Free festival permit or paying engagement visa allowed?

When entering the UK on a standard visitor visa, you will generally not be permitted to accept payment equivalent to salary (i.e. beyond reasonable out-of-pocket expenses for travel and subsistence) for any activity undertaken in the UK as a visitor. The only exceptions to this rule are listed in paragraph 4.6 of the Visitor Appendix.

This makes it possible to accept payments when the visitor:

  1. Is a artist, animator or musician attend a Festival without permit UK; Where
  2. Has authorization as Paid engagement visitor allowed.

In this article, we look at the circumstances in which you can apply to visit the UK for an authorized paid engagement or to attend a festival without a permit, and what you should bear in mind when making your application.

What is a festival without a permit?

If you are an artist, presenter or musician performing at a festival on the Visitor appendix: List of festivals without a permit and you are a domestic visa, you can enter the UK as a standard visitor to attend the festival. If you are a visa-free national, you will be able to use the e-gates as usual, but you will still need to carry proof of the festival(s) you will be performing at, for example an invitation letter just in case it would be requested by a border official.

You can see the full list of festivals here. This includes:

  • The Belfast International Arts Festival,
  • Cheltenham Festivals (jazz, science, music and literature festivals)
  • Edinburgh Festival Fringe
  • Glastonbury Festival
  • hay festival
  • Isle of Wight Festival
  • Southbank Center Festivals
  • The Edinburgh Royal Military Tattoo
  • WWE live. Please note that WWE performers are classified as “entertainers” rather than “athletes” due to the non-competitive elements of WWE. See our previous article here and our guide to immigration pathways for international athletes for more information on the pathways available to professional athletes.

Who is considered an entertainer, performer or musician?

home office advice explains how these definitions are interpreted.

Artists are defined as any person (amateur or professional) engaged in an activity related to literature, the performing arts, the visual arts or the culinary arts. The guidelines provide a non-exhaustive list including:

  • poets
  • Photographers and film crew (including for social media content)
  • Writers
  • Drivers
  • Creators

Artists are defined as anyone carrying out an activity specifically related to the performing arts. The guide presents a number of examples:

  • dancers
  • comedians
  • Circus performers
  • Film crew
  • Esports competitors

If you are a personal or technical member of the entertainer, performer or musician, you can also attend the event as long as you have a contract to work for them in the UK. This expands the scope of the permit to include:

  • Choreographers
  • Makeup artists
  • Personal bodyguards

How long can I stay in the UK when attending a festival without a permit?

If your application is successful, you will be allowed to stay in the UK for up to 6 months.

Who can undertake authorized remunerated engagement and what type of work does this include?

There is an exhaustive list of the types of remunerated engagements defined in the Visitor Annex. These are specific work activities that professionals can come to the UK to undertake as visitors and accept payment equivalent to a salary. The job must have been arranged before you travel to the UK and you must provide an official invitation showing the details of the engagement. The work should also be related to your particular expertise and career overseas.

You must be over 18 and one of the following:

  • An academic coming to the UK to review students and/or participate in or chair selection committees. This does not include academics who are otherwise fully retired.
  • An expert speaker. It doesn’t have to be the same as being a teacher. This does not include academics who are otherwise fully retired.
  • A Designated Overseas Pilot Examiner assessing UK-based pilots on compliance with other countries’ regulations.
  • A qualified lawyer litigating for a hearing, arbitration or dispute resolution for UK based proceedings. This includes lawyers, notaries, counsel, barristers and barristers.
  • A professional performer, performer or musician carrying out an activity directly related to their career (which is not a festival without a permit), e.g. judging juries, attending a conference or interviews, modeling on a catwalk of fashion, launch his work.
  • Professional sportsman carrying out an activity directly related to his career.

To qualify as a professional athlete or arts professional, you must demonstrate that this is your full-time occupation. The Home Office will look at factors such as your reputation and income to assess this.

Who can you work for during an authorized paid engagement?

In all cases, you must have been invited to the assignment by a UK-based organization or a UK-based client.

An entertainer, entertainer or performer can be invited by any agent or creative organization i.e. an organization involved in arts and entertainment. This covers galleries, museums, presenters and places that organize events. Similarly, athletes may be invited by any agent, broadcaster or sports organization, i.e. an organization involved in the organization or realization of sporting events, competitions or matches.

An academic or expert lecturer can be invited by any higher education institution. This is where education leads to a university degree, rather than further education which is at a non-degree level. An academic may also be invited by a research or artistic organization as part of its quality assurance processes.

An Overseas Designated Pilot Examiner must have been invited by a training organization regulated by the UK Civil Aviation Authority.

How long can I stay in the UK on an authorized Paid Commitment Visa?

This route is intended for short-term employment, so if successful, you will be granted a stay of up to 1 month. If you are applying for subsequent Authorized Paid Commitment Visas, the Home Office will want to ensure that you are not actually residing in the UK on multiple visits.

What else do I need to show for an Authorized Paid Engagement Visa Application?

As the application will be made as a visitor, rather than for a longer term work visa, you must convince the Home Office that you intend to leave the UK at the end of the appointment.

You must also demonstrate that you have sufficient funds to support yourself and provide accommodation while you are in the UK. This should cover travel costs, living expenses and any other expenses you intend to incur during your visit.

Other Immigration Routes for Artists and Artists

The UK is a global hub for the creative industries. Whether you are an actor, musician, dancer or other performing artist, our immigration lawyers in Covent Garden are well versed in the full range of UK visas available to artists and performers wishing to visit or work UK. For more information, download our Guide to immigration routes for artists and performers.

Colleen D. Ervin