21 March 2011

Calls for UK Visa overhaul for foreign performers

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The case of an American cellist, Kristin Ostling, who was sent back to Chicago by British immigration officials when she came to the UK to take part in an unpaid recital, has fuelled calls for an UK Visa system overhaul for visiting artists and musicians.

UK Visa

UK Visa rules are stopping international performers from attending events.

Ostling, who was to perform at Leeds University, was questioned for eight hours by UK Immigration officers before being told she was taking work away from UK musicians and sent back to the US.

Ostling’s case was highlighted in a recent House of Lords debate on the difficulties regularly faced by visiting artists and performers since the introduction in 2008 of the creative and sporting category of the points-based UK Visa system.

The demands for Home Secretary Theresa May to overhaul the immigration system of artist and cultural visas follow complaints from leading arts figures that cases such as Ostling’s are no longer isolated incidents but the daily nightmares of cultural event managers across Britain.

Lord Clancarty, who initiated the Lords debate, said that to come for a few days or a few weeks, artists and performers had to prove they had £800 in a bank account, apply in person, supply biometric details, pay an individual fee and have a sponsor who was also willing to pay a £400 fee.

"The application process is lengthy and tortuous and is often not completed in time. Many applicants can be refused for no obvious reason,” he said.

"A growing number of those within the arts and cultural sector believe that there needs to be an 'artists' visitor' route for temporary visits by artists separate from the points system, which would also allow artists' fees to be paid.

"I do not believe attempts to tinker with or refine tier five is a solution. Artists visiting Britain on a temporary basis is not an immigration issue but about cultural exchange – and it is our worldwide reputation for this which is already being damaged," Lord Clancarty said.
More than 6,700 artists applied under tier five to visit Britain last year.

The London mayor, Boris Johnson, said unnecessary bureaucratic burdens should not be put in the way of artists and performers.

"With competition from cities like Berlin, Shanghai or Mumbai, we must not jeopardise London's position as a world creative hub," Mr Johnson said.


The UK Visa Bureau is an independent consulting company specialising in helping people with their UK Immigration applications to the British Embassy.  


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