In 2008 immigration rules were changed to a points-based entry system, with the intention of more closely regulating immigration. Points are awarded for various criteria specific to one of five ‘tiers’, the most important being the ability to fund your stay and speak English.
This system does not, however, have the flexibility to easily allow short-term visits by non-EU artists: for projects such as visual artists preparing exhibitions, temporary artist-in-residence projects, writers book tours or performances by musicians and dancers.
As regulations stand, all short-term visiting non-EU artists must supply biometric data at regional hubs, which may mean travelling hundreds or thousands of miles to another country, adding to travel and project costs, and prove cash assets of at least £800 (an enormous amount for many artists, particularly from non-Western countries).
Applications take a long time to be processed, meaning artists may miss the specific event they need to attend, causing entry to be refused. Arts organisations are required to sponsor artists and need to pay a fee to do so, which many organisations often cannot afford. For UK arts organisations – both large and small – the new procedures are time-consuming, highly bureaucratic and intrusive. A Greater London Authority survey discovered that a majority of UK arts organisations – mostly small organisations - are adversely affected by these regulations.
Emerging and established artists – such as the great classical Russian pianist Grigory Sokolov and Iranian ﬁlm director Abbas Kiarostami - have been penalised by the system, with the result that some artists now choose not to attempt to perform or create in this country or are put off by the bureaucracy of applying.
Short-term visits by artists – by their very nature - are not primarily an ‘immigration issue’ but part of Britain’s great tradition of cultural exchange: non-EU artists are not taking employment away from British workers. The current regulations are already damaging the UK’s international cultural and artistic reputation, and in the long-term will affect the UK economically. Most importantly, UK audiences lose out on unique international cultural experiences.
Visual Arts UK (in particular VAGA), English PEN, and the Manifesto Club support a widening of the currently existing entertainers visa to include artists. This solution would permit:
- visits for up to six months, which would cover the majority of short-term projects
- a visa scheme outside the points-based system, to enable visits without sponsorship and reduce bureaucracy
- fees to be paid for art-related activities such as performances, temporary residency projects and book tours, including invitations to participate in events during the visit additional to any organised abroad
- a visa which can, if necessary, be applied for and supplied at the port of entry following correct advice and guidance from border officials
- artists to able to carry out self-generated projects without payment, such as taking photographs towards an exhibition, writing, painting etc. without the need to be tied formally to a speciﬁc organisation or event within the UK.
Visual Arts UK urges you to:
- Sign the Manifesto Club petition
- Send us information from your own experience of artists being refused entry into the UK on short-term stays. We need to compile a broad range of information – particularly around artists unable to perform or exhibit at local or small-scale events.
- Broadcast relevant news articles through Twitter, Facebook and blogs