Short-term immigration solutions for crew and support teams

Fragomen Associate, Jasmine Jackson and Paralegal, Milosz Skorupski outline the short-term immigration solutions for production crews and support teams.

Fragomen's Jasmine Jackson and Milosz Skorupski

To the delight of audiences following the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions, live events are back in full swing in the UK. Given the international crew composition for these events, those responsible for production roles who are non-UK residents will typically enter the country via either the Visitor Visa route or the Temporary Creative Worker (“TCW”) route.


Visitors are permitted to stay in the UK for up to six months but cannot undertake any paid or unpaid work for a UK company unless a specific work permit exemption applies. If you organise a festival or cultural event, and your event is on the Home Office’s list of permit free festivals, for example, Glastonbury, then your performers will be able to enter the UK as a Visitor and will not require sponsorship. Exemptions also exist for entertainers and musicians who are part of a live production if they remain employed by an overseas company and the project is being financed overseas. The exemption in the UK Immigration Rules will allow them to partake in an artistic live event. Similarly, production, personal or technical team members are permitted to undertake activities related to the arts if they are employed overseas and are accompanying and supporting a performing artist, entertainer, or musician.

To carry out the above-listed activities, a certain group of nationalities (so-called ‘visa nationals’) will be required to obtain a Visitor Visa. Applicants for this visa must be able to satisfy the Home Office that they genuinely intend to partake in permitted activities, have access to sufficient funds to support/maintain themselves and will leave the UK at the end of their visit.

As this is often the most challenging part of the visa application process, applicants should prepare several supporting documents showing personal and economic ties to their home country, an employment support letter confirming their assignment and evidence of funding associated with the trip.

Applicants should also note that the standard processing time for a Visitor Visa is three weeks from the date of a biometrics appointment. Priority services might be available and they will be required to submit their original passport as part of this process (thus hindering any interim travel). Nationals not included in the visa list can also travel to the UK for up to six months, however, they too are still required to meet the Visitor Visa requirements and may be questioned at the border about the nature of their activities in the UK. Both groups of nationals must be familiar with the permitted activities for visitors to ensure compliance with UK Immigration rules.


The TCW visa is a short-term employment solution for individuals working in the live entertainment sector whose role can be deemed creative and related to the arts. To be sponsored under this route, an individual must identify a UK employer who holds the relevant licence to sponsor under the TCW route. If not, the UK employer must apply for a sponsor licence which can be a document-heavy and lengthy process (applications can take up to 12 months, extendable for a further 12) and therefore something to factor in before being work-ready in the UK.

Standard processing times for this application are three weeks and applicants must submit an entry clearance application from overseas (it is not possible to switch into this visa route). Initially, an overseas crew member may be sponsored for a period of up to 12 months, extendable for further 12 months with the same sponsor.

In the event an individual is required beyond the maximum 24 months this visa permits, they will have the option to switch to the Skilled Worker visa from within the UK.


For non-visa nationals who wish to work in the UK for a maximum duration of three months, the Creative Worker visa concession is one of the most time, admin, and cost-effective processes. Prior to arriving in the UK (this can be anywhere between three months to one day ahead of arrival), the UK sponsor will need to issue a Certificate of Sponsorship (“CoS”) which costs £21 and outlines the individual’s prospective employment details in the UK.

Once at the border, the individual will present the CoS alongside their passport and the immigration officer will place a work permission stamp in their passport. Given the fast-paced and multi-location nature of the creative sector, this concession is a favourable solution for those who require a temporary work visa at short notice.

As outlined, international crew members working on live events have several available routes for entry into the UK, but advanced planning and proper documentation are key to help avoid issues with entry or allowable stay.

This article originally appeared in issue #276 of TPi, which you can read here.