< back

by Vanessa Ganguin

Applications open for UK festivals to join list of immigration permit free events

1 December 2022

Applications are being accepted again by the Home Office for events that want to be able to invite entertainers or artists without the bureaucratic burden and expense of applying for a sponsor licence, then issuing a certificate of sponsorship and applying for a work visa for paid performers.

What is the UK’s Permit Free Festival list on the Immigration Rules?

Non-British or Irish entertainers wishing to perform at UK events on paid engagements are able to do so without the need of immigration permits if these appear on the list of Permit-Free Festivals (see below.) (Under the Common Travel Area, there are no restrictions on the ability of Irish entertainers to perform in the UK or on UK artists travelling to play in Ireland on paid engagements.)

Events not not the list would generally need a Creative Worker sponsor licence or may be able to use the Permitted Paid Engagements. There are no extra restrictions on visitors to the UK performing at non-paying gigs, for example a charity event.

Performers can come to the UK as visitors and perform on paid gigs at qualifying events on the list now open to applications.

Festivals on the list can pay them even if they enter the UK under the Standard Visitor route. The Permitted Paid Engagement visitor route is also open for performers where they are established professionals. Performers can use either route – though in practice there shouldn’t be any benefit to using the Permitted Paid Engagement visa over a standard visitor visa given narrower eligibility, shorter duration and added procedure at the border.

We are recognised in top legal guides and awards such as The Time Best Law Firms for our lengthy experience of working with the entertainment and arts industries, so for more immigration advice please do contact us on +44(0)207 033 9527 or enquiries@vanessaganguin.com.

What is the deadline for festivals applying to be on the Permit Free Festival list?

If you want your event to be included on the permit free festival list, you must apply by 31 January 2023 if it starts between 6 April 2023 and 5 April 2024.

Do events currently on the Permit Free Festival list need to renew?

According to the new Home Office guidance, festivals currently included on the list will remain on it until 5 April 2024 unless organisers request otherwise, and they are not required to take further action.

What are the requirements of the list of Permit Free Festivals?

If your event does not currently feature on the list below, you must demonstrate that the festival

  • is established for at least 3 years
  • commanded an audience of at least 15,000 in each of the last three festivals
  • expects an audience of at least 15,000 throughout the upcoming event
  • had at least 15 non-British or Irish performers performing at each of the last three festivals
  • has at least 15 non-British or Irish performers invited for 2023 to 2024

NB: According to the Home Office guidance, events will not be penalised if the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted their eligibility. Festivals cancelled or downscaled in 2020 or 2021 will be assessed on whether they met the criteria in 2019.

How to apply to the Permit Free Festival list

If your event is not already on the list below, you should email your application to: PFFAdmin@homeoffice.gov.uk , attaching large documents as zip files. You can also email questions about requirements and supporting documents.

Hard copies of brochures or programmes can also be sent to:

Visit and Visa Policy
Borders, Visitors and International Migration
Home Office
2nd Floor Peel
2 Marsham Street

What documents do festival organisers need to support an application to be included on the Permit Free Festival list?

The ability to submit hard copies of brochures has been reintroduced after it was stopped temporarily during the pandemic. In your application to add your festival to the permit free list you must include:

  • copies of event brochures or programmes for the last three 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 three years
  • confirmation of ticket sales and attendance details for the last three 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 three years
  • the number of non-British or Irish performers who have been invited to the next event
  • additional evidence if requested by the Home Office

List of Permit Free Festivals

Which festivals can artists be paid to perform at currently without the need of an immigration permit?

An artist, entertainer or musician visiting the UK to perform at one or more of the following permit free festivals may receive payment to do so:

·     Aldeburgh Festival
·      American Express presents BST Hyde Park
·      Barbican Festivals – Live from the Barbican
·      Belfast International Arts Festival
·      Belsonic
·      Billingham International Folklore Festival of World Dance
·      Birmingham, Sandwell & Westside Jazz Festival
·      Boomtown Festival
·      Brass
·      Breakin’ Convention
·      Brighton Festival
·      Brighton Fringe
·      Brouhaha International
·      Cambridge Folk Festival
·      Camp Bestival Dorset
·      Camp Bestival Shropshire
·      Celtic Connections
·      Cheltenham Festivals (Jazz, Science, Music & Literature Festivals)
·      Cornwall International Male Choral Festival
·      Coventry UK City of Culture
·      Creamfields North
·      Creamfields South
·      DaDaFest International
·      Dance Umbrella
·      Download
·      Edinburgh Festival Fringe
·      Edinburgh International Book Festival
·      Edinburgh International Children’s Festival
·      Edinburgh International Festival
·      Edinburgh International Jazz and Blues Festival
·      Freedom Festival Arts Trust
·      Garsington Opera
·      Glasgow International Jazz Festival
·      Glastonbury Festival
·      Glyndebourne
·      Greenbelt
·      Greenwich and Docklands International Festival
·      Green Man
·      Harrogate International Festivals
·      Hay Festival Foundation Ltd
·      Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival
·      Isle of Wight Festival
·      Latitude
·      Leeds Festival
·      Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod
·      London International Festival of Theatre (LIFT)
·      Love Supreme
·      Manchester International Festival
·      Meltdown (Southbank Centre)
·      Norfolk & Norwich Festival
·      Out There Festival
·      Parklife
·      Reading Festival
·      Shubbak
·      Sonica
·      Southbank Centre Festivals
·      SPECTRA Festival of Light
·      Summer at Snape
·      The EFG London Jazz Festival
·      The Great Escape Festival
·      The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo
·      The Warehouse Project
·      Wilderness
·      Wireless Festival
·      WOMAD
·      WWE Live.

For more detailed immigration, sponsorship and right to work advice and for any other questions on these and other immigration developments for UK businesses and events, or entertainers or firms abroad moving to the UK please contact us on +44(0)207 033 9527 or enquiries@vanessaganguin.com.


(Photo of girls enjoying a British festival by Aranxa Esteve on Unsplash)