NEW NAME: Jacey Bedford Agency

When I started my business in 1998 I called it Jacey Bedford Tour Management.

In those days I used to tour manage for artists coming in from outside the country, covering everything from booking the dates and sending out publicity to hiring a vehicle and doing the immigration paperwork.

I haven’t tour managed for several years.

Now I am strictly a music booking agency. I no longer tour manage, although I do book tours for artists from overseas as well as for UK-based artists. I let the name – Jacey Bedford Tour Management – linger for too long, but at last I’ve decided to change it to a simpler form.

From April 2022, my business name is Jacey Bedford Agency.

Everything else remains the same. My email is still My phone number is still 01484 606230.

I’m still booking shows for the same lovely, talented people. You can see, hear and read all about them here at my website at

Posted in Music business, My Music Agency | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment


If we are to believe Boris, Covid has come and gone, but we all know that it’s still here, it’s simply not grabbing the media attention like the terrible Russian war on Ukraine.

However, with all restrictions lifted, the music world has been given tacit permission to get back to normal. But what does normal mean in 2022? It’s almost two years since the business we love fell off a cliff. Lockdown was imposed, theatres, arts centres and folk clubs closed, and we all grabbed whatever online music was available, ticketed or not.

Artists were suddenly faced with the prospect of an indefinite period with no work and no income – and so were booking agents, managers, sound-men, lighting engineers, studio engineers, and all those music industry workers who don’t appear on stage but who are vital to the industry. Venue staff were furloughed if they were lucky. Some self-employed music business folks who had tax records for the appropriate years got the government’s SEISS grant. Others fell through the cracks and had to find other sources of income.

At the time of writing, venues are opening their doors once more, though there are a lot of changes as international artists’ tours are cancelled and last minute substitutes step in to fill the gap. Attendance is variable. I hear reports that some artists are selling out venues in one area, but getting minimal audiences in others. There appears to be no reason for the differences. Other venues report a general downsizing of audiences by about 30%, which is not surprising, given some people are still voluntarily self-isolating because they don’t believe Boris either.

But there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Venues are booking artists again to fill in their gaps for 2022 and also into 2023. And some foreign artists are taking all their Covid shots and braving the UK.

What about me?

I’ve taken a deep breath and reassessed my business. I’m stepping back from doing Certificates of Sponsorship for incoming foreign artists. So I’m concentrating on booking gigs in the UK for home grown and foreign performers. This has always been the main focus of my agency, but I’m now actively taking on a select few new artists. Anyone interested in joining my agency should read this article first on why you don’t need an agent – and what to do when you do. Please consider carefully before dropping me a line. I’m (mostly) looking for artists who are already established in the UK.

As I write, Over the Moon are on their first tour of the UK. They are a fabulous duo from Canada playing Canadian Cowboy and Western Swing with a bluegrassy feel and a bunch of great self-written songs. Their multi-instrumentals are complemented by delightful vocal harmonies. Their tour runs to early April 2022 and they’ll be back in 2023. We’ve just had the terrific news that their new album, Chinook Waltz has been nominated for a Juno Award (the Canadian equivalent of an Emmy).

Dan McKinnon is coming over from Canada soon (May/June). He’s emailed me to say he’s bought his plane tickets and I have twenty-one dates lined up for him. He’s a songwriter in the vein of Stan Rogers, i.e. story songs with intelligent lyrics. Dan is a true troubador. One man, one train ticket, one guitar. He’s been touring over here for close to 18 years and his fans love him. He was caught by Covid in 2020 and had to cut his March tour short after only two gigs. I rebooked it for 2021 (which didn’t happen, of course) but now he’s returning in 2022. Hoo-ray!

I have taken on a new duo, Donnelly and South, yes that’s Keith Donnelly (who is already on my agency roster) and Lauren South, singer and instrumentalist. Keith, one of the most popular, and, yes slightly crazy, figures in the folk world, teams up with the scene’s most exciting new voice – Lauren South. Keith’s superb songwriting and guitar-playing too often take a back seat to his onstage madcappery. Not so in this duo (He promises!). Lauren’s stunning vocals on Keith’s songs, her own originals, as well as the odd ‘trad’ song, not forgetting her violin, guitar and Shruti box playing, never fail to ‘wow’ audiences wherever she goes.

