A group of politicians, promoters, venue owners and music industry associations are calling for the British government to scrap controversial new visa restrictions for visiting artists from the United States, Canada and South America.
Until recently, the majority of touring artists from non-EU countries could enter the U.K. using a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) — effectively a temporary work permit — from an agency or promoter. That changed last August when the United Kingdom and Visa and Immigration Service (UKVI) unexpectedly changed its guidance for foreign nationals, requiring them to now get U.K. visas if arriving via the Irish Republic — long a popular first port of call for artists beginning a European tour.
The changes were not properly advertised and were introduced without any proper consultation, say concerned live industry execs. They warn that the new restrictions impose “significant” costs on touring artists visiting the U.K and that, as a result, there is now “a real risk” that the new visa requirements will force hundreds of acts to cancel the Irish or British leg of a European tour.
In May last year two U.S. musicians travelling from Dublin to Manchester using a PPE (Permitted Paid Engagements) were entry to the UK at the Irish border and imprisoned overnight. The next day they flew from Dublin to Paris and from there to the U.K. where their Certificate of Sponsorship was deemed acceptable.
Responding to the issue, the MP Alex Sobel has written to the Minister of State for Immigration calling for her to reverse the visa entry changes.
“What was previously a simple system now asks visitors to acquire U.K. visas which takes weeks to obtain, cost hundreds of pounds each, and involves a complex application process,” writes Sobel in a letter signed by 50 MPs and Peers, as well as a number of music bodies, including the Association For Independent Festivals, AIM, labels trade body BPI and umbrella organization UK Music.
Other signatories include Coda Agency, the Concert Promoters Association, the Association for Festival Organisers and Music Venue Trust.
If the changes are not scraped, Sobel warns they will have a “hugely detrimental effect on musicians and entertainers including participants in world-leading events such as Glastonbury,” as well as restricting sportsmen and women, researchers and journalists from visiting the U.K.