Tuesday, November 22, 2011

How to get a visa to live in the UK as an artist

Have you ever wondered about the scope for you to live and work in the UK as an artist?  This post outlines the routes that artists can pursue if they want to live and work in the UK

The last of England by Ford Madox Brown

Beware there are quite a few constraints and hurdles to jump!

First of all, it's very clear that the government is reviewing its approach to immigration in the light of the very rapid increase in population in the UK in the last two decades together with the current deficit reduction plan and lack of affordable housing.  Government is looking more closely at the criteria for who can come and live and work in the UK.  There is a particular clampdown on the student route of entry which has been very much abused in the past.  On the other hand it is also looking to ensure that removing routes of entry which have been abused or are now irrelevant does not mean that those with real talent are also excluded - as will be seen if you read on.

Next all rules need to be complied with.  The UK Border agency (part of the Home Office) deals with all applications for visas.  Any application has to comply with all relevant law and regulation.

These are
Everybody else has to apply for a visa using the other routes of entry.  There is a Do you need a visa? quiz which helps establish whether or not you need one.

Artists wishing to get a visa to live and work in the UK can now apply for one of three categories of visa
  • Tier 1 - Exceptional Talent
  • Tier 2 - General 
  • Tier 5 - Temporary worker
Below I briefly summarise the scope - and the constraints - that these tiers offer.

The UK's system for assessing people who want to migrate to the UK is points based.  It has a number of different tiers and within those tiers there are different categories.

There used to be a tier for Writers, Composers and Artists - however this is now closed.
The writers, composers and artists category has now closed to new applicants. If you want to come and work in the UK as a writer, composer or artist, you must apply under Tier 1 of our points-based system.
High-value migrants - Writers, Composers and Artists (Closed category)

Tier 1 - Exceptional Talent

Tier 1 of the UK's points-based system is for high-value migrants, and currently contains 5 categories.  One of these is Tier 1 (Exceptional talent)div>
Tier 1 (Exceptional talent) category of the points-based system - for people who are recognised or have the potential to be recognised as leaders in the fields of science and the arts.

The UK Border Agency has published policy guidance for the Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) of the Points Based System (pdf file)

Tier 1 is a route that people of exceptional talent can take if they want to live and work in the UK.  1000 visas have been allocated as part of a pilot scheme and, of these, 300 places have been reserved for artists, and creative people working in film and television, who have a proven high level international reputation.

Artists in this context embraces the arts in general (ie not just artists as in "art")

The Arts Council has recently become a Designated Competent Body.  That means it is can now assess applications from artists for Tier 1 visas and recommend whether an applicant merits a visa.

Applications from the film, television, animation, post production and visual effects sectors will be assessed by the Producers Alliance for Cinema and Television (PACT) in accordance with the process and guidance set out by the Arts Council.

In order to quality in this "exceptional talent" category, artists must be able to demonstrate that they are exceptionally talented in their chosen field.  They must be
  • either an established world class artist
  • or an internationally recognised expert in a field of the arts

The scope of the activities covered arts includes the arts (dance, music, theatre, visual arts and literature), museums, galleries, film or television, animation, post production and visual effects industry.
You must be able to demonstrate that you are professionally engaged in producing work of outstanding quality which has been published (other than exclusively in newspapers or magazines), performed, presented, distributed or exhibited internationally.

To apply an artist must:
  • complete a standard Tier 1 visa form 
  • submit evidence of exceptional talent to support their application. Up to 10 documents covering at least two of the following types of evidence should also be submitted:
    • significant media recognition
    • international awards for excellence
    • proof of appearances or exhibitions in recognised international contexts
  • provide two letters of endorsement from established arts or cultural organisations, one of which must be based in the UK.
Read the full criteria and FAQs  in the Tier 1 Visas section on the Arts Council website

The job of the relevant specialists within the Arts Council is to review the application and submitted documentation and assess the extent to which it provides ample and clear evidence of an exceptional talent which meets the published criteria.  They then advise the UK Border Agency on whether the artist applicant can be defined as possessing exceptional talent. The UK Border Agency will then decide whether or not to grant entry to an applicant.

Tier 2 - General

The Tier 2 (General) category is for foreign nationals who have been offered a skilled job to fill a gap in the workforce that cannot be filled by a settled worker. 

On 14th November, changes to the shortage occupation list come into effect.

This is the new UK Border Agency shortage occupation list valid from 14 November 2011 (PDF 125KB opens in a new window)

At the present time the only identified shortage occupation for artists is....
animator in visual effects and 2D / 3D computer animation for film, television or video games

Tier 5 - Temporary

There are a number of categories of temporary workers - and allows entry for up to six months.

The category relevant to artists is Tier 5 (Temporary worker - creative and sporting)
For people coming to work or perform in the UK for up to 12 months as sportspeople, entertainers or creative artists. 
It's very clear from the relevant web page that the majority considered for this route are sports people

The creative and sporting category is also NOT for people who want to come or who are already in the UK as entertainers or sports visitors, including for specified festivals. See more about sport and entertainer visitors in business and special visitors.
If you are given permission to stay as a creative worker, you can come to live and work in the UK for an initial time of up to 12 months, or the time given in your certificate of sponsorship plus 28 days, whichever is shorter (beginning no more than 14 days before the start date given on your certificate of sponsorship).  You can apply to extend your permission to stay in the UK as a creative worker for up to 12 months at a time, up to a maximum of 24 months. If your extension will take your time in the UK beyond 12 months, the job must continue with your last sponsor.

Note: The Last of England is an 1855 oil-on-panel painting by Ford Madox Brown depicting two emigrants leaving England to start a new life abroad.  It's probably one of the more famous paintings about migrants.  It was painted at a time when 350,000 people were leaving the UK each year.  The people in the painting are the artist himself, along with his partner Emma, and their children Cathy, the fair-haired girl in the background, and Oliver, the baby.  The painting is in the permanent collection of Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery.  It came 8th in the BBC Radio 4 vote for The Greatest Painting in Britain .

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