Don’t let immigration costs spoil festival fun, says Tijen Ahmet, business immigration specialist at law firm, Shakespeare Martineau

For festivalgoers, the only thing worse than a forecast of rain all weekend is the cancellation of a headline act. From Green Man Festival to Glastonbury, the UK has a reputation for holding some of the most high-profile and diverse concerts and events in the world. However, the post-2021 immigration system has the potential to cause some upset.

Over the years, festival organisers will have become used to the ease with which EU talent can be booked and travel into the UK can be arranged, however, the system is all set to change.

As it stands, the holy grail of the festival world is to be on the list of “permit free festivals” or, for individuals, securing a Business Creative Visa, granted by the Home Office. This visa allows festival performers and their entourage, multiple entries into the UK over a six-month period. Whilst the list of permit free festivals currently stands at 42, future uncertainty has put pressure on festival organisers to apply and so this is likely to grow over the coming months.

Come Halloween, free movement to the UK is due to end with new challenges set to begin for international migrants, artists, entertainers and musicians from the EU will have to meet minimum criteria and apply through the skills-based immigration system. The new proposals intend to bring EU nationals in line with non-EU nationals in terms of the immigration hoops they will have to jump through.

Whilst options, such as permitted paid engagement, currently exist – where people can enter the UK for a month and be paid for their work – some festivals and events fall outside of the permitted timescale. Employers can apply for a temporary visa under Tier 5 of the current points-based system or a creative skilled worker visa under Tier 2, however the costs of sponsorship and visas plus associated health and skills charges soon rack up.

Pressure on the future of festivals extends past the performers. Event organisers will have a responsibility to apply for a sponsor licence, to enable them to recruit talent from outside the UK. In the grand scheme of things, larger, more established events are likely to have financial means to apply for group certificates to encompass all involved. However, when considering the volume of people, even behind the production of a smaller event, these surprise costs could seriously disrupt independent operators. As a result, festival organisers are calling on Government to re-assess the way the post-2021 immigration system treats international talent.

An end to free movement is guaranteed to have an impact on the future of EU workers post 2021, with the repercussions already being felt in a number of sectors. It seems there is a large price to pay for entertainment, but festivals are a key component in UK culture, so it is essential that they continue to thrive.

By understanding how the proposed visa changes will affect international acts coming to work in the UK, organisers can plan ahead and stop festivals from becoming the latest casualty of post-2021 immigration.