I’ve also taken on John Wort Hannam, Canadian singer-songwriter, who will be touring with fiddler Scott Duncan in May June of 2023. John has been nominated for (and won) so many awards that I’m not going to start listing them here. He’s a real slice of Canadiana, with intelligernt lyrics and tunes that catch your ear. Scott’s fiddling seems to add much more than one instrument. These guys are well worth a listen.

I have a lot more artists on my website, of course. Please take a look at for the whole list.

Posted in Music business, My Music Agency, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Covid-19 update, six months on…

What a year it’s been. I’d like a refund on 2020 because the whole year has not been fit for purpose!

All my agency gigs and tours have been cancelled up to the end of the year and we’ve just taken the decision to rearrange a Canadian duo’s March 2021 tour to 2022. I seriously doubt that the music industry will get back to ‘normal’ until there’s an effective vaccine. I foresee disruptions throughout 2021 as well. I’ve already had an update from an indoor festival due to take place in summer 2021 to say that it’s having problems booking its main venue in advance because the venue is demanding a Covid risk assessment which severely reduces the number of audience members.

Even though we knew it was serious I don’t think anyone predicted just how disruptive to the music/entertainment industry C-19 would be, and as we enter autumn a second wave is beginning. A few venues are opening again if they can social distance, but this is vastly reducing the number of tickets available. As cases rise it would not surprise me if venues were forced to close again as the winter progresses.

Some performers have managed to do live streamed shows (and charge for tickets or put out a tip-jar) but this is hardly a guaranteed income stream, so performers are struggling unless they have another job. Some are doing online teaching, but others are on paltry benefits.

Short-term Immigration for Performers – Certificates of Sponsorship and Visas
From July to just a few days ago I didn’t have any Certificates available to me thanks to inefficiency at UKVI, however I do have certificates now. Any performer wishing to come to the UK must have confirmation that their venues are legally socially distanced, and they must allow for a two week quarantine period on arrival if that’s a requirement for people travelling from their country of origin.

I can do sponsorship for anyone in the entertainment industry, film, and sports. Applicants need to provide documentation to prove their international standing, plus a full list of all their engagements in the UK. Visa nationals – i.e. those people travelling from a country whose citizens are required to get a visa for UK tourism – will need to take their Certificate of Sponsorship and apply for a visa in their own country. Please note than not all visa application offices abroad have reopened yet, and those that have are massively backlogged, so allow plenty of extra time for visas to come through.

Brexit and EU Performers
As I understand the new Brexit regulations, any European performers coming to work in the UK from 1st January 2021 will also need CoS, though they will not require a full visa. Like Americans/Canadians/Australians etc. (i.e. non-visa nationals) they can come in on a CoS as long as they are not intending to stay and work for more than 3 months. They can also come in on a PPE (Permitted Paid Engagement) if they are coming in for less than a month to do ‘a few’ gigs. (No one has ever defined ‘few’ in this context.) Check the government’s website for any recent alterations to this scheme.

Feel free to contact me by email if you have questions about visas and Certificates of Sponsorship – agency(at)

Stay safe in these troubled times.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , | Leave a comment

These Troubled Times – Covid 19

The Covid 19 situation is changing daily, so please check with venues and look at musicians websites before travelling to a gig that might not be happening.

This is what I know now… (Everything could change tomorrow.)

Gig cancellations

Some clubs and venues are closing for the duration of the Covid 19 crisis and cancelling their artists.  It seems likely that large gatherings will be shut down by the government once our politicians get their act together. This could affect festivals and large concerts.

I had a Canadian artist who arrived last week ready to tour in March/April, but no sooner had he arrived than the Canadian government issued a warning to Canadian citizens abroad to get a flight home a) while they still could and b) before Canada closed its borders. Hence he did 2 gigs and then had to find $2500 for a flight home.  Ouch!

Whatever country you are touring from could do the same. Don’t travel and get stranded.

Re CoS.

Before all this blew up I issued Certificates of Sponsorship for artists touring in April and May, which is now believed to be when Covid 19 will peak in the UK. It seems highly likely that, whether the venues themselves decide to close, or whether the government puts a ban on gatherings, many festivals and events will not happen this year.

