American Artists On Tour In Europe: Navigating The Immigration Complexities

Embarking on multi-month European tours spanning various countries and countless concerts poses a significant challenge for American artists and their touring entourages.
European Union Immigration
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Embarking on multi-month European tours spanning various countries and countless concerts poses a significant challenge for American artists and their touring entourages. Planning and logistics, from securing performance venues to managing transportation and accommodations across diverse landscapes and cultures, can prove extremely challenging. However, amidst this intricate planning process, one critical aspect stands out: navigating the complex web of immigration regulations.

Each European country presents its own unique set of requirements, from visa applications to work permits, creating a formidable hurdle for touring musicians, their managers, organisers, and crew members. The intricacies of immigration law can easily become a bureaucratic puzzle, requiring meticulous attention to detail and proactive planning of a tailored itinerary to ensure swift transitions between countries and concerts.

This blog explores the behind-the-scenes nuances of planning a European tour, shedding light on the often-overlooked immigration considerations that shape the journey of travelling musicians and their crew members. Through a focused lens on select European countries, this blog uncovers the challenges and strategies involved in navigating this essential aspect of touring abroad.

Immigration considerations for touring across Europe

Many European countries, including the UK, often exempt performers and crew from work permit requirements.

For non-visa nationals who take advantage of work permit exemptions, and do not need visas in advance, it is crucial to track their stay (also for tourism) within the Schengen zone, limited to 90 days within 180 days to avoid overstaying penalties. Visa nationals must obtain visas before travelling.

In France, performing artists and their crew members, including technical staff involved in show production, are exempt from work permit requirements if their stay does not exceed three months.

Similarly, in Sweden and Austria, there are exemptions, though they come with nuances. In Sweden, performance artists, technicians and tour staff are exempt from work permit rules if invited by an "established arranger" for up to 14 days within 12 months. This exemption applies only if the artists and their entourage are invited by companies listed as established arrangers, requiring an official invitation letter from the promoter. Those not listed must adhere to standard immigration requirements, though they can request inclusion, a process taking about three months.

Austria also offers exemptions to foreign nationals in artistic professions, allowing them to work for up to eight weeks without an employment permit as part of an artistic production. The organiser or producer must report this employment to the appropriate regional office of the Public Employment Service on the day work commences.

For American performers and their crew members touring in Europe, the Netherlands offers various work permit exemptions for performing artists, musicians, technicians and tour staff. These exemptions, known as "incidental work," allow for periods of work and stay of up to six consecutive weeks within 13 weeks.

Regarding the possibility of settling in the Netherlands, management might explore a combined residence and work permit for "top performing artists" if the performer decides to make the country their new home.

In Italy, foreign artists, regardless of the duration of their work, must obtain a work permit and work visa. Fortunately, internationally renowned artists can apply for an artist self-employment visa, as they are likely to be invited by a significant Italian institution.

However, crew members face a more complex process, as they need to obtain a work permit and work visa sponsored by an Italian entity or co-producer.

In Spain, a special immigration category has been established for performing artists, technicians and professionals engaged in audiovisual activities, whether live or recorded for broadcast. Professionals in this sector are exempt from work permit requirements but must adhere to entry and stay rules determined by Spanish law for the sector, combined with Schengen rules. Consequently, under this category, an American musician and their cast and crew members (as long as they are also non-visa citizens) touring Europe could stay in Spain for up to 90 days within 180 days without a visa, provided they have sufficient time remaining on their Schengen allowance.

However, if some crew members are from countries that require a visa, they must obtain a short-term Schengen visa for the audiovisual sector from the Spanish Consulate in their home country. If the tour requires a longer stay in Spain, additional visas or permits would be necessary.

In Poland, American musicians accompanied by supporting acts and crews coming to perform one or two-day concerts may benefit from a work permit exemption allowing such activities for up to 30 days in a calendar year.

For short-term performances in Portugal and Ireland, entry is typically on a business-visit basis, simplifying the process. Additionally, travel to Ireland is not subject to Schengen rules, as the country is not a member of the area.

Moving on to the UK, which also falls outside the Schengen area, the Permitted Paid Engagement (PPE) route is often the most suitable visa option for musicians, artists or entertainers looking to perform on a short-term basis and be paid for their services. This route allows professionals in their field to receive payment for participation in pre-arranged events or other permitted engagements related to their expertise.

Recent changes to immigration rules have integrated the PPE route into the Standard Visitor route, making it free for non-visa nationals or £115 for a standard six-month visa. This adjustment eliminates the need for a specific PPE visa application ahead of travel (for visa nationals) or upon arrival at the UK border (for non-visa nationals). While visitors under the PPE route can now stay for up to six months, the one-month time limit for paid activities in the UK remains in place, and the paid engagement must be completed within the first month of arrival.

Planning a tour

Planning a global tour involves navigating numerous factors, including the nationalities of travellers, which dictate pre-travel visa requirements; the duration of stay within the Schengen area; ensuring exemptions apply to all members of the touring party, including crew; and assessing whether pre-travel applications are necessary despite exemptions. These factors collectively shape the logistical framework of any tour, ensuring smooth travels for all involved.

Need to know more?

Whilst this blog covered immigration options for American artists and their crew members touring in Europe, there are other visa categories from which creative workers can benefit.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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