22 March 2012

UK visa restrictions loosened for non-EU artists

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The Home Office has announced that UK visa restrictions have been loosened for non-EU artists temporarily visiting Britain, no longer classing them as migrants.

UK visa

Artists from outside the EU will now be able to visit the UK for a month under new, temporary, UK visa rules.

Artists from outside the EU will be able to apply for a UK visa through a new 'permitted paid engagements' entry route from 6, April the Home Office announced, allowing non-EU artists to stay in Britain for up to a month provided they have been officially invited to undertake engagements with a pre-arranged fee.

Previously, a British organisation hosting a non-EU artist had to apply for a licence to become an official sponsor for visiting artists. Under the new, temporary rules however, the hosting organisation will no longer have to keep the artist's contact details, passport entry stamps and biometric details.

If the trip is scheduled to last longer than a month, an artist will still need to comply with the original UK immigration rules and apply through the points based system. If a visit is intended to last less than a month but needs to be extended, the artist will have to exit the UK and reapply through the new scheme.

The move comes after 120 members of arts community wrote an open letter to the Home Secretary Theresa May in June 2011 criticising the points based system. The letter, published in The Telegraph, said the points based system "gave the UK an incredibly bad reputation, particularly during the Olympics year."

The announcement of a new temporary system has received a mild welcome, Jude Kelly, artistic director of the Southbank Centre and one of the signees of the letter to Ms May, said the new system was merely "a blunt system to solve the problem" and she hopes the Home Office will carry out "a full review of the legislation soon".

Paul Hobson, the director of the Contemporary Art Society, said the new system was a "move in the right direction" but still maintained there were plenty of restrictions in place which could hinder artists who, for example, had been invited to lecture at a UK college for a whole term.


The UK Visa Bureau is an independent immigration consultancy specialising in helping people prepare for their UK Ancestry Visa application.

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