At present I am not issuing CoS for artists touring in April, May and June UNLESS they have a guarantee that their gigs will go ahead (which currently is almost impossible to get), or unless they give me the go-ahead in the full knowledge that if their gigs don’t happen, for whatever reason, there are no refunds.

My feeling is that anyone intending to tour here in April, May or June should seriously reconsider rebooking their gigs for later in the year or even for 2021.

UPDATE: As of 2022 I no longer issue CoS.

Good luck, everybody. Stay safe.

Posted in certificate of sponsorship, Music business, My Music Agency, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

UK Visas and Certificates of Sponsorship for EU musicians in 2021

Today, 20th February 2020, the government issued guidelines for EU citizens coming into the UK to work from 2021 onwards. It’s moving all applications to a new points-based system. However Tier 5 visas for entertainers and sportspeople are already on a poinst based system.

They haven’t, as yet, issued any specific information for Tier 5 sponsors, so this is my best guess.

If everyone is going to have to go throught the points based system, then EU musicians will need a Tier 5 Certificate of Sponsorship from 2021 onwards in order to perform in the UK. If that means EU performers are going to be treated like American and Canadian ones, they’ll be able to enter the UK to perform on Certificates of Sponsorship without getting a full visa as long as they are not coming in for more than 3 months.

[Edit added 25th February 2020: Paragraph 21 of the policy statement says:
21. Under the current immigration rules, there are a range of other immigration routes for specialist occupations, including innovators, ministers of religion, sportspeople and to support the arts. Our broad approach for January 2021 will be to open existing routes that already apply to non-EU citizens, to EU citizens (the current ‘Tier 5’).]

Performers can only get a Tier 5 CoS via a licensed sponsor. It can be a multi-entry CoS, so they can come and go. If they want permission to work for more than 3 months it involves getting a CoS and converting it to a full visa, which is more complicated (and more expensive and more time consuming) and it also gives UK Visas and Immigration the opportunity to refuse the visa if they can find an excuse to do so. However, once they have a full visa, performers can come and go for up to a year.

For anyone who doesn’t want the hassle of getting a full visa, there’s nothing in the rules, at the moment, to prevent performers getting consecutive Certificates of Sponsorship as required as long as they leave the country and come back in again to activate the new CoS.

For people who want to stay for longer than three months, the big problem that I can foresee re getting full visas is that the UKVI staff who deal with full visa applications are already overstretched and visas for non EU performers are consistently late. This might not be a big deal for Tier 2 visas (i.e. someone applying so they can work in, say, a nursing home) but UKVI doesn’t seem to realise that Tier 5 visas are time sensitive. Therefore they make no effort to deliver visas in time for concert dates.

I would hope that UKVI would increase its staffing levels to cope with additionsl work, but I’m not sure it will.

Until recently visa applications were handled by British Embassies and British High Commissions in the country of the applicant, but over the last year or so, applications have all been transferred to Sheffield. There used to be a specialist sports and entertainment department in Sheffield, but that was disbanded, so the Entry Clearance Officers who deal with applications are no longer specialists. Their lack of understanding of the entertainment industry often (sadly) shows in the way decisions are made.

Posted in certificate of sponsorship, Music business, My Music Agency, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

eGates at UK Airports, and how they affect Tier 5 entertainers and sportspeople coming into the UK on a CoS

London’s Heathrow and Gatwick Airports have a new entry system at Arrivals (Passport Control) – electronic gates (eGates), unmanned, to speed up the arrivals queue for nationals from EU countries and from seven additional countries arriving into the UK. I’m not sure whether there are eGates at Manchester, Birmingham and Stanstead yet, but if there are not now, there might be in the near future.

From the government website:

The UK Government has expanded the use of eGates at Heathrow to nationals of Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea and the United States of America. the majority of nationals from these seven countries will be eligible to use eGates and won’t need to complete a landing card.

Automated eGates offer an alternative to conventional passport checks.

Biometric passport chip logo

Simply scan your e-passport at the barrier. The system runs a face-recognition check against the chip in your passport, then if you’re eligible to enter the UK the gate opens automatically – all in a matter of seconds.

