Brexit: What you need to know about traveling for work

Please note the information in this post may now be out of date. For current information, please visit our latest Brexit advice.

ISM researcher Kathryn Williams examines the situation for travelling between the UK and the EU after 31 December, and the measures musicians will have to take in order to work and transport their instruments. This blog has been created following Kathryn's talk at The Empowered Musician 2020, and all information is correct at the time of publishing.

The end of freedom of movement

We see different stories on the news every day about Brexit, where one day a deal might be on and the next it’s probably off, but at the moment it’s all about fishing. However, there are certain things that are going to change no matter what is decided, or not, at some point this month, because freedom of movement will end on 31 December.

Visiting EU countries, which can be up to a maximum of 90 days in any 180-day period in the Schengen area, requires six months’ validity on your passport, an international driving licence if needed, health insurance (as the EHIC will cease), and at the border being prepared to show a return ticket and evidence of sufficient funds for the length of your stay.

Travelling for short-term work in Europe will require checking each country’s regulations on work permits, because each member state is likely to have different conditions for third country nationals. For example, in France, cultural or artistic workers are allowed to work without a permit for up to 90 days, in Norway a permit is not needed for fewer than 14 days of work per year, and in Italy a work permit is needed for any length of time (but an exemption might be possible depending on the fame of the artist). Clearly, this is going to make touring extremely complicated. To add to this, some countries including France will charge tax on earnings in that country meaning that musicians will be facing double deductions. There was a form called the A1 that prevented this from happening, but so far HMRC have not confirmed if this will be replaced with anything.

Traveling with instruments

From the start of the year, certain documents will be needed to temporarily transport instruments and professional equipment. An ATA Carnet certifies that the goods listed are not being transported for sale and it needs to be physically stamped going out and coming back. These are already in use for other countries, for example bands travelling to tour the United States have to use a carnet. An ATA Carnet is valid for one year and the cost starts at around £325, but the exact fee depends on the overall value of the goods being transported, and they can be obtained from the London Chamber of Commerce.

If your instrument contains a certain quantity of endangered or protected materials such as Brazilian rosewood or elephant ivory, another permit is needed, called a Musical Instrument Certificate. This comes through CITES (which stands for the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora). Again, these certificates already exist and are used to transport animals/plants/old instruments to and from other countries. The application is free, but it’s a bit cumbersome as the form is the same for transporting a cello as it is for a live animal.

Only ports that are set up for CITES inspections can be used to travel with these permits and there are currently 29 such ports in Great Britain. Unfortunately, this does not currently include the Eurostar. We have had confirmation that CITES checks will be in place between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

EU nationals in the UK

EU citizens who are already in the UK, or will be here by the end of the month, are eligible to apply for the European Settlement Scheme, which is free and offers a route to settlement and ability to work just as before. From 1 January 2021, they will be viewed as third country nationals, so like Americans or Canadians for example, they will be known as ‘non-visa nationals’ meaning they don’t need a visa to visit and can stay for up to six months at a time. To come in for a one-off engagement, they can turn up at the UK border with an invitation letter from the organiser along with documentation proving themselves as a musician (e.g., CV, press clippings, promotional material, and proof they can financially support themselves for the stay) – this is called a Paid Permitted Engagement, or PPE, and it allows a stay up to 30 days. For work lasting up to three months, the Tier 5 Creative & Sporting Concession Visa can be obtained, again by turning up at the border with documentation and a Certificate of Sponsorship from the organiser. This means that the organiser must have applied in advance to become a sponsor. It is vital for both of these routes that you do not enter through the electronic gates (e-gates), and that you find a border official to check your documents and issue the relevant visa.

The full Tier 5 Creative and Sporting Visa grants a stay for work up to 12 months (renewable for a further 12 months) and needs to be applied for in advance. The current cost of this is £244, plus a health surcharge of £624 per year, which covers your use of NHS services. The caveat for Tier 5 visas is that there can only be up to 14 days between engagements. There is also the Permit Free Festival route, which is a relatively small list of festivals that have been certified to enable international artists to come in through the Standard Visitor route.

Cause for great concern

We already know that the current immigration system is not fit for purpose for musicians from other countries. Our research has shown that under the current immigration system, musicians from particular countries and regions appear to find it more difficult to successfully obtain a visa, especially African and Middle Eastern countries.

International touring represents an essential part of musicians’ livelihoods, with 44% of musicians earning up to half of their earnings in the EU before the pandemic. With COVID-19 already having a devastating impact on the music industry, it is critical that musicians can continue to tour easily across Europe without being subjected to unwieldy bureaucracy after 31 December 2020, and that any steps required to prepare for this change are communicated in a clear and timely manner.

The ISM will continue to produce research, influence the government and campaign to make touring as easy as possible for musicians after Brexit.

Kathryn Williams
Performer, composer and ISM researcher specialising in Brexit

Brexit package for ISM members

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