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How do non-EU musicians perform in the UK?


Along with a large number of other Mancunians, in late 2019 I went to watch Liam Gallagher at the Manchester Arena. He was supported by a band called DMAs, an Australian three-piece rock band. The band were extremely talented, but as an immigration lawyer, I couldn’t help but sit there and wonder how they got to the UK! This article will focus on how non-EU artists are able to come to the UK to perform here.

Those who are coming to the UK for up to 6 months can travel as visitors. Creative individuals, such as musicians, are able to benefit from the visitor Immigration Rules. Their creative colleagues, such as dancers or make-up artists, may also be eligible for visit visas.

Generally, visitors cannot work in the UK, and problems often arise if the individual will be paid by a UK source for the work they will undertake here. To receive remuneration, a musician would need to undertake a permitted paid engagement. For musicians to receive payment for their work in the UK, their work must be their full-time profession. This will involve an assessment of their standing, reputation, earnings, and existing work commitments outside of the UK. They must also have been invited by a creative organisation, agent or broadcaster in the UK in order to take part in performances here.

An important practical reminder: individuals who are nationals of Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea and the USA cannot undertake permitted paid engagements if they enter the UK using an ePassport gate. If they are wanting to undertake a paid engagement as a visitor, they must secure entry clearance as a visitor prior to traveling or see a Border Force officer on arrival.

For those wanting to come to the UK for an extended period of time, Tier 5 of the Points Based System enables creative workers to be sponsored by an organisation which holds a sponsor licence. Whether this is possible will depend on the performances the musician(s) will be undertaking in the UK, the length of time between each performance, and whether the performances will be sponsored by several organisations. Those sponsored under the Tier 5 (Creative and Sporting) category of the Immigration Rules can spend up to 12 months in the UK.

Finally, the Tier 5 (Youth Mobility Scheme) route is particularly helpful for musicians who are perhaps just starting out on their careers and aren’t working as professional musicians on a full-time basis. This route enables citizens of Australia, Canada, Japan, Monaco, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Republic of Korea and Taiwan who are aged 18 to 30 to secure a visa enabling them to live and work in the UK for up to 2 years. There is a cap in relation to the number of individuals who are able to benefit from this category, with Australia having the highest number of places on the scheme, and the individual will need to demonstrate access to £1890 cash savings. If successful, this visa would, however, enable the holder to live relatively freely in the UK for up to 2 years.

Latitude Law has wide experience of advising visiting artists and musicians. If you would like to discuss your case, contact our experts now on 0161 234 6800 (Manchester and London) or 0151 305 9600 (Liverpool).