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What is the UK Permit Free Festivals List.

Andy Robertson

After BREXIT there were numerous changes to UK immigration rules regarding the free movement of performance artists between the EU and the UK which at the time was unclear. For UK festivals that wish to curate overseas artists to perform at a UK festival the government created the Permit Free Festival List.  


For a festival that is on the list the immigration rules allow performance artists to enter the UK and get paid to perform. There are currently 54 festivals on this list but how do festival organisers get onto the list and what are the key benefits of doing so.

Key Dates. 
Since its inception 3 years ago the application process to join the list opens towards the end of each year and closes at the end of January the following year. Once on the list festivals will automatically get carried over to the following year and do not have to apply every year. 

Application Process. 
Any festival that is interested in getting on the Permit Free Festival list will need to satisfy certain requirements. If these requirements are satisfied, they will then have to provide sufficient evidence to demonstrate this. The current rules state the following requirements for each festival application: 

  • Been established for at least 3 years.
  • Had an audience of at least 15,000 for each of the last 3 festivals.
  • An expected audience of at least 15,000 throughout the forthcoming event.
  • At least 15 non-British or Irish performers who have performed at each of the last 3 festivals.
  • At least 15 non-British or Irish performers who have been invited for the upcoming event. 

The documents specified as evidence in support of any application include: 

  • Copies of the event brochures or programmes for the last 3 years.
  • A letter from the Arts Council, or another such body if they support the event.
  • Press cuttings relating to the event for the last 3 years.
  • Confirmation of ticket sales and attendance details for the last 3 years.
  • Evidence from the local police or licensing authority concerning the cultural event or festival.
  • The number of non-British or Irish performers and their nationalities for the last 3 years.
  • The number of non-British or Irish performers who have been invited for the forthcoming event.
  • Other additional evidence if requested by the Home Office. 

Benefits of the Permit Free Festival List.
The primary benefit is reduced expense and simplification of immigration procedures for overseas artists contracted for a paid performance at a UK festival. Artists can use the ‘Standard Visitor Visa’ which is quick and easy to process and negates the need for organisers to supply a certificate of sponsorship under the points-based system (Permitted Paid Engagements) where a sponsor licence is also required.  

For reference have a look at the UK’s Gov website where more details are set out in Appendix Visitor: Permit Free Festival list of the Immigration Rules.

For festival organisers planning their events using a software management platform like Festival Pro gives them all the functionality they need manage every aspect of their event logistics. The guys who are responsible for this software have been in the front line of event management for many years and the features are built from that experience and are performance artists themselves. The Festival Pro platform is easy to use and has comprehensive features with specific modules for managing artists, contractors, venues/stages, vendors, volunteers, sponsors, guestlists, ticketing, cashless payments and contactless ordering.

Photo by Jc Siller from Pexels

Andy Robertson
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