07 May 2009

More UK visa concessions may be made for performing artists

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The Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) has recommended to the UK Home Office to make more concessions for performing artists' UK visa applications, in particular for contemporary dancers and orchestral musicians.

The new system for UK visa applications has come under fire from many performing arts groups because it is now much tougher for an overseas performing artist to obtain a UK work permit

The MAC has strongly recommended to the government that contemporary dancers and orchestral musicians are given the same concessions that ballet dancers have received by being placed on the shortage occupations list, for which UK visa applicants can receive points if they have a skill on this list.

The chairperson of the MAC David Metcalf said that the shortage occupation list still needs to reflect the needs of the UK economy and not the wants of UK visa holders, particularly in this economic climate.

"These latest recommendations take account of the impact of the worldwide recession on the United Kingdom. We have looked critically at the evidence regarding the occupations under review and made recommendations which balance the needs of the UK workforce against those of employers," the Stage reports Mr Metcalf as saying.

"It is important to note that some shortages of skilled labour will still exist in a recession. This can be where there is a long-term structural shortage of skilled workers, where workers provide key public services, or in areas such as culture where the United Kingdom needs to maintain global leadership."

John Smith, general secretary of the Musicians' Union, said that movements to add musicians to the shortage occupation list do not reflect the current needs of the UK economy.

"We are not opposed to musicians coming into the UK to work under certain circumstances. For example, current migration rules already allow for musicians to come into the country if they have international status, or for key orchestral roles," he said.

"What we do not agree with is the inclusion of orchestral musicians in the recommended shortage occupation lists, because we have yet to be convinced of there being a shortage of orchestral musicians in this country."

The UK Visa Bureau is an independent consulting company specialising in UK visa and immigration services.

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