workers can be accompanied by their entourage.

Anyone applying under this Tier 5 route will need a certificate of sponsorship (CoS) from their sponsor(s) – the sponsor will be the UK business employing or sponsoring the artist or entertainer during their stay in the UK. Before anyone can sponsor a migrant, they must obtain a sponsor licence. Any entourage can be included on a group CoS.

When applying under this route, Tier 5 applicants will need to show that they can maintain and accommodate themselves unless their sponsor has clearly confirmed this on the certificate of sponsorship.

Visa nationals should apply for a visa under the Tier 5 creative and sporting category from the country they live in. Some applications made under this route will be accepted in a country that the individual does not normally live in, as long as they are in that country in a similar role to the one they will undertake in the UK, for example, if they are on tour. There is also a concession for non-visa nationals who can seek to enter the UK for less than 3 months without requiring a visa, provided they present a certificate of sponsorship on arrival at the border.

Exceptional Talent – Tier 1

This route is for exceptionally talented individuals who are already internationally recognised as world leaders, or show the potential to become future world leaders, in the fields of science, engineering, humanities and the arts. Successful applicants require the endorsement of a designated Competent Body (for artists this is likely to be the Arts Council), who are best placed to decide whether an applicant is exceptional.

Applicants should first consider whether they meet the eligibility criteria set by the Arts Council (the Competent Body) to obtain their endorsement. To make an application under this route, applicants must apply via the Home Office. The Arts Council does not take applications for endorsement directly.

Skilled Worker – Tier 2

The Tier 2 (General) category enables UK employers to employ skilled nationals from outside the resident workforce to fill particular jobs which cannot be filled by settled workers. This also includes jobs in shortage occupations. Shortage occupations are ones for which there are not enough settled workers in the UK to fill available jobs in particular sectors.

Artists and entertainers can apply under this route if they are coming to fill a role that is on the current Shortage Occupation List agreed by the Government or for a job which passes a Resident Labour Market Test. Jobs must be skilled to a certain level.

The following creative sector occupations are currently eligible under Tier 2 (General):

3411 – Artists
3412 – Authors, writers
3413 – Actors, entertainers
3414 – Dancers and choreographers
3415 – Musicians
3416 – Arts officers, producers and directors
3422 – Designers, product, clothing-related

To qualify for Tier 2, applicants must have the offer of a job from a licensed sponsor. The prospective employer can talk to applicants about this and, if necessary, contact the Home Office to check their eligibility to employ overseas workers. Applicants must also meet certain other criteria, such as English Language ability and have sufficient funds to maintain themselves and any dependants without relying on public funds in the UK.

For advice or assistance in relation to an application to work in the UK as an artist or entertainer, contact our immigration barristers in Covent Garden, London on 0203 617 9173 or by email to


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

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