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Certificates of Sponsorship (Work Permits) and Taxation

By Jacey Bedford

JaceyIf you are entering the country to work and you don't have a British or an EU passport then you will need to have your paperwork in order prior to travelling. Don't try and talk your way in, as you'll find yourself on the next flight home. British immigration staff at airports are much more polite than (say) in America, but don't let that fool you. They still have the power to refuse you admission.

Work Permits are now called Certificates of Sponsorship.

Yes you need authorisation to enter the country if you are doing gigs in the UK, even if it's only a few gigs and you're not being paid much (even if you're not being paid anything, in fact). It's no longer called a work permit but think of it as that if it helps. It's now called a Certificate of Sponsorship. Only a licensed sponsor can apply for a certificate on your behalf, so even if you arrange your own tour you will need to pay someone with a sponsor's licence (like me) to apply for your certificate.

Sports and entertainment come under Tier 5 - and that's what I'm licensed to apply for - Tier 5 sponsorship certificates.

iF YOU ARE FROM ONE OF THE COUNTRIES WHICH HAS VISA-FREE TRAVEL TO THE UK (i.e the USA, Canada, Australia, Israel, Mexico, Taiwan, Japan and a few others) and if you are coming in for less than three months, the application process is relatively straightforward (though there's a lot of careful form-filling to be done and you have to make sure the information you send me is accurate). A Certificate of Sponsorship comes in the form of a number. It's a virtual certificate - not a paper one. All you have to do is present that number to the immigration officials and it will enable them to find you (and your certificate) on their database. When I issue a CoS I also send you a print out of the entry on the online Sponsor Management System, just because most people feel better if they have a piece of paper in their hands when they arrive. If you are getting your CoS from a different sponsor you can ask for this.

Anyone coming in from ANY COUNTRY for longer than three months, or anyone coming in from a country where a visa is a pre-requirement for travel - such as African counties, India, Pakistan, and a number of counties in South America and Asia - has to get documentation in their passport in their own country (called Entry Clearance) before travelling. For this you need your Certificate of Sponsorship number. Allow plenty of time. You need to apply to the British Embassy or High Commission in your own country. You can find details and download forms on the web. NOTE: I DO NOT DO THIS FOR YOU!

Also please note that having a Certificate of Sponsorship does NOT automatically guarantee that you will get a visa/entry clearance. A lot depends on you being able to prove your international standing as a performer when you fill in the application form. Send as much evidence of your status as you can.

I'm adding this note in November 2017... Within the last few months visa refusals for visa nationals have increased. (That is the applications for visas from artists who have a Certificate of Sponsorship.) Its almost as though the offices dealing with the issuing of visas/entry clearance have had a memo to tighten up and refuse as many visas as possible. (Note how I phrased that. I don't know that's the case, I'm only speculating.) In particular they are frequently issuing refusals for new artists who have no provable record of working internationally - even for (say) a new bandmember coming in with an established group. My advice to applicants is to make sure there is easily searchable online evidence of performances outside your own country, and that your British tour dates are online and easy to see at the venues you are playing. Also, get yourself a band/performer website, don't just rely on a facebook page. On that website, name every member of the group--their real (passport) names, not just their stage names.

If you are granted a Certificate of Sponsorship and (if applicable) Entry Clearance you have to fulfil legal requirements, like only doing work within the category you've applied for, and not overstaying your allocated time. You must not use your visa or Certificate of Sponsirship to enter the country for any other purposes than entertainment. You should not use it for marriage, or for seeking asylum or for tourism. If you make any alterations to your tour schedule, your arrival and/or departure dates you must let your sponsor know.

For Non-Visa nationals coming into the UK with a CoS ONLY... You must send a copy of your arrival stamp to your sponsor immediately on arrival in the UK. This is the stamp the immigration officer puts into your passport. If you are in a band and sending more than one stamp, make sure you label the images with your name.

For Visa Nationals. As soon as you get your Visa/Entry Clearance in your passport you should send a copy of the unused visa to your sponsor, and then when you arrive in the UK and the immigration officer has stamped your Visa/Entry Clearance with the arrival date, you should immediately send a copy of the stamped visa.

If your visa is refused, you should send your sponsor a copy of the refusal letter.

If your visa is granted, but you decide not to travel, you should let your sponsor know immediately.

There is another route to entry and that is a Permitted Paid Engagement Visa
The details are here: https://www.gov.uk/permitted-paid-engagement-visa. The cost is £89 per person (2018 figures). You can stay in the UK for up to one month and take part in arts, entertainment or sporting activities including broadcasting. For this you have to apply online, in advance. Check all the details on the web page.


Foreign Entertainers' Taxation - The Rules Changed in July 2012

Until July 2012 there was a liability for any venue paying a foreign national more than £1000 to withhold tax at the appropriate current rate. As of July 2012 that changed and venues do not need to withhold tax if they are paying less than £8105 (figures as of 2012) in one fee to one individual or band. (Note: a band, in this instance, only has the same limit as an individual regardless of how many members. It is a single entity.)

The annual limit which can be earned by any one person or group (paid as a group) in any one tax year (April to March) is now £8105 as of July 2012. This applies to nationals of many countries, but you need to check the status of your own country. Canadians and South Africans do have this tax allowance, for example, but Americans do NOT and therefore still have no personal allowance limit. They pay British tax from the get-go on all profits from a tour.

If you earn more than £8105 (profit after expenses) in any one tax year you should ask the Foreign Entertainers' Unit for the relevant paperwork so you can submit a return. Don't worry, you can claim it against tax to be paid in your own country when you come to do your own tax returns. You should not have to pay tax twice on the same amount of income, though the responsibility for checking this rests with you. I have always found the FEU very helpful when calling them with queries.

Foreign Entertainers Unit, Inland Revenue,
St John's House Unit 401
Merton Road
L69 9BB
+ 44 151 472 6488

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