When the Home Office introduced in 2009  the ‘points-based immigration system’, a series of measures designed to restrict visits to the UK by international artists and academics for talks, temporary exhibitions, concerts or artists’ residencies, the Manifesto Club petition was launched in support of artists’ mobility into the UK. It gathered over 11,000 signatures from artists, writers, arts professionals, promoters, academics and the general public. The Manifesto Club joined forces with English PEN, VAGA, novelist Kamila Shamsie and Peers The Earl of Clancarty (Nick Trench) and Lord Tim Clement-Jones. Dames Helena Kennedy and Joan Bakewell also voiced their concerns at a 2011 Lords Debate. 

With unstinting support from Artsadmin, Greater London Authority and the London Cultural Strategy Group, the collective goal was to exert pressure on the UK Government and the UK Border Agency to recognise that the new system wasn’t a workable route for non-EU artists who needed come to the UK for short-term invited visits to take part in art projects and artistic collaborations with UK partners, performances, conferences, readings and their own exhibition and book launches.

As a result of the pressure, a new visitor route – Permitted Paid Engagements (PPE) – came into effect in April 2012, meaning individual artists don’t need a certificate of sponsorship nor licensed sponsor.

  • The UK host is no longer be required to keep biometric records, passport entry stamps, contact details or monitor the everyday whereabouts of the invited artists if s/he comes to the UK through the PPE visitor route.
  • TheUKhost isn’t required to apply to become a licensed sponsor, but will only need to prove that it is a bona fide arts group or organisation.
  • Previously the invited artist had to be given a Tier 5 certificate of sponsorship for short visits to theUK, and the host organisation was required to undertake arduous bureaucratic requirements and pay for a license to sponsor, costing £410 for small organisations and charities.
  • The PPE visa allows the invited artist to be paid a fee for his/her undertaking in theUK. This was a major area of contention for the visiting artists’ campaign, as the Entertainer Visitor route wouldn’t allow this (unless artists were participating in the UKBA approved list of recognised ‘permit-free’ festivals).
  • Invited artists can stay in theUKfor up to one month under PPE, with no restrictions on the number of applications made for a PPE within any one year.

Manick Govinda, head of the Manifesto Club’s Visiting Artists’ Campaign, said: “We welcome this positive change. Dossiers published by the Manifesto Club highlighted the painful narratives of artists being deported on arrival to theUK, refused visas, treated with hostility, andUK hosts’ deep frustrations with the bureaucratic requirements and compliances that Licensed Sponsorship entailed. The government and the UKBA have finally listened, and this is to be applauded.

It is now important for the UKBA to ensure that all its personnel understand and recognise this new route, and treat both visa and non-visa nationals with respect and equity, all of which they have promised to do. It is also important that non-EU artists are not required to jump through too many hoops to prove or validate their artistic standing. This should not require stringent proof or evidence of earnings as an artist.

We will, of course, continue to keep a watch on the situation – and continue to highlight cases where over-bureaucratic immigration rules impingeinformal collaborations in the world of arts and academia.”

a-n.co.uk October 2013

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