For everyone who has ever stood in line for an hour at the airport to show their passport to an immigration officer, this is great news, however there has been some confusion, which has caused problems for people holding Tier 5 Certificates of Sponsorship, i.e. entertainers and sportspeople from the aforementioned ‘new’ countries. If you go through the eGates, you won’t have your passport stamped and your Certificate of Sponsorship activated, so even though you’ve done everything right up to that point, without your CoS being activated, you still are not legal to work in the UK.

All Tier 5 CoS holders MUST go through one of the manned gates and – whether the Border Force officer asks or not – you MUST declare that you are coming in to the UK to work and that you have a Certificate of Sponsorship. Unless you do that, your CoS will show up as UNUSED on the government databse (the Sponsor Management System) and you will not be legal to work in the UK.

The expansion of the eGate system is new, and initially there was no signage to direct CoS holders appropriately. Not only that, but airport staff were incorrectly pushing everyone from the seven ‘new’ countries to the eGates. Now apparently there is signage to direct CoS holders to the manned gates, but it’s not as clear as it might be. If you are a CoS holder it’s your responsibility to make sure you go through a manned gate and SHOW YOUR CoS to the Border Force officer and get your correct passport stamp. If airport staff try to direct you to the unmanned gate, make sure you tell them you have a Tier 5 CoS.

You have been warned!

Posted in certificate of sponsorship, Music business, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ireland is Different. Notes for non EU performers entering the UK via the Irish Republic.

You might be aware that (as of 2018) there were problems for non EU performers trying to enter the UK via the Irish Republic on a Certificate of Sponsorship. Yes? No? Can’t remember? Go and read here, I’ll wait.

Just as a reminder: a non-visa national can enter the UK to work in Tier 5 (Entertainment/Sports) occupations on a Certificate of Sponsorship, without having to convert it into a full visa. Non visa nationals are people from countries like Canada, Australia, Japan, the USA – i.e. those countries outside the EU whose citizens can come to the UK for tourism without getting a visa first.

That problem of entry through Ireland on a CoS (without a full visa) has now been solved (sort of) by a bodge from UKVI. Non-visa nationals can now enter the UK from the Irish Republic providing that they fill in an Entry Clearance form and send it to the UKVI at least three days before their entry to the UK. This will then be returned to them, stamped. They keep this form with their passport and are then perfectly legal to come into the UK to perform without getting any further arrival stamps in their passports when they get to the UK.

The form is downloadable here Entry Clearance through Ireland.

And there’s an explanation here.

Just one small word of warning. If you are transiting through Ireland (i.e. simply changing planes) the above is fine. Just make sure you have your Certificate of Sponsorship and your stamped Entry Clearance form before you travel.

If, however, you are stopping off to spend some time in Ireland before travelling onward to the UK to play gigs, you will need to have your CoS and Entry Clearance form before you land in Ireland. Yes, theoretically, you don’t actually need your CoS until it’s time to enter the UK, but the immigration folks at Dublin airport will want to see your UK CoS (and possibly your Entry Clearance form) before allowing you to land in Ireland. If you are only spending a few days in Ireland before travelling to the UK this is probably not a problem, but if you are spending a significant length of time in Ireland before travelling, you might be forgiven for thinking you have time to get your CoS and Entry Clearance in place while you are in Ireland.

Warning! You don’t. Without a CoS for the UK, they can deny you entry to the Irish Republic, and send you back to wherever you came from on the next flight.

Make sure that whoever is issuing your CoS in the UK knows a) that you are coming in via the Irish Republic, and b) that you need your CoS at least three days in advance of your flight into the Irish Republic in time for you to send off the entry clearance form.

If you’ve travelled in via the Irish Republic before, and simply had your passport stamped in Ireland, with no further questions or red tape, be aware that this has changed. Don’t think that because you’ve done it before, you can do it again.

I had a close call this morning (30th May) because a performer was supposed to be coming into the UK on 6th June. I knew the performer was coming in through Ireland. I didn’t know the performer was arriving in Ireland a week earlier than the UK entry date. The performer had only sent application details to me a few days earlier, and with an entry date of 6th June, I thought we had plenty of time… We didn’t. Luckily the Irish immigration officer called me from the airport on the performer’s behalf, and I was able to provide the paperwork by return email.

