Fears eased over Festival performer visa crisis
- 8 May 2008
This article is from 2008.
Festival performers to be granted new visa under change to immigration laws
Fears that thousands of performers at the Edinburgh Festival would be prevented from entering the UK due to new immigration legislation have been eased with the introduction of a new type of visa.
The Home Office has announced that visiting performers from outside Europe can now be reclassified under a special visitor category.
The problem arose after the recent introduction of a new points-based system designed to control and track immigration which also sees applicants require a sponsor, which in most cases is their employer.
In practical terms, this would have required that the Festival organisations act as 'official sponsor' for each individual visiting performer. Over 3,000 overseas artists travel to perform in the Fringe each year from outside Europe, so this would have resulted in an impractical financial and administrative state of affairs.
Scottish Secretary Des Browne has welcomed an announcement by the Home Office, which means that thousands of future performers at the Edinburgh Festivals, including the Fringe, will benefit by not requiring an official 'sponsor' to attend the capital's annual cultural showpiece.
The creative - and sporting - sector had previously raised concerns that the introduction of the new Points-Based System for those wishing to come to the UK would have had an adverse financial and administrative effect.
Des Browne met with UK immigration minister Liam Byrne to discuss the potential impact of the changes on the festivals and Scotland's sporting and cultural events.
The announcement provides that those currently coming under existing concessions for sportspeople and entertainers, including people coming to perform at 'permit-free festivals' will be reclassified under a special visitor category, meaning there will be no requirement for sponsorship. Those who do not require a visa will not have to apply for prior entry clearance. For those who do require a visa, the cost will remain broadly the same as for the existing visitor's visa.
Des Browne said: "The Points-Based system is part of the most radical overhaul of the immigration system for decades and it will ensure that the system is fair, consistent and transparent for everyone.
"It will mean that the UK only admits the skilled migrants that it needs, and sponsorship will be a crucial element in the new system because employers will be held accountable for the workers they bring into the country.
"However, the festivals are an essential part of Scotland's, and the UK's cultural and economic life and it is only right that the Government makes every effort to support their future success and diversity.
"I have listened to the concerns of Scotland's entertainers and sportspeople and I'm pleased that following consultation and discussions at the highest level, we've been able to secure a solution that was satisfactory for everyone."
Jon Morgan, Director of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe said: "We have been working closely with the Scotland Office and the UK Border Agency towards a favourable outcome which recognises the cultural and economic impact that the Edinburgh Festival Fringe brings, not only to Edinburgh and Scotland but to the UK as a whole.
We look forward to discussing the proposed visitor category and are optimistic that this welcome development will help secure the Fringe's status as the largest open access international arts festival in the world."