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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.