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UK industry calls for reversal of Ireland visa restrictions

According to a bevy of industry groups and MPs, an end to visa-free travel between the UK and RoI could force "many hundreds of acts" to cancel their UK or Irish tours

By Jon Chapple on 23 Oct 2018

Alex Sobel MP

image © Chris McAndrew/UK Parliament

UK industry associations including the Concert Promoters Association, Association of Independent Festivals and Entertainment Agents’ Association, along with Coda Agency, Music Venue Trust and umbrella group UK Music, have written to the Home Office to urge a rethink of new guidance that requires American artists to apply for British visas if arriving via the Irish republic.

The letter, delivered today by Alex Sobel MP to immigration minister Caroline Nokes, calls on Nokes to reverse changes to recent certificate of sponsorship (CoS) arrangements for visiting entertainers from the US, Canada and South America.

In August 2017, according to the signatories, UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) altered guidance so that visiting entertainers from the US and Canada would require UK visas if arriving via the Republic of Ireland.

These changes, they allege, were not properly advertised, and no consultation was held with industry stakeholders, with the result that “it was virtually unknown across the industry very recently.”

“The entertainment industry is uniquely impacted by these changes,” reads the letter, “because there are thousands of entertainment personnel who, for instance, perform or work at a show in Dublin the day before coming to the UK. They work on very tight schedules and sometimes very tight budgets. It’s possible many hundreds of acts will be forced to cancel the Irish leg of their tour because it complicates their UK tour, or vice versa.”

Sobel (pictured), Labour MP for Leeds North West, urges the government to revert to the CoS system to “prevent further damage to the UK’s position as a leading cultural centre in Europe”.

“It’s possible many hundreds of acts will be forced to cancel the Irish leg of their tour because it complicates their UK tour, or vice versa”

He comments: “The Home Office needs to apply some common sense to this issue and reinstate the old system for visiting entertainers. This is bureaucratic box-ticking of the worst sort.

“The danger is performers arriving from the US and Canada are likely to organise shorter European tours – or not at all – due to the additional costs and bureaucracy.

“At a time when we’re told the UK ought to be more outward looking and business focussed, the Home Office has chosen to impose a silly short-sighted policy on one of Britain’s most productive industries.”

UK Music’s director of public affairs and deputy CEO, Tom Kiehl, adds: “The UK music industry is worth £4.4 billion to the economy and accounts for three of the four most popular arenas in the world, attracting global talent like Beyoncé, Jay-Z, Taylor Swift and Eminem.

“UK Visas and Immigration are now jeopardising this success by issuing advice that contradicts long established practice in the entertainment sector. The government must look again to ensure the UK can maintain its position as a world leading destination for international tours.”

Writing for IQ, Coda Agency’s Clementine Bunel recently highlighted the difficulties faced by acts from another part of the world, Africa, entering the UK, as a result of changes that mean many cannot apply for visas in their own country.


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