Victory for Visiting Artists Campaign!

Deported stamps image The Manifesto Club's Visiting Artists Campaign page has successfully gained an important change to red-tape immigration rules.

The Home Office announced today that temporary visitors would no longer have to go through the burdensome 'points-based immigration system', and would have the option of a much simpler route.

Manick Govinda, head of the Manifesto Club's Visiting Artists' Campaign, said:

'We welcome this positive change. Dossiers published by The Manifesto Club highlighted the painful narratives of artists being deported on arrival to the UK, refused visas, treated with hostility, and UK hosts’ deep frustrations with the bureaucratic requirements and compliances that Licensed Sponsorship entailed. The government and the UKBA have finally listened, and this is to be applauded.

It is now important for the UKBA to ensure that all its personnel understand and recognise this new route, and treat both visa and non-visa nationals with respect and equity, all of which they have promised to do. It is also important that non-EU artists are not required to jump through too many hoops to prove or validate their artistic standing. This should not require stringent proof or evidence of earnings as an artist.

We will, of course, continue to keep a watch on the situation – and continue to highlight cases where over-bureaucratic immigration rules impinge informal collaborations in the world of arts and academia.'

Full details on the planned changes are below.

For more information please contact: Manick Govinda, Manifesto Club: 0790 535 7213 or manick@artsadmin.co.uk


    “We do not want to be discouraging world-class performers from coming [to the UK]. I am aware that this has been a sore point for some time and we are taking action". Damian Green MP

Those were the words of the Government’s Immigration Minister on 2 February. Then on the 29 February the Home Secretary Theresa May issued a written ministerial statement that included the implementation of a new route for short-term visitors which will allow a small group of professionals, artists, entertainers to come to the UK to undertake pre-arranged short-term permitted paid engagements for up to one month.

    "We shall also make some deregulatory changes. In response to feedback that sponsorship requirements in the PBS can be unduly onerous and inflexible in some circumstances, we intend to create a new route outside the Points Based System for certain fee-paid activities. Visitors in this new category (‘permitted paid engagements’) will be able to undertake specific fee paid activities for up to one month without the need for formal sponsorship by a UK-based employer. Those who will be able to benefit will include certain professionals, for example visiting lecturers and examiners, artists exhibiting works, authors undertaking book-signings, entertainers giving one-off or a very short series of performances and sportspeople undertaking broadcasting work. They will have to demonstrate they intend to leave the UK after a month."

This is a significant breakthrough for the campaign against the Home Office’s visa restrictions on non-European Union artists and academics – launched with a Manifesto Club petition in February 2009, which garnered over 11,000 signatures from concerned artists, writers, arts professionals, promoters, academics and the general public.

The Manifesto Club subsequently joined forces with English PEN, The Visual Arts & Galleries Association, novelist Kamila Shamsie and with Peers The Earl of Clancarty (Nick Trench), Lord Tim Clement-Jones, unstinting support from Artsadmin, the Greater London Authority and the London Cultural Strategy Group. Dames Helena Kennedy and Joan Bakewell also voiced their concerns at a Lords Debate in 2011.

Our collective goal was to exert pressure on the UK Government and the UK Borders Agency to recognise that the Points Based Immigration System was not a workable route for non-EU artists who would come to the UK for short-term invited visits to take part in art projects and artistic collaborations with UK partners, performances, conferences, readings and their own exhibition and book launches.

The new visitor route, called Permitted Paid Engagements (PPE), will come into effect from 6th April 2012, and individual artists will not require a certificate of sponsorship nor a licensed sponsor.

So what does this mean?

  • The UK host will no longer be required to keep biometric records, passport entry stamps, contact details or monitor the everyday whereabouts of the invited artists if s/he comes to the UK through the PPE visitor route.
  • The UK host will not be required to apply to become a licensed sponsor, but will only need to prove that it is a bona fide arts group or organisation.
  • Previously the invited artist had to be given a Tier 5 certificate of sponsorship for short visits to the UK, and the host organisation was required to undertake arduous bureaucratic requirements and pay for a license to sponsor, costing £410 for small organisations and charities.
  • The new PPE visa will allow the invited artist to be paid a fee for his/her undertaking in the UK. This was a major area of contention for the visiting artists’ campaign, as the Entertainer Visitor route would not allow artists to be paid (unless they were participating in the UKBA approved list of recognized “permit-free” festivals).
  • Invited artists can stay in the UK for up to one month under the PPE route, and there are no restrictions on the number of applications made for a PPE within any one year.

We welcome this positive change. Two dossiers published by The Manifesto Club highlighted the painful narratives of artists being deported on arrival to the UK, refused visas, treated with hostility and UK hosts’ deep frustrations with the bureaucratic requirements and compliances that Licensed Sponsorship entailed. The government and the UKBA have finally listened, and this is to be applauded.

It is now important for the UKBA to ensure that all its personnel understand and recognise this new route, and treat both visa and non-visa nationals with respect and equity, all of which they have promised to do. It is also important that non-EU artists are not required to jump through too many hoops to prove or validate their artistic standing. This should not require stringent proof or evidence of earnings as an artist.

We will, of course, continue to keep a watch on the situation – and continue to highlight cases where over-bureaucratic immigration rules impinge informal collaborations between people.

Read on:

  • Manifesto Club Visiting Artists Campaign page
  • Manifesto Club petition
  • Full details of changes to Tier 5