Entry through Ireland has all been made infinitely more complicated by Brexit, of course, and once Brexit happens, all bets are off. Watch this space… Things are going to change…


Posted in certificate of sponsorship, Music business, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Little known UK legislation from 1972 is causing problems for non-EU performers coming to the UK via Dublin, Ireland.

Steve Richard from T&S Immigration Services Ltd alerted me to a worrying new turn of events for non-visa national performers routing their UK entry via Ireland (Irish Republic, that is.)

There’s an outdated piece of immigration legislation – The Control of Entry Through Ireland Order 1972 – which prohibits anyone from outside the EU coming to work in the UK from Ireland unless they have a full visa. This affects all categories of immigrants to the UK, but for the purposes of this piece I’m concentrating on Tier 5 Entertainers and Sportspeople.

Let me first explain the difference between non-visa nationals and visa nationals because this is the crux of this particular matter. I stress that people from EU countries are not affected.

VISA NATIONALS are people from countries whose citizens are required to have a visa before travelling to the UK for any reason whatsoever (including tourism). These countries include the African countries, most of the South American ones, Russia, India, Pakistan, and, in fact, most Asian countries (except, surprisingly Taiwan). All of the people from these and a long list of countries need a visa to come to the UK. They are VISA NATIONALS

You can find a list of Visa National countries here:

NON-VISA NATIONALS are from countries whose citizens are allowed into the UK visa-free for the purposes of tourism ONLY. (Countries like Canada, the USA, Australia, New Zealand, Israel, Japan, Taiwan etc.) They do, however, need paperwork in order to come here to work. Non-visa Nationals can come into the UK to perform on a Tier 5 Certificate of Sponsorship for a period of up to three months without the need to convert their CoS to a visa (now called ENTRY CLEARANCE). If they are coming in for more than three months then they do need a visa.

You can check if you need a visa to travel to the UK here:

OK, got that?

So non-visa nationals coming to the UK to perform under Tier 5 rules for less than 3 months do not need anything more than a certificate of Sponsorship.


If they are routing through the Irish Republic.

They can route through any other EU country with no problem, BUT not the Irish Republic because of the The Control of Entry Through Ireland Order 1972. (Remember 1972 was a period when the ‘troubles’ in Ireland were giving a lot of concern.) This piece of legislation states that anyone (all nationalities) coming to the UK from Ireland to work in any occupation must have a full visa. (Note we didn’t join the EU until 1973.)

When the UK government changed the immigration rules in 2008 and moved Tier 5 to an electronic application process via licenced sponsors, they did not change or rescind the Control Order Legislation.

Until very recently the authorities in Dublin and the UKVI (UK Visas and Immigration) were ignoring that aspect of the Control Order for the outdated bit of nonsense that it is. However earlier this week (May 2018) a pair of US musicians in possession of valid Certificates of Sponsorship were turned back from Dublin Airport because they were travelling onward to the UK and did not have full visas. At the request of their agents they were eventually allowed to fly to France rather than being sent all the way back to California. From France they can legitimately enter the UK on their perfectly legal Certificates of Sponsorship.

Steve Richard from T&S explains it like this:

Most bands have been using work permits – and then CoS since 2008 – as entry documents since 1971. They have never been prevented from entering via Ireland until now. Basically the Control Order runs contrary to the rest of the UK immigration rules for entertainers, saying you can’t do any work in the UK unless you first obtain a visa before you travel. This was widely ignored by both the Irish and UK immigration authorities until the latter half of last year. It seems someone queried it, and pushed for a policy ruling. The Home Office Policy Department in Westminster found the Control Order, realised it didn’t allow entertainers to do ANY work without a visa (regardless of whether they’re carrying a CoS, a permit-free festival invitation or whatever), and told UK border posts to watch out for this, seeing it as a route open to abuse.

Combined with this has been the fact that the Department of Justice seems to have taken over the immigration handling at Dublin Airport (taking over from the Garda). They are increasingly demanding to see UK paperwork if a band arrives there and is travelling on to the UK. They didn’t used to ask for this. Now they’re speaking to UK ports, and those ports have been told that any work in the UK would be a breach unless they have entry visas, so Ireland is now starting to deny entry to these bands. If they go to France and enter the UK from there, their CoS or permit-free festival letter magically becomes acceptable again. 

