How to apply for temporary employment visa as a creative worker in UK

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A creative worker is someone who can contribute in a special way to the vibrant culture of the nation, such as an artist, dancer, singer, entertainer, or model who works in the fashion sector. They are able to travel to the UK to work in these industries temporarily because of the Creative Worker route.

Without getting side-tracked by the Visit Visa rules, it’s worth mentioning that artists, entertainers, and musicians may be allowed to come to the United Kingdom on the Visitor route without needing to be sponsored if they meet the relevant requirements. This could be as either a standard visitor or as a Permitted Paid Engagement (PPE) visitor.

Early considerations: switching inside a country and border concession

If you go down this route, you should take advantage of the two stand-out features. One is a border concession for those entering the United Kingdom and the other is a relaxation of rules for switching to this visa in-country.

The border concession allows a non-visa national (a national of a country not listed on the visa national list) with a valid Certificate of Sponsorship issued for 3 months or less to travel to the United Kingdom without a visa. They must have proof of funds and not fall subject to any of the grounds for refusal. They can ask for permission to enter at the border under the Temporary Work – Creative Worker visa concession. They must not use the passport e-gates to enter and must speak to a border officer to request a “leave to enter” stamp in their passport (though this rule is different for those coming through Ireland). Aside from the Certificate of Sponsorship, it’s a cheap and quick way to arrive in the country with a right to work in a sponsored role.

Applicants cannot normally switch to Temporary Work routes in-country. What’s quite special about the Creative Worker route is that it allows applicants to switch to this route if they are currently in the United Kingdom as with Visitor status, provided certain conditions are met. This applies to:

  • Standard Visitors who have entered the country and have been undertaking permitted activities in the creative sector; and
  • Permitted Paid Engagement (PPE) Visitors, specifically professional artist, entertainer, or musician, who has entered the country to carry out activities directly related to their creative profession, where they have been invited by a creative organization, agent, or broadcaster based in the United Kingdom.

Essentially this could be a faster way to enter the country that allows applicants to regularise their stay later if needed.

Who can be a sponsor?

Sponsors will be operating in the creative sector. Examples include, but are not limited to a national arts body, an events organizer, a producer, a venue, an agent, a promoter or promotion company, a production company, or a media organization.

A sponsor may not be the applicant’s employer. For example, a theatre troupe and their support entourage plan to do a tour of the United Kingdom. They can be sponsored by the venue or a promoter or an agent, but they will not be direct employees of the sponsor.

Where the sponsor is not the employer, the Home Office may review the arrangements and monitor the sponsor closely to make sure that their duties are being fulfilled. This may include requesting additional information at the time of submitting a defined Certificate of Sponsorship request or conducting an audit (with or without notice).

What is the Certificate of Sponsorship requirement?

In addition to the usual things a sponsor declares when issuing a Certificate of Sponsorship (name, details of the job, salary, etc), they will also confirm one of the following:

  • the applicant complies with their relevant Code of Practice under Appendix Creative Workers Codes of Practice (where one exists for their role) in dance, theatre, film, and television, or as a model in the fashion industry;
  • the role appears in the shortage occupation list in Appendix Shortage Occupation List; or
  • before assigning the Certificate of Sponsorship, the sponsor took into account the needs of the resident labor market in that field and was satisfied that the work could not be carried out by a settled worker.

Where a code of practice applies, the sponsor must follow it.

If there is no code of practice, a sponsor must show that the sponsored worker will not be displacing a settled worker. There is a free text box on the Certificate of Sponsorship to detail this. If you’re having flashbacks to the strict resident labor market test requirements in place before the 2020 changes to the Immigration Rules, I feel your pain. The good news is that the new requirements are slightly less strict (more on this below).

A sponsor does not need to follow a code of practice or otherwise take into account the needs of the resident labor market if they are sponsoring a Creative Worker in a role specified in the shortage occupation list.

Sponsors in the creative sector can issue Certificates of Sponsorship to individuals or groups (such as a performer and their entourage). If you are dealing with a group, read the guidance carefully on the key differences when filling out the certificate.

Workers under the age of 18 are eligible, but the sponsor must demonstrate that they have implemented appropriate measures to safeguard their welfare and complied with relevant legislation (including obtaining a child performance license if applicable). They must also have parental consent.

What is the Resident Labour Market Test for Creative Workers?

A sponsor must be able to show how they have recruited sponsored workers. A sponsor may have met the test by:

  • advertising the post to let settled workers apply;
  • relying on the international status of the worker e.g. by virtue of the worker being who they are; and
  • applying the principles set out in Appendix Creative Worker Codes of Practice to sectors for which there is no code of practice.

The sponsor must retain evidence of recruitment for sponsored workers, as set out in Appendix D: keeping documents – guidance for sponsors. This includes taking screenshots to ensure certain information is captured from workers employed. Documentation of each settled worker who was rejected or did not take up an offer of employment should also be kept. The list is extensive, so do take the time to read and understand it.

Requirements for temporary workers

The worker must meet the validity, suitability, and eligibility requirements. We’ll do a quick tour through the validity and suitability requirements first, then focus in the detail on the eligibility requirements.

