If you are a non-UK professional artist or entertainer wanting to perform in the UK, you may need to obtain a visa before you can travel here to work.
Since the end of EU free movement in 2020, EU citizens coming to the UK for work will also require a visa.
Under the Common Travel Area, there are no restrictions on the ability of Irish musicians to play in the UK or on UK musicians travelling to play in Ireland. So in all that follows, “EU” means “EU except Ireland”.
The following guide looks at the different immigration routes for artists and entertainers, including a step-by-step guide on who can apply and for what type of activities, as well as the eligibility requirements for each.
Is there an artist visa for the UK?
An “Artist Visa UK” can refer to several different types of visa, depending on the type and length of activity undertaken. The options for artists and entertainers looking to come to the UK for a single or short series of engagements include the two main visitor routes, namely:
- The Visitor (Standard) Visa
- The Visitor (Permitted Paid Engagements) Visa
Standard visitor visa
The Visitor (Standard) Visa route covers a broad range of permissible activities.
It consolidates a number of former visitor routes, including for artists and entertainers, allowing successful applicants to stay in the UK for a period of up to 6 months.
If you need to visit the UK regularly over a longer period, you can apply for a Long-Term Visitor (Standard) Visa that lasts 2, 5 or 10 years, enabling you to stay for a maximum of 6 months per visit.
Although paid or unpaid employment is not permitted under this route, artists and entertainers can still carry out a wide range of permitted activities during their stay, including:
- Giving performances as an individual or as part of a group
- Taking part in competitions or auditions
- Making personal appearances and taking part in promotional activities
- Attending workshops and giving talks about their work
- Taking part in one or more cultural events or festivals for which payment is permitted.
Any personal or technical members of staff who are integral to the performance of an artist or entertainer may support these activities, provided they are attending the same event as the artist or entertainer and are employed to work for them outside of the UK.
In addition, the various different members of a film crew employed by an overseas company, including the director(s), producer(s), actors and technicians, may visit the UK to take part in a location shoot for a film or programme that is produced and financed overseas.
Any individual seeking entry through the visitor route will need to demonstrate:
- They are genuinely seeking entry as a visitor for the purposes stated
- They intend to leave the UK at the end of their visit
- They will maintain and accommodate themselves without using public funds or taking employment other than as permitted by the route
- They can meet the cost of the return or onward journey
- They are not in transit to a country outside the UK, Ireland, Isle of Man and the Channel Islands.
Applicants under the age of 18 will also need to meet these eligibility requirements, in addition to other requirements including having suitable arrangements for their travel to, reception and care in the UK, as well as consent to these arrangements from a parent or guardian in their home country.
Permitted Paid Engagement visa
The Visitor (Permitted Paid Engagements) Visa route is open to professional artists and entertainers over the age of 18 who have been invited as an expert in their profession by a UK-based creative (arts or entertainment) organisation, agent or broadcaster.
This will allow the successful applicant to stay in the UK for up to 1 month to undertake a specific short paid engagement or, alternatively, a series of engagements albeit for a single entry visit only. This extends to any activities relating to the individual’s profession, including giving performances or lectures, book signings, as well as exhibiting and selling their works.
Again, personal or technical staff, or members of the production team, may support these activities, provided they are attending the same event as the artist or entertainer and are employed to work for them outside of the UK.
Any individual seeking entry through this route will need to satisfy the same eligibility requirements as required under the standard visitor route. In addition, the permitted paid engagement, or series of engagements, must be declared as part of the application, together with evidence to demonstrate that:
- The activity relates to the applicant’s full-time profession overseas and/or qualifications where appropriate, and
- The applicant has a formal invitation from a UK-based arts or entertainment organisation, agent or broadcaster confirming details of the engagement(s).
Work visa options for professional entertainers & artists
If you do not qualify for the visitor visa, either because you will be coming to the UK for paid employment or if you wish to stay for longer than 6 months, there are three main routes for artists and entertainers:
- T5 (Creative & Sporting) Temporary Worker visa
- Global Talent visa
- Skilled Worker visa (formerly Tier 2 visa)
The Tier 5 (Creative & Sporting) Temporary Worker Visa
The Tier 5 Temporary Worker category is for certain types of temporary worker whose entry to the UK will help to satisfy cultural, charitable, religious or international objectives.
