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Musicians From Outside the UK May Have to Pay to Play Starting in 2021

on February 21, 2020, 2:02pm

International musicians looking to perform in the United Kingdom may soon face new restrictions thanks to the country’s exit from the European Union. Once the Brexit transition period ends in 2021, those artists from outside the UK may need to apply for a visa and pay to play.

As reported by The Line of Best Fit, the impending Temporary Worker Tier 5 visa restriction could apply to both creative and sports industries. Any non-UK citizens within the fields would need to have nearly £1,000 (the equivalent of $1,297.40 USD) in their bank account for 90 days prior to applying for the visa as proof they can support themselves. They would then need to pay £244 ($316.53) to actually submit their application. The condition is apparently waived if that person has been “fully approved (‘A-rated’),” which involves having a sponsor.

This visa would be required for any performance, whether it’s a tour, a festival, or a single show in the country. While this likely wouldn’t have a deep impact on future headliners of Glastonbury, it could affect up-and-coming artists trying to play smaller festivals and shows.

For its part, the UK’s Home Office is downplaying the potential impact of the visa in question. “The rules already permit performers from around the world to take part in events, concerts and competitions without the need for formal sponsorship or a work visa and that will continue to be the case,” a spokesman said (via The Guardian).

According to the Home Office, EU artists and performers are currently allowed entry into the UK for up to six months while receiving “payment for appearances at certain festivals or for up to a month for a specific engagement, without the need for formal sponsorship or a work visa.” That, said the spokesman, will continue to be the case.


However, the Incorporated Society of Musicians’ chief executive, Deborah Annett, contests that reading of the new immigration rules. According to Annett, non-EU citizens wishing to enter the UK for up to a month are required to obtain a permitted paid engagement visa, which in turn requires an advance engagement letter. Who exactly is authorized to write such a letter isn’t exactly clear, and a bank statement is needed before requesting one. While “neither of these are required for EU musicians at the moment,” Annett explained, they would be once the new rules go into effect.

Annett added,

“We are deeply disappointed that free movement for musicians and other artists from the EU has been ruled out and we would ask the UK Government to reconsider our call for a two-year, multi-entry visa. As the former minister of state in the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Nigel Adams MP said last month, ‘touring is absolutely the lifeblood of the industry.'”

Already, there’s an active campaign working to fight the decision, including a petition from the Musicians’ Union requesting that Government and Parliament create a musicians passport for non-citizens seeking to work in the country. The ISM has also been pushing to protect artists by proposing expanded visas that would last two years.

The new requirement is expected to take effect once the Brexit transition period concludes at the end of December. Many well-known musicians have spoken out against the UK’s recent political changes, like Elton John who said he was ashamed of his country and not an “…imperialist, English idiot.” Should the immigration laws impact artists as people like Annett fear they will, more will surely be speaking up in the future.