The government has announced changes to allow certain professionals, artists, entertainers and sports-people to carry out paid activities in the UK for up to a month. The announcement came in response to calls from business and industry. The move is expected to provide greater flexibility for talented people and cut down on bureaucracy.
The Home Office said: `These changes will slash bureaucracy and provide greater flexibility for talented people – from renowned musicians wishing to play a small number of recitals to world-leading experts coming to give a lecture or address colleagues on a short visit’.
It added: The government is reforming all routes of entry to the UK in order to bring immigration levels under control and reduce net migration.
It has already taken action by restricting the amount of non-EU nationals who can come here to work. Sweeping changes to the student visa system have also been introduced.
Immigration Minister Damian Green added: ‘Our reforms of the immigration system will ensure we are more selective not only about those who are allowed to come here but also those who are allowed to stay permanently.’
The development is significant as an increasing number of foreign artists, ranging from grassroots fringe performers to world-renowned stars, were ruling UK out of their upcoming travel plans due to complexities with obtaining visas.
They were following the footsteps of the esteemed Iranian film director Abbas Kiarostami. He, only recently, abandoned plans to come to Britain to direct an opera, after the UK embassy in Tehran asked him to submit his application documents twice.
Anti-censorship pressure group English PEN has also been demanding that the so-called Entertainer Visitor Route needs to be redefined as ‘Artist Visitors’ to provide more clarity.
At the moment, only artists who come into Britain to take part in a “permit-free” event, such as the annual Edinburgh International Festival, are allowed to accept a fee. The organisation claims this creates unnecessary confusion.
The director of English PEN, Jonathan Heawood, had asserted that the current points-based visa system placed a huge financial and bureaucratic responsibility on artists.
He added to invite just one artist to the UK as a ‘licensed sponsor’ costs over £500. This might be affordable to large institutions, but was far too expensive for small groups. The UKBA does not understand writers and artists, and they don’t understand the value of art and literature to the UK economy and society.