By Paul Richmond – Immigration Barrister
If you are a festival organiser with an event that is scheduled to start between 7 April 2022 and 6 April 2024, you have until 31 January 2022 to apply for your festival to be included on the Permit Free Festival List.
Festivals which were included on the Permit Free Festival List in 2020 to 2021 will be automatically included on the list for 2022 to 2024.
What is the Permit Free Festival List?
The Permit Free Festival List is a list of festivals and events that have been recognised by the Home Office as contributing to the cultural heritage of the UK.
Qualifying festivals and events will have been established for at least 3 years, have had an audience of at least 15,000 at each of the last 3 festivals and expect to have an audience of at least 15,000 during the course of the next event. A full list of all the requirements to join the Permit Free Festival List is set out below.
The current List of Permit Free Festivals can be found in Appendix Visitor: Permit Free Festival list of the Immigration Rules.
Why Should a Festival Apply to Join the Permit Free Festival List?
If you organise a festival or event, it will be much easier and cheaper for your performers to enter the UK if your event is on the Home Office’s List of Permit Free Festivals.
Festivals and events which are included on the Permit Free Festival List are able to invite artists, entertainers and musicians to perform at their event without the need to issue a certificate of sponsorship under the points-based system. This means that festival organisers do not need to go through the often time consuming and costly process of applying for a sponsor licence in order to host overseas artists, entertainers and musicians in the UK.
Instead, performers attending festivals or events on the Permit Free Festival List can enter the UK under the Standard Visitor route. Most visitors will need to make an application for a visit visa from their country of residence, before travelling. However, nationals of some countries are exempt from this requirement and can simply apply for leave to enter as a visitor at the UK border.
A further advantage of joining the Permit Free Festival List is that, exceptionally, performers at such festivals can be paid for their participation at the event. Normally, visitors to the UK are not permitted to work or receive payment from a UK source for any activities undertaken in the UK. However, artists, entertainers and musicians who perform at a Permit Free Festival can perform and be paid for their performance.
Festival and event organisers may also wish to note that where entertainers or artists are established professionals it may be possible for them to use the Permitted Paid Engagement visitor route instead.
Requirements to Join the Permit Free Festival List
In order to join the Permit Free Festival List, your festival or event will need to satisfy various eligibility criteria. Your festival or event must:
- Have been established for at least 3 years;
- Have had an audience of at least 15,000 for each of the last 3 festivals;
- Have an expected audience of at least 15,000 throughout the forthcoming event;
- Have at least 15 non-British or Irish performers who have performed at each of the last 3 festivals;
- Have at least 15 non-British or Irish performers who have been invited for 2021 to 2022.
Coronavirus (COVID-19) and the List of Permit Free Festivals
The Home Office has confirmed that festival organisers will not be penalised if coronavirus (COVID-19) has affected their ability to meet the eligibility criteria.
Festivals that were not able to operate (including those which held smaller scale events) in 2020 or 2021 will be assessed on whether they met the criteria in 2019.
Application Process to become a Permit Free Festival
The Home Office requires a number of documents in support of an application to join the List of Permit Free Festivals.
Festival organisers must provide the following:
- 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.
The evidence should be sent electronically to [email protected] before 31 January 2022. Large documents should be sent as zip files.
UK Visa Options for Performing Artists
Once a festival or event has been added to the Permit Free Festival List, festival organisers will need to consider the most appropriate UK immigration route for their performing artists to enter the UK.
Standard Visitor route
In order to be granted a Standard Visitor visa (or, for non-visa nationals, leave to enter as a Standard Visitor at the UK border), the performing artist will need to satisfy UK Visas and Immigration that they are a genuine visitor. This means that they:
- Will leave the UK at the end of their visit;
- Will not live in the UK for extended periods through frequent or successive visits, or make the UK their main home;
- Are genuinely seeking entry for a purpose that is permitted by the visitor routes and will not undertake any prohibited activities;
- Have sufficient funds to cover all reasonable costs in relation to their visit;
Taking part in one or more cultural events or festivals on the List of Permit Free Festivals is recognised by the Home office as a permitted purpose.
Standard Visitors will be permitted to stay in the UK for up to 6 months.
Permitted Paid Engagement route
In order to qualify for a Permitted Paid Engagement visa (or, for non-visa nationals, leave to enter as a Permitted Paid Engagement visitor at the UK border), the performing artist will need to satisfy UK Visas & Immigration that:
- They intend to undertake specific paid work;
- They have been invited by a UK-based organisation or client;
- The work relates to their area of expertise or occupation overseas;
- They will leave the UK at the end of their visit;
- They have sufficient funds to maintain and accommodate themselves during their visit.
Entry will be granted for up to one month for Permitted Paid Engagement visitors.
For a detailed look at the visit visa options for creative artists and entertainers please see
The exact requirements that a performing artist will need to satisfy may vary depending on their personal circumstances. To discuss a UK visa application for an overseas artist or entertainer please contact our immigration barristers.
List of Permit Free Festivals
The following festivals are currently on the Permit Free Festival List:
- Aldeburgh Festival
- Barbican Festivals – Live from the Barbican
- Belfast International Arts Festival
- Billingham International Folklore Festival of World Dance
- Boomtown Festival
- Breakin’ Convention
- Brighton Festival
- Brighton Fringe
- Brouhaha international
- BST Hyde Park
- Cambridge Folk Festival
- Camp Bestival
- Celtic Connections
- Cheltenham Festivals (Jazz, Science, Music & Literature Festivals)
- Cornwall International Male Choral Festival
- Dance Umbrella
- Edinburgh Festival Fringe
- Edinburgh International Book Festival
- Edinburgh International Festival
- Edinburgh International Jazz and Blues Festival
- Freedom Festival
- Garsington Opera
- Glasgow International Jazz Festival
- Glastonbury Festival
- Green Man
- Greenwich and Docklands International Festival
- Harrogate International Festivals
- Hay Festival
- Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival
- Isle of Wight Festival
- Leeds Festival
- Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod
- London International Festival of Theatre (LIFT)
- London Jazz Festival (EFG)
- Love Supreme
- Manchester International Festival
- Meltdown (Southbank Centre)
- Norfolk & Norwich Festival
- Out There Festival
- Reading Festival
- Snape Proms
- Southbank Centre Festivals
- The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo
- The Warehouse Project
- Wireless Festival
- WWE Live
Contact our Immigration Barristers
For expert advice and assistance with an application to join the Permit Free Festival List, or to apply for a visa for a performing artist to enter the UK, contact our immigration barristers in Covent Garden on 0203 617 9173 or complete our enquiry form below.