This will allow artists and entertainers, together with their entourage, to come to the UK for short-term contracts or engagements, such as actors or musicians on tour, for a period of up to 12 months.
When applying under this route, you will need to have an offer of employment before applying for a visa, together with a certificate of sponsorship from a UK licensed sponsor. You will also need to show that you can maintain and accommodate yourself on your arrival in the UK, unless your sponsor has provided a clear guarantee on your sponsorship certificate.
Global Talent Visa
The Global Talent category is for non-UK residents who are internationally recognised as world leaders in their field (exceptional talent), or show the potential to become future leaders (exceptional promise). This replaced the previous Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) Visa on 20 February 2020.
To be eligible for this visa you will need to be endorsed as a leader, or emerging leader, by either the Arts Council or the Producers Alliance for Cinema and Television. These are the relevant endorsing bodies for artists and entertainers. Alternatively, if you have been awarded one of a number of industry prizes, you do not need to apply for endorsement.
Skilled Worker Visa
This category is for individuals who have an offer of a skilled job in the UK from a licensed sponsor. This category enables UK employers to recruit skilled nationals from outside the resident workforce to fill jobs that cannot be filled by settled workers within the domestic labour market.
To qualify for a skilled worker visa you must have the offer of employment from a UK licensed sponsor that falls within the creative sector occupations. You must also prove your ability to speak English, as well as sufficient funds to maintain yourself and any dependants on your arrival in the UK.
Do I need an Artist Visa UK?
Not every artist and entertainer will need a visa to perform in the UK. As a non-visa national you can arrive at the UK border and provide the necessary documentary evidence to satisfy the officer that you meet all the requirements as a short-stay visitor.
A non-visa national is a national of a country that is not listed as requiring a visa when visiting the UK for less than 6 months, for example, America, Australia and Canada. The Home Office provides a list of all countries whose nationals require a visa to come to the UK.
If you are a non-visa national applying under the T5 (Creative and Sporting) category and you want to work in the UK for less than 3 months, you do not need a T5 visa but, on arrival at the UK border, you will need to present a valid certificate of sponsorship, as well as evidence of being able to maintain and accommodate yourself.
If you are a visa national, or are non-visa national looking to come to the UK for more than 6 months, then you will need to apply for an appropriate visa.
How do I apply for an Artist Visa?
As a visa national applying for a short-term visa under the visitor route, you will be required to submit an application online from outside the UK and pay the appropriate visa fee. You should get a decision within around 3 weeks.
For visas for more than 6 months under the points based system, the application will take longer to process and will require UK sponsorship or endorsement.
Your visa application will need to be made online from your country of residence unless, for example, you are on tour in another country and will be doing similar work in the UK. All long-term visa applications will also require you to attend your local visa application centre to submit your biometric details.
How much does an Artist Visa cost?
The fee for a Visitors (Standard) and (Permitted Paid Engagements) Visa is £95. The cost of a long-term visa under the visitor route will depend on its length: for 2 years the fee is £361, for 5 years £655 and for 10 years £822.
You will also have to pay the healthcare surcharge as part of your application.
Artist visa FAQs
What is the UK Artist Visa?
A UK Artist Visa refers to various different types of visa, depending on the type and length of activity undertaken. This can include a Visitor (Standard) or (Permitted Paid Engagements) Visa for short-term visits to undertake permitted activities. It can also include longer term options under the points based system, such as the Tier 5 (Creative & Sporting) Temporary Worker Visa.
How much does an Artist Visa for the UK cost?
The cost of an Artist Visa for the UK will vary depending on the type and length of the visa that you apply for. For a short-term visa, such as the Visitor (Standard) or (Permitted Paid Engagements) visa, the cost is £95. The cost of a Tier 5 (Creative & Sporting) Temporary Worker Visa is £244.
Do I need a visa to perform in the UK?
Whether you will need a visa to perform in the UK depends on your nationality and the nature of the engagement. As a non-visa national wanting to come to the UK for less than 6 months, you can arrive at the UK border with documentary evidence to satisfy you meet all the requirements under the visitor route.
The matters contained in this article are intended to be for general information purposes only. This article does not constitute legal advice, nor is it a complete or authoritative statement of the law, and should not be treated as such. Whilst every effort is made to ensure that the information is correct, no warranty, express or implied, is given as to its accuracy and no liability is accepted for any error or omission. Before acting on any of the information contained herein, expert legal advice should be sought.