As you can imagine, this is a huge cause for concern as many performers, particularly American and Canadian ones, route in through Ireland. Steve Richard is particularly concerned that the UKVI does not make it clear in the 222 page long sponsor guidance or the wider Immigration rules that entry through Ireland is different to entering from anywhere else. An American (or any non-visa national) band is suddenly required to get visas if their flights stop off in Dublin, whereas they don’t if they stop off in Paris or anywhere else. 

My advice to non-visa nationals travelling to the UK is NOT to route your flight through Dublin. It may be cheaper, but ultimately it could mean you are refused entry due to newly enforced legislation that should have been reconsidered decades ago.

The UK is proud of creating a hostile environment for illegal immigrants, but now they seem to be trying to do the same for anyone wishing to come to the UK legally, even visiting performers who are only here for a few days and then returning to their own country.

Dear British Government, this is not cool.

Posted in Artisan, certificate of sponsorship, Music business, My Music Agency, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

My Tier Five Sponsorship Licence and the Salisbury Poisoner.

In late 2008 the applying for, and the issuing of work permits for non-EU foreign nationals wishing to work in the UK in the entertainment industry changed forever. Up until that point the application had to be made on paper and a whole pile of supporting documents had to be sent off to the visa office in Sheffield where the Sports and Entertainment team operated from. Post-November 2008 the system switched to an oline version, and in order to apply you have to be a licensed sponsor. The Sports and Entertainment team (the only ones who had any clue about the entertainment industry) was disbanded some time ago.

I applied for a sponsor licence immediately. The application consisted of filling in a lot of forms, sending off bank statements and proof that my premises (in my case, my home) could be legally used for the business. Oh yes, and let’s not forget the fee of £400. (It’s more than that, now!)

I applied in October 2008 but didn’t get my licence until January 2009 – a whisker before I needed it for my first application. In fact I recall making several phone calls and jumping up and down about the delay. At that point (unlike today) there was a phone number for the Sheffield office and a real person you could talk to. (Sadly not any more, but I digress.)

The system works like this: a licensed sponsor puts in all the information for a visiting artist online via a heavily encrypted website called the Sponsor Management System, and issues the Certificate of Sponsorship online. There’s no adjudication, no one to say ‘that person doesn’t deserve a CoS’. It’s right there.

Anyone coming in from a country whose nationals do not require a visa to visit the UK for leisure (i.e. The USA, Canada, Australia etc.) can come in to work in the entertainment industry on that CoS for up to three months. If they are coming in for more than three months or if they are from a country whose nationals require a visa to visit the UK (most African, South American and Asian countries) then they have to take that CoS and apply for Entry Clearance (a visa in all but name) via the British Embassy or High Commission in their own country. This costs somewhere in the region of £230 per person in addition to the cost of getting a CoS from me. (That means a group of four has little change from a thousand pounds, and there’s no refund if your visa application is refused.)

The system effectively means that the licensed sponsor now has to act as judge and jury. We have to make sure that the artists we’re applying for are legitimate. We have to ask if they have a criminal record, because anyone who has served ‘time’ is automatically banned for a number of years (the length of the ban depends on the length of their sentence). Of course, other than checking to see if there’s anything online in the newspapers of their own country, we have no way of knowing if we’re being lied to, however when a visa application is made the embassy has a more effective means of checking.

The applicant must be qualified in order to get a CoS. Initially they must be provably ‘internationally renowned’. A band coming in must prove that the people whom they say are members are really members. Any support staff must have provable qualifications to do the job they are coming in to do (sound engineers for example). Since we sponsors don’t have the resources the government has, and since we can’t check Interpol’s databases, we have to do the best we can. If we get it wrong, or don’t take enough care over the checks, we could not only lose our licences, we could be prosecuted. Yes, I said prosecuted. (They remind you all the time that they can ‘take action’ against you if you fail in your duties.)

You can imagine what licensed sponsors think about that.

Our record keeping has to be impeccable. We have to be able to put our hands on relevant information at the drop of a hat. If someone from the government knocks on our door and asks where Fred Bloggs is today, we have to know where he spent the night last night, where he’ll be spending it tonight; what his plans are for the day; where his gig is tonight, or, if he’s not gigging, where he is and what he’s doing.

