British musicians can play on in Europe – with a bit of planning’

Feb 02, 2021
Last Updated on Jan 10, 2024

Director of top UK immigration law firm, Mr. Yash Dubal, has some words of advice for British musicians and artists facing tough times with restrictions on touring following Brexit.  

The enormous upheaval of Britain’s exit from the European Union has taken a dramatic hit on many of our industries. One of the latest professions to find itself mired in the fall-out is that of musicians who now find their ability to tour across EU nations severely compromised.  

In fact, a much wider spectrum of professions has been affected, as we are talking not only about musicians but all those involved with bands, artists, orchestras, musical theatre and even TV and sports personalities.  

There has been a recent high-profile campaign – backed by many big names in the entertainment industry – for the UK government to negotiate a free cultural work permit with the EU.  Sadly, I don’t hold out much hope in the short to medium term of this bearing fruit.  

There has already been much mud-slinging on this subject with both the UK government and the EU bitterly blaming the other for this situation. On that basis, I cannot see there being any kind of resolution any time soon.  

But that’s not to say that touring will be untenable. It’s just to say that, unfortunately, British musicians, artists and others working in this sector will have to face up to the fact that touring and working in EU countries is simply going to require much more organization and advanced planning.   

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But what has perhaps been missed is that if you look at individual EU nations, many make allowances for the likes of musicians and artists to work for short periods without a visa.   

I won’t go through the whole list, but, for example, in the Czech Republic, there is a visa exemption for artists whose performance there does not exceed seven consecutive days or 30 days per calendar year.   

In Italy, musicians will only need to write to the visa office ([email protected]) if they do not belong to the category of well-known artists or plan to stay in Italy for more than 90 days. Germany has yet to confirm its arrangements but in Poland it will be visa exempt for a period of up to 30 days in one year. Visas are also exempt in Latvia for artists whose performances do not exceed 14 days per year.   

However, other nations have more complex, detailed visa requirements which will require some advanced planning so that all paperwork is in place.  

In the case of musicians and artists from the EU 27 nations wanting to come here to perform, there is a quick and reasonably easy route through the Permitted Paid Engagement (PPE) visa – but they would need to have been invited by a UK organization to take part in ‘arts, entertainment or sporting activities including broadcasting’.  

Another interesting point is that some large music events in the UK can apply to be included on a list of ‘permit free festivals’. This means that overseas musicians and bands invited to such events can avoid some of the red tape, and possibly get in on the Standard Visitor visa. However, as I write this, this year’s Glastonbury Festival has already been cancelled due to the pandemic, so it’s unclear how useful this route will be for a while!  

I’m afraid that the bad news for UK musicians is that, frankly, it is much easier for overseas artists to come here and perform using the PPE visa than for British artists who will need to go through a myriad of options for each EU country. Unfortunately, it is what it is and they will have to familiarize themselves with the process of obtaining the relevant visas in some cases. 

But don’t panic. I sometimes tell clients that immigration and visa law looks far more complicated and daunting than it actually is. Yes, it can be a bit time-consuming, but once you get used to it, it should not prove too difficult. I understand these restrictions seem as if they will pose great hardship but they can be overcome. My advice to musicians is to play on – your fans across Europe will thank you for it!

Musician’s Union –   @WeAreTheMU
Association of Independent Music –  @AIM_UK
BPI –  @bpi_music
Featured Artists Coalition –   @FeaturedArtists
Music Managers Forum –  @MMFUK
Music Venue Trust –  @musicvenuetrust
UK Music –  @UK_Music
Incorporated Society Muscians –  @ISM_music

New Musical Express –  @NME

The Stage –  @TheStage

MOJO Magazine –  @MOJOmagazine

Kerrang! Magazine –  @KerrangMagazine

DJ Mag –  @DJmag

Classical Music –  @ClassicalMusic_

BBC Music Magazine –  @MusicMagazine

Audience Magazine –  @Audience-Mag

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