Validity requirements

The validity requirements are similar to the requirements for most of the points-based routes under the new immigration system (but not the same). The applicant must submit a valid visa application and pay the required application fee, Immigration Health Surcharge (if applicable), enroll their biometrics, submit their documents, and have an assigned Certificate of Sponsorship issued no more than 3 months before the date of application.

Do remember the two special features of the validation rules that were explained above, including the border concession and switching in-country.

Suitability requirement

The applicant must not fall for refusal under the grounds set out in Part 9 of the Immigration Rules. If applying for permission to stay, they mustn’t be in breach of immigration laws except for the usual paragraph 39E (which contains exceptions for overstayers) and they must not be on immigration bail.

Eligibility requirements

Aside from satisfying the validity, suitability, and Certificate of Sponsorship requirements, an applicant will need to demonstrate that they meet the eligibility requirements. This includes:

  • showing that you genuinely intend, and are able, to undertake the role for which you are being sponsored and do not intend to undertake other employment;
  • meeting the financial requirement;
  • providing a valid TB certificate, if required; and
  • providing parental consent for any applicant under 18 years of age.

There is no English language requirement.

Genuineness requirement

The applicant must genuinely intend and be able to undertake the role they are being sponsored to do. A caseworker considering the application can request additional information and evidence. When making their assessment, the caseworker must take into account the applicant’s knowledge of the role, relevant experience of the skills needed to do the role, knowledge of the sponsor, explanation of how they were recruited, and “any other relevant information”.

Additional information and documentation must be provided within 10 working days of a request from the Home Office, failing which the application will be refused. They can also request that the applicant attends an interview.

On many sponsored visas workers should not intend to undertake employment other than in the role for which they are being sponsored. However, Creative Workers are permitted to undertake supplementary employment without breaching the genuineness requirement.

Financial requirement

Those who have been present in the United Kingdom with valid immigration status for 12 months or longer on the date of the application do not need to evidence this requirement.

Anyone applying for entry-clearance or applying for permission to stay has been in the country for less than 12 months, must show that they have funds of at least £1,270. Evidence such as bank statements must be in a particular format showing key information and funds must have been held for a minimum 28-day period as specified in Appendix Finance.

Alternatively, (and it’s much easier if) the sponsor ticks to certify maintenance on the Certificate of Sponsorship. This means that they, as an A-rated sponsor, confirm that if it is necessary, they will maintain and accommodate the applicant up to the end of the first month of their employment for an amount of at least £1,270. This does away with the need to submit extra paperwork like bank statements.

Parental consent requirement for applicants under 18 years

If the applicant is aged under 18 on the date of application, they must have written consent from:

  • both parents;
  • one parent, if that parent has sole legal responsibility for the applicant; or
  • the applicant’s legal guardian.

The written consent must confirm support for all of the following:

  • the application;
  • the applicant’s living and care arrangements in the United Kingdom; and
  • if the application is for entry clearance, the applicant’s travel to, and reception arrangements in the United Kingdom.

Don’t forget that if two birth parents are not available to sign, things like sole responsibility or legal guardianship will need to be proven, which can be quite a time-consuming and document-heavy task. We haven’t covered dependent family member requirements and documents in this briefing but general guidance can be found here.

How much does it cost?

This route is comparatively cheap. There is no Certificate of Sponsorship fee and no skills charge. And, if the worker is applying for entry-clearance for a period of fewer than 6 months, they will be exempt from the Immigration Health Surcharge.

For an entry-clearance application for a duration of 12 months, fees are as follows:

  • Application fee: £259
  • Immigration Health Surcharge: £624
  • Any priority processing fees: approx. £250

The fees vary slightly for applications made in-country. Fees are revised (often upward) every April; see the Home Office website for the up-to-date list.

How long does it take?

Once you’ve applied online, proved your identity, and provided your documents, you’ll usually get a decision on your visa within 3 weeks if you’re outside the United Kingdom and 8 weeks if you’re in-country.

Priority services are currently available, but the Home Office confirms that they are still working through a backlog and processing times are not guaranteed. Check for updates on visa decision waiting times before advising on feasibility and timeframes.

What is the visa duration and can it be extended?

If the application is successful, permission to enter and stay will be issued for either 12 months, or the time stated on the Certificate of Sponsorship plus up to 14 days before and after the period of leave granted, whichever is shorter.

Creative Workers who wish to continue working for the same sponsor may apply to extend their stay for up to a maximum of 24 months. Creative workers who wish to change employers may only stay in the country for a maximum of 12 months.

Those who entered the country for up to 3 months under the border concession cannot extend their stay on the Creative Worker route.

Once the application is approved

Successful applicants will be granted either a digital immigration status (an eVisa) covering the duration of their stay or a physical visa and will need to collect their biometric residence permit when they enter the country.

A visa grant will be subject to a number of conditions:

  • no access to public funds;
  • work is permitted only in the role(s) the applicant is being sponsored for;
  • supplementary employment is permitted;
  • the study is permitted, subject to the ATAS condition in Appendix ATAS; and

The rules also still contain a requirement to register with the police, if Part 10 applies, though, in practice, this condition has been abolished. See our procedural update on this.

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