And every so often the ‘men (or women) from the ministry’ turn up on our doorstep to check that our record keeping is up to snuff. Sometimes they give us advance warning. Sometimes they just turn up. (Very embarrassingly at nine a.m. – and since I don’t open the office until eleven, because I work late into the evening to deal with people in different time-zones, they’ve caught me in my pyjamas twice!)

So… that’s the background.

I had a licence check on 15th March this year. My previous three licence checks had all been OK, but I hadn’t had one for about five years. No matter, my record keeping is good and I was quite happy to let the inspectors (2 of them) look at my database and poke into any of my records.

But right from the first moment the interviewers adopted the stance of ‘guilty until proven innocent.’ They were polite in that they didn’t say anything quotably offensive, but they were unnecessarily fierce/combative in their manner, and obviously looking hard to expose any faults in my system. Two of them and one of me. They had a script – a list of questions – and mostly stuck to it, but it was obvious from the word go that they didn’t really understand the entertainment business. If I’d been the manager of a care home employing Ugandan nursing staff, the questions and their assumptions might have been more appropriate.

It was decided some years ago that as an entertainment agent I am not necessarily the employer of the people I get Certificates of Sponsorship for. However Mr. MD (no names) vehemently told me that I was the employer. No doubt about it. He asked if I’d actually read the Guidelines for Tier 2 & 5 Sponsors (all 233 pages of it). I have, but I don’t think he has. This is what it says about agents being Tier 5 employers.

Screen Shot 2018-04-23 at 16.48.41

So the whole interview was conducted on the wrong basis from almost the first time we actually spoke to each other.

There were other anomalies which, for the sake of brevity, I won’t go into, though at one point when we were talking about the responsibilities loaded on to sponsors, the other interrogator did say: ‘Think how much trouble you’d be in if the Salisbury poisoner had come into the country on your CoS.’ Scare tactics or what? But it does show the level of suspicion I encountered in that interview.

Since I’d already been wrong-footed on the ’employer’ question and one or two relatively minor things, I was honestly not sure whether I’d passed or failed the inspection. The inspectors don’t make the decision, they record your answers, then pass the file on to someone in Sheffield who decides whether they’re going to take your livelihood away from you or not. You get absolutely no indication about the likely outcome.

Now, the problem a licensed sponsor has is this…

If the powers that be are not happy with your record keeping or anything about your interview, they can end your sponsor licence with a snap of their fingers. If that happens all the CoS that you’ve issued become instantly null and void. Anyone already in the country on a full visa has 90 days to find a new sponsor or get out. Anyone in the process of applying for a visa suddenly finds that their application is refused on the grounds that they no longer have a valid Certificate of Sponsorship. Surprise, surprise, they don’t get a refund of the £230 per person that they’ve paid for the visa application.

Anyone who only needs a CoS to enter, suddenly finds themselves turned back at the airport of (if there’s time) scrambling for a new sponsor.

All this did happen to a colleague who lost his licence without warning (though he has since regained it). As you can imagine it caused a wealth of trouble for him and for his customers.

So, with that in mind, any sensible sponsor will not continue to supply Certificates of Sponsorship while there is any doubt about the outcome of their licence inspection.

I’m pleased to say that on 8th May I got a letter from the home office telling me that I have maintained my A-Rated Sponsorship licence. BUT you will recall that my licence inspection was 15th March. Yes it took seven weeks (and three letters of complaint) to deliver the verdict, and in the meantime I was on a self-imposed hiatus because I didn’t want to let anyone down should the worst happen.

The worst didn’t happen, for which I am grateful, however I have written to the relevant department outlining my complaints. Will I get a reply? I don’t know, I haven’t yet.

So for all those people I put off during my self-imposed hiatus, I’m sorry. With hindsight I needn’t have done that, but I didn’t want to let you down if the inquisitors had taken against the colour of shoes I was wearing.

Please note I am now open for business again.

