Alarm: European artists will need UK work visas from 2021

The UK Home Office has let it be known that artists from EU countries will need visas to perform in Britain from January 2021.

The department has clarified that they will be subject to the same restrictions as non-EU entertainers once Brexit is in place.

That means a Tier 5 visa, which is not always easy to obtain. It’s the end of freedom of movement.

Artists and arts organisations are rightly alarmed.

Read here.

UPDATE: Ignoring bromides from some classical spokesmen, the mainstream music industry is profoundly concerned.

The acting chief of UK Music, Tom Kiehl, writes: ‘New plans confirm that from 2021 EU musicians coming to the UK for concerts and festivals will be treated in the same way as those from the rest of the world. This will drag some agents and promoters into the immigration system for the first time and increases the possibility that [EU] member states [will] introduce new bureaucratic hoops for UK musicians to jump through when seeking to perform across the European Union.

On the potential impact beyond tours and festivals, Kiehl notes: ‘It’s welcome the government has reduced its salary cap [for immigrants], yet these proposals will still not work for many in the EU who want to work in the UK music industry over a longer period of time, given musicians’ average earnings are £23k and a reliance in the points-based [immigration] system on the need for elite academic qualifications’.


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  • COS Tier 5 visas are easy to obtain and are applied for by arts organisation throughout the UK on a regular basis.

    I’ve been bringing non-EU artists into the UK for 20 years. I’ve never once had a client refused.

    Stop trying to cause a panic.

      • And what fuss when it comes to EU musicians obtaining a visa to work in the USA, which is simply humiliating to the point of being treated like a criminal at the embassy! Reckon a two year visa will be the norm for the UK.

        • I imagine that Uglow has in mind the big-budget “arts organisation”, rather than the numerous small promoters and ensembles that enliven the UK music scene. For many of them, another £60 per foreign performer is certainly *not* “Very little”. The reality is that most classical concerts do not make a profit in box-office terms, and rely on philanthrophy, subsidy, unpaid volunteers, and/or underpaid performers to be able to operate at all. I know many organisers who end up subsidising their projects from their personal money (especially when box office does badly).

          That £60 will probably be found by reducing the performer’s fee. In other words, yet again, we see money intended for the arts being diverted away from artists and towards bureaucracy. A similar situation can be identified in Rattle’s idiotic vanity project for a new concert hall (the difference being that the beneficiaries would be starchitects rather than the UKBA).

          At this rate, the administrative/auxiliary costs of engaging a foreign performer (travel, accommodation, carnet for instruments, visa) will probably be higher than the actual fee, unless the performer is a superstar and the promoter has a big budget. If only those big-budget promoters could show a bit more solidarity with the rest of the classical-music profession, rather than act as if we did not exist…

  • Excellent. It won’t stop singers from all over the world from singing all over the world but it’ll create more work for agents and artistic administrators who obviously have nothing better to do than filing useless paperwork. Oh, and loads of non-EU artists actually can do guest work in the EU without work permits.

  • Now I am confused because yesterday’s Guardian carried an article on the new points system and stated this:

    ‘A 10-page briefing document outlining the new immigration policy states: The right of artists, entertainers, sports people and musicians to enter for performances, competitions and auditions will be retained.’

    • I read that too, with great relief. Apparently Politico did not bother,as I did, to check that policy paper beyond its top sheet. The Guardian was right and the story above is not:

      It starts: Tier 5 (Temporary Worker – Creative and Sporting) concession

      You can enter the UK without applying for a visa in advance if you:

      And then it lays out the conditions, which I imagine apply at the moment and do not seem too onerous.

      Panic over?

      • The key phrase is “in advance”. Effectively, you still need a visa, which you obtain upon entry to the UK (the instructions state explicitly *not* use the ePassport gates, despite the fact that station/port/airport staff will probably encourage you to do so). And you need to obtain a “certificate of sponsorship” in advance (which means that the organisation engaging you needs to be registered with the UKBA — many small ensembles/promoters are not).

        So no, I do not think this is “Panic over”, to be honest.

  • They wanted the Brexit they will have it, it’s normal. The Brexit won with an advance very very (too?) poor, now they will have it completely. It’s very sad for the musicians of course who don’t have the money of the football players.

  • This is fake news! EU artists will not need visas for touring into the UK. That is because EU citizens will be non-visa nationals. EU musicians will however need ‘visas’ to get permanent work in orchestras.

    • Does this mean that EU artists will be treated differently than American artists? I’m an American who lives in the EU and I’ve always needed a visa to perform in the UK. They’ve been arranged by the venues and it hasn’t seemed to be a difficult process.

      • The same applies to artists from Japan who want to perform in the UK. So far, I have not heard a single case of rejected application.

  • Why panic?

    Use Skype conference and streaming tools to broadcast EU and non-UK artists throughout the UK straight to your living rooms.

    Alternatively, apply to re-enter the EU.

  • The Brexit vote was a number of years ago. No one has given this visa situation any thought since then? This sounds like an overblown first world problem to me.

  • Using mostly imported eastern European orchestral and vocal resources, Ellen Kent mounts perhaps 120 performances of opera a year in the UK (the spring 2020 tour has 64 dates), mostly in sizeable theatres 1000-1200+ seats. So, call it 1.2 to 1.4 million seats?

    That’s a lot of opera-going opportunities lost if she decides the extra visa costs render the tours uncommercial.

    If you respond to this posting, and are a representative of an opera company, please tell us how many seats you perform in front of each year (for context). Thanks.

  • Just a note of caution. Britain and the EU have not yet signed any post-Brexit arrangements. While the British government can make proposals, the final arrangements will depend on what is negotiated.

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