Want to play in the UK? Here’s what you need to know

Want to play in the UK? Here’s what you need to know


norman lebrecht

January 21, 2021

If you are an EU musician who has been used to playing in Britain without a visa, there are some new rules below that you need to know …. and thing are not as bad as they seem.

If you are a British musician wanting to play in the EU, it will be much more complicated.

Here are therelevant extracts from UK Government guidance:

You do not need a visa for some business and academic activities, but you must get a visa if you plan to work in the UK

You may be able to come to the UK without a visa if you’re either:

– invited as an expert in your profession for a ‘Permitted Paid Engagement’
– visiting for certain business or academic activities, but not working in the UK

You may want to apply for a visa if you have a criminal record or you’ve previously been refused entry into the UK.

Now for the small print:

If you’re invited as an expert in your profession
You can stay in the UK for up to 1 month without a visa, but you can only be paid by a UK-based organisation to do certain things, for example:

– give guest lectures at a higher education institution
– provide advocacy in legal proceedings
– take part in arts, entertainment or sporting activities

If you want to work in sports, arts or entertainment for less than 3 months

You do not need a visa for qualifying work in sports, arts or entertainment if you’re coming to the UK for 3 months or less using the Temporary Worker – Creative and Sporting visa (T5) concession.

You must bring a certificate of sponsorship and evidence of savings to show officers at the UK border.

You must see a Border Force officer – do not use the automatic ePassport gates.



  • Up to now, PPE has been already in place for non-EU resident artists for some years. Now this extends to include those from EU states. Visas and work permits take longer to process. These are obtainable via Home Office unit no more than a month before a concert for example and could be refused – at least that is my experience. What UK musicians need is visa-free travel to and from EU – not provided for in the Brexit deal unless a provision for it is submerged in the text of this legal document. EU resident musicians coming here, although more than welcome, will have a similar process to follow. As a consequence of all this, EU music promoters could well decide to bi-pass UK musicians in favour of those from within the Member States, causing yet more grief for our profession on top of Brexit, the virus and now the weather!

  • sam says:

    The U.S. should have much stricter visa requirements for orchestras and operas hiring non-American citizens, from 4th horn to music director.

    In any case, during any national crisis these foreigners disappear in no time anyway (calling Zweden, Muti, Nezet-Seguin…)

  • Counterpoint says:

    Surely the relevant route for an EU National is the T5 Temporary Working Creative and Sporting visa concession, valid for up to 3 months. This is already open to artists from many countries, including the US and Canada. EU countries have not been added to the exempt list from eligibility from T5 concessions. Artists from Russia, for instance, cannot use this concession and so the PPE is their route. Happy to be corrected if I am wrong. If the UK allows EU nationals 90 days visa free visits I am still struggling to see through the Remainer flak and understand why the EU has not at least matched the UK’s openness.
    The UK is already incredibly generous and permits no withholding tax on fees paid to non-residents up to an amount equal to the the tax free personal allowance – a level of generosity not matched elsewhere in the world and certainly not by any of our former EU partners. It would be nice if some readers of this blog would give credit where credit is due occasionally.

  • Gustavo says:

    “You must see a Border Force officer – do not use the automatic ePassport gates.”

    This is really Stone Age – thanks to all Brexiteers, “Britain Trumps”, and their supporters.

    • Counterpoint says:

      Don’t worry Gustavo, by the time people feel safe to travel in great numbers, collective environmental social consequence will rule out flying for all but the selfish.

    • Mark (London) says:

      Get over it ! Fact is at the moment for some time there’s no live music anywhere

    • Hayne says:

      I’m not well enough informed about Brexit vs anti Brexit. It’s my impression that anti Brexit people have a tendency to give a pass to whatever the EU side does while railing against Brexiteers. I may well be wrong.

  • Maria says:

    If there is any work in Britain for EU musicians and singers after the pandemic, and we use our own who have been overlooked for years! As for the other way round of Brits going over to Continental Europe, read the latest Spectator article finely written by Norman! More to it all than just getting a visa. I had no problem getting a visa to Hong Kong to sing as a soloist a few years ago. The organisers did it all, and I had been booked 15 months in advance.