P.S. Re the Salisbury poisoner – I would just like to point out that I don’t believe I’ve ever done a sponsorship certificate for a Russian spy or an assassin of any stripe, though if Moscow was going to send a deadly balalaika player to the UK, they’d probably have a watertight cover story that would not look suspicious to someone with as few official resources as me. <shakes head sadly>

Posted in certificate of sponsorship, Music business, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Why I can’t process your CoS in a hurry

I had a call this morning before 8.00 from a promoter who needed a Certificate of Sponsorship issuing in a hurry – actually he wanted it IMMEDIATELY, as in, within the next two hours. In this particular case it was someone I’d worked with before. He’d called me yesterday morning and was supposed to be sending me the forms and payment yesterday afternoon, but as of midnight last night nothing had arrived, so I presumed he no longer required the CoS, or his time-frame had changed.

As a government licensed sponsor I have legal responsibilities. I can issue Tier 5 (Entertainment and Sporting) Certificates of Sponsorship using the government’s own online application system (the Sponsor Management System). Depending on the complexity of the application and the number of people (if it’s a group application) the actual time it takes me to process the CoS can be as little as one hour, or as long as four or five hours (yes, those 25-person Zimbabwean gospel choirs take a lot more time!) but compared to all the preparation work, issuing the CoS itself is just the tip of the iceberg.

Before I can even start the application I must be satisfied that your application is genuine. If I don’t already know you, and if you can’t supply me with full details of your performing or sporting career and if I can’t find any references to you on the web, that’s going to be difficult.

Also don’t just assume that you can bring in an unlimited number of support staff (such as a manager, road manager, sound engineer, roadie, publicist, social media consultant, photographer, videographer, make up artist and hairdresser) on a CoS application for one or two performers. All support staff need to be able to supply their qualifications for the job they are doing or if no formal qualifications are available, their resume with number of years experience in that particular job (with full details).

There are various creative sector codes of practice that your application must measure up to.

  1. The performer is required for continuity
    The applicant has worked for a period of one month or more during the past year, on the same production outside the UK prior to it coming to the UK.
  2. The performer has international status
    The applicant is internationally famous in his field. (This is different to being well-known only in one country.) The Sponsor must be able to provide proof that the performer has international status, e.g. press cuttings, awards, publicity material, television/radio interviews, programmes.
  3. The performer is engaged by a unit company
    A unit company is a theatre or opera company which exists in a country outside the UK and has put on at least one production in that country. For application purposes, a band or performing group is a unit company.
  4. The performer has a certain attribute unlikely to be available in the EEA
    The role requires an attribute which would be unlikely to be available in the EEA labour force, e.g. a certain physical appearance, physical talent, or linguistic or vocal skill. (This applies to artists who perform in a particular foreign language or represent a particular culture)

In addition, the work that you are doing in the UK should not displace a UK-based performer. For example if you are a Beatles tribute band there are lots of home-grown Beatles tribute bands working the circuit.

I always ask you to provide a tour itinerary and as part of my checking I have to call up all your venues and make sure that you are, indeed, booked in to play these venues on the date you’ve stated, for the fee you’ve stated. As you can imagine, that can take a few days in itself if all I get is your promoter’s answering machine each time I try.

Now, as I said earlier, it doesn’t actually take me a long time to do the form-filling for a single application, but at certain times of year applications pile up on top of each other, and it takes a long time to do twenty-eight applications, which is why I ask you to allow a four week lead time. I take applications in the strict order that I receive them…


If you are in a hurry, I do have a fast-track system. For an additional fee I will bump you up to the top of the list, however I still need to do the above checks. Fast track is for people who need a CoS within seven working days. I don’t guarantee to do it within seven minutes or even seven hours.

I have legal obligations to fulfil if I wish to keep my licence. Please don’t ask me to take shortcuts as a favour, or because you are desperate. We do this thing by the book or we don’t do it at all.

The moral of this story is PLAN AHEAD.

  • Apply for your CoS in good time.
  • Make sure that you give me full and accurate information
  • Be well represented online with reviews, details (and names) of band members, and if possible, your own web site
  • Make sure that the venue or promoter contact numbers are for people who are easily reachable and not constantly on answering machines or not answering emails.
  • And don’t forget to pay me. I never start an application until I’ve been paid. I have occasionally been let down. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

It’s really not a hugely difficult process as long as you don’t cut corners and as long as you don’t expect me to cut corners on your behalf. If I lose my licence, you lose your sponsor.

Posted in certificate of sponsorship, Music business, My Music Agency, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment