It is no secret that the music and entertainment industries were hit extremely hard by coronavirus. With venues closing, shows being cancelled and travel restrictions being put in place, it is fair to say that many aspects of this lucrative market ground to a halt.
Now that restrictions are slowly being lifted, those who work in this industry are trying to get things back up and running so that events can go ahead in the coming months. However, there is a hurdle they must overcome in relation to immigration: Certificates of Sponsorship.
What is a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS)?
A CoS can be thought of in relation to most businesses, not only those in the music industry. It is essentially a document which organisations issue to workers to allow them to work here in the UK, within certain requirements. There are different kinds of sponsorships, such as the Worker License and the Temporary Worker License.
A ‘Worker’ licence will let you employ people long-term or permanently. It is split into:
- Skilled Worker – the role must meet the job suitability requirements
- Intra-company visas – this includes Intra-company Transfer and Intra-company Graduate Trainee, for multinational companies which need to transfer established employees or graduate trainees to the UK
- Minister of Religion – for people coming to work for a religious organisation
- Sportsperson – for elite sportspeople and coaches who will be based in the UK
A ‘Temporary Worker’ licence will let you employ people on a temporary basis. It is split into:
- Creative or Sporting Worker – to work as a high-level sportsperson (up to 1 year), entertainer or artist (up to 2 years)
- Charity Worker – for unpaid workers at a charity (up to 1 year)
- Religious Worker – for those working in a religious order or organisation (2 years)
- Government Authorised Exchange Worker – work experience (1 year), research projects or training, for example practical medical or scientific training (2 years) to enable a short-term exchange of knowledge
- International Agreement Worker – where the worker is coming to do a job which is covered by international law, for example employees of overseas governments
- Seasonal Worker – for those coming to the UK for up to 6 months to do farm work
How does this affect the music industry?
Most live music and entertainment companies will have a sponsor licence that allows them to issue temporary work visas to artists, allowing them to legally perform in the UK. The amount of sponsorships each company needs is often directly dependant on how many they used the previous year.
Normally, this would be a reasonable method of distribution. However, due to the pandemic most venues did not use any sponsorships as no shows were able to take place. This means that for this year, companies are not being issued as many sponsorships as they need and in some cases they are being issued none at all.
To remedy this issue, companies are having to request they be allocated these sponsorships so that they can arrange events. To make matters more complicated, it may be hard to tell how many sponsorships they are going to need as the coronavirus situation is not completely cleared up yet.
Home Office tried to profit off a situation they created?
The Home Office released guidance saying that if organizers pay them a fee of £200 they will administer the sponsorships in one working week, fixing the issue. This seems unreasonable because the only reason the companies were not allocated sponsorships in the first place was due to the coronavirus, not their own shortcomings, and it was the Home Office that decided to punish them by providing zero contracts the following year. To charge £200 to reinstate the sponsorships is simply profiteering.
Backlash forces Home Office to retract fees
After receiving complaints from industry leaders, and some negative press, the Home Office has now moved away from charging businesses for reinstating these sponsorships, and has said that any who already paid this £200 fee can apply for a refund.
What do we think?
It has always been the Home Office’s statement that immigration should benefit economy, rather than benefiting from it. It is interesting to see the dramatic development of this issue. All areas of the economy have suffered a heavy blow from the pandemic. It is more urgent now than ever that the Home Office should cut down its red tape and streamline the worker sponsoring system so that companies can recruit workers they need to re-ignite the economy.
What we would say to those who may be affected by this, and who have still got zero sponsorships is to try and act as quickly as possible to rectify the situation, as it is unlikely that anyone from the Home Office will reach out to you first. If you need help, our specialist business immigration team is ready to stand by your side and provide any assistance you will need for your business. Alternatively, you can also do this by emailing the Sponsor Change of Circumstances team here.
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