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How to apply for a Temporary Work – Creative Worker visa

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What is a creative worker visa and why is this route useful?

A Creative Worker is someone who can make a unique contribution to the country’s rich cultural life, for example, as an artist, dancer, musician or entertainer, or as a model contributing to the fashion industry. The Creative Worker route allows them to come to the United Kingdom to work in these sectors on a temporary basis.

Technical and support staff can also travel and work under this visa, if their employment is directly related to the work being undertaken and they have a prior working relationship with the Creative Worker. For example, production crews with proven technical or specialist skills, or a personal assistant supporting a director of international status in film or television.

An applicant must have a valid Certificate of Sponsorship issued by a Home Office approved A-rated sponsor using a valid Temporary Work – Creative Worker sponsor licence. There is no English language requirement, but a resident labour market test may be required (more on this below).

This is not a route to settlement. A person can be granted permission for up to 12 months initially and can apply to extend their stay up to a maximum of two years if they are still working for the same sponsor. Partners and children can apply as dependants.

Key information

Previously a sub-category of the Tier 5 (Temporary Worker) route in Part 6A of the Immigration Rules, under the “new” rules the Creative Worker route can now be found in Appendix Temporary Work – Creative Worker and the Appendix Creative Worker Codes of Practice. The route is one of five under Appendix Temporary Worker. The others are Charity, Religious, Government Authorised Exchange and Seasonal Workers (and the International Agreement route now falls under the Global Business Mobility – Service Supplier category).

The Immigration Rules should be read in conjunction with the specific sponsor guidance for this route: Worker and Temporary Workers: guidance for sponsors: sponsor a Creative Worker. It contains essential information for employers in the creative sector on how to sponsor a person on this route. There is also specific mention in Appendix D: keeping documents – guidance for sponsors for Creative Workers.

Consider alternatives first

Given that this route involves sponsorship and doesn’t lead to settlement, it’s worth exploring other alternative routes:

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 – border concession and switching in-country

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 on 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 into Temporary Work routes in-country. What’s quite special about the Creative Worker route is that it allows applicants to switch into 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 a 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 organisation, 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 organiser, a producer, a venue, an agent, a promoter or promotion company, a production company or a media organisation.

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 labour 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 labour 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 labour 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 licence 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 worker 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.

What is the difference between single, multiple and consecutive engagements?

A Certificate of Sponsorship can be issued for one or more engagements by the same sponsor. Rehearsal periods can be included in the period of an engagement, but sponsors must not exaggerate the length of engagement in order to extend a worker’s stay. In doing so, they risk the Home Office revoking their sponsor licence.

Example of a single engagement

Bob Zylan is an American rock star and Best Agent Limited will represent him to play at the Apollo Theatre in London for a period of 12 months. Subject to having a valid A-rated sponsor licence, the Apollo Theatre or Best Agent Limited can sponsor Bob Zylan using a Certificate of Sponsorship to cover the whole 12-month period.

Example of multiple engagements

Best Agent Limited actually decide to send Bob around the UK performing at various different venues. Best Agent Limited can remain Bob’s only sponsor in the UK provided there is no more than 14 days between each individual engagement (excluding time spent outside the UK).

Example of consecutive engagements

While playing in London, Bob is approached by promoters who ask him to play at more venues including a few small independent nightclubs. In these circumstances, each one of those sponsors must assign a Certificate of Sponsorship to cover its own engagement. None of the certificates can overlap and there must not be a gap of more than 14 days (excluding time spent outside the UK) between each certificate assigned. This is known as having consecutive engagements.

The sponsor guidance provides an example of how the 14-day rule operates:

“When calculating the 14-day period between engagements, any time spent by the worker outside the UK (including the dates of their departure from and return to the UK) will not count towards the 14 days. For example, if the worker has an engagement in the UK on 1 June, they leave the UK on 8 June and return on 15 June, the period from 8 to 15 June inclusive will not count towards the 14-day period. In this scenario, the worker’s next engagement must take place no later than 24 June (assuming they spend no further time outside the UK during this period).

If, in the above scenario, the worker had not spent any time outside the UK, their next engagement must take place no later than 15 June (14 days after the first engagement).”

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), enrol 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 validity 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 the 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 having 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 dependant 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 less 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 confirm 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;
  • 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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Pip Hague

Pip Hague

Pip Hague is a Senior Practice Development Lawyer at Lewis Silkin.

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