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 (which I am), so as yet, we are mostly working on guesswork. I will update here if they send us specific information. Until then 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 (sports and entertainment) 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 has now been 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.

I had one Nigerian performer who paid for a fast track turnaround for his visa application. They kept his passport for 8 weeks and then refused him on the grounds that his concert dates had gone past. And that’s just one example. Don’t get me started…

I will post details when I have them, and also put them on my website at http://www.jacey-bedford.com

About Jacey Bedford

Jacey Bedford maintains this blog. She is a writer of science fiction and fantasy (www.jaceybedford.co.uk), the secretary of Milford SF Writers (www.milfordSF.co.uk), a singer (www.artisan-harmony.com) and a music agent booking UK tours and concerts for folk performers (www.jacey-bedford.com). She's also a Home Office / UK Visas and Immigration department licensed sponsor processing UK work permits (Certificates of Sponsorship).
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