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Anne Morris: Cost, time and hassle – what awaits cross-border performers after a no-deal Brexit

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As the UK approaches March 29 with no deal yet agreed with the European Union on the terms of its departure, many people in the entertainment business are getting anxious about what this means for them.

The impact of a no-deal Brexit shouldn’t be underestimated – both for citizens from the European Economic Area looking to work in entertainment here, or for employers in the industry and those who run UK theatre, live arts and touring events wanting to bring European talent into the UK.

Likewise, UK nationals heading to Europe for work will be affected under a no-deal Brexit. After March 29, Britons travelling to EU countries will need at least six months on their passport, and their rights to stay will vary from country to country.

The industry currently relies on the free flow of talent and skills across European borders, but in the event of a no-deal Brexit, travel to the UK for auditions, rehearsals, training, promotional and performance tours is likely to be affected.

After March 29, EU citizens not already in the UK will be able to enter the country for visits, work or study as they do now, but they will only be allowed to stay for a maximum of three months. While travel for a short-term run of rehearsals or shows shouldn’t be affected, to stay longer than three months, EEA nationals will need to apply to the Home Office for the new European Temporary Leave to Remain. Cost, time and hassle will all need to be factored into the equation.

An additional concern will be the temporary nature of the new leave to remain for EEA nationals, as it is only to be granted for a maximum of three years. At the end of the three years, the individual will have to leave their job and the country, unless they can apply for a different visa. This is likely to render the UK less attractive for those looking for longer-term opportunity and commitment.

Despite the imminent deadline, it’s not yet clear how the Home Office will assess or administer the new European Leave to Remain. Who will be eligible, how do you apply and how much will it cost? This makes it difficult to understand how much of a financial and administrative burden the process will be for applicants, and to gauge how much it will impact access and availability of EU citizens within the UK for industry employers.

The no-deal arrangements only affect EEA nationals who arrive in the UK after Brexit day on March 29. Those already in the UK, whether studying or working, will instead have to register with the Home Office by applying for UK settled status before December 2020. This safeguards their rights to remain in the UK to live, work and study here.

For example, a Spanish performer who arrived in the UK in March 2018 and who has since been touring the UK with a theatre company, will be able to stay here provided they apply for pre-settled status by December 2020.

However, an Italian theatre student who arrives in July 2019 after finishing their studies can come to the UK to work and study temporarily, but will have to apply for European Leave to Remain if they want to stay in the UK for longer than three months.

The no-deal arrangements have been specifically designed to buy the government time to devise and legislate for a new system of immigration rules. These are expected to take effect by January 2021.

Looking ahead, it’s unlikely that governments and immigration officials will want the burden of policing the movement of touring groups and entertainment professionals going both in and out of the UK. But uncertainty will prevail for the time being, with both EU and UK citizens advised to double-check their status before travel.

Anne Morris is an immigration solicitor and managing director at UK immigration law firm DavidsonMorris

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