Will An EU Touring Visa Solve All Our Problems?

The recent House of Lords EU committee has decided that a multi-country visa to allow performers to work in the EU and UK post Brexit, would be a good idea. I’m sure that all of us in the performing arts industry agree heartily. However like much speculation and ideas for how things will be when the UK leaves the EU the recommendation doesn’t seem to have been thought through.

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To give a bit of historical perspective;

In 2014 the European Commission advocated the adoption of an EU wide touring visa for performing artists. Of course the UK wasn’t party to those discussions as the UK is not a signatory to the Schengen agreement. Nor is Ireland.

This is an agreement signed by almost all European countries to allow free movement between the signatory countries (so for example if you have a visa for France that will admit you to Spain, Germany etc.), but not the UK which requires separate entry/visa.

The driver for this bit of EU legislation was to allow performers in for periods longer than 90 days without too much bureaucracy.

Currently performers working in the EU only need work permits to perform in France, all other EU countries allow performances for short periods without any work permit.

They will of course require a visa to enter if they are ‘visa nationals’, that is citizens of countries that are required to have entry visas.

So a band from say the US or Australia touring Europe would need only work permits issued by the French government if they were performing in France and nothing for the rest of Europe.

A band from, say, Jamaica would additionally have to have entry visas, good for the whole of the Schengen area issued by either the first country on the tour or the one they are in for the longest.

The UK on the other hand has 3 possible entry routes for performers from outside the EU...

  1. The Tier 5 Certificate of Sponsorship; this is a kind of work permit issued by an employer/ sponsor.
  2. The Permitted Paid Engagement; permission for entry for specified performances and activities granted at point of entry upon presentation of contracts and supporting documents to border staff.
  3. Performance at Permit Free festivals and events; no permit required just invitation from event, again entry at the discretion of border personnel.

In addition ‘visa nationals’ need an entry visa.

All the above can be problematic and seem to have been more so than usual lately.

In view of this it is difficult to see how the House of Lords proposal will be enacted. Is the UK going to introduce a separate visa category for EU performers that distinguishes between them and those from the US, Canada etc? The UK system is confusing enough without adding another layer. Will the EU even say yes to any UK proposal? Unlikely as UK is no longer in the EU and was never party to Schengen agreement.

I realise that there is often a political agenda to these discussions and that there are conflicting interests. But whatever happens the broader impact of what is proposed should be looked at  and any decisions should be informed by proper consultation with the industry.