Certificates of Sponsorship - AN OVERVIEW
Many entertainers who come to tour, record or perform in the UK, or to work on a UK film or TV series, need what are called Certificates of Sponsorship (which I'll shorten to CoS from hereon). There are a few exceptions and options, but I'll come to them at the bottom of the page.
Entertainment CoS are almost all done under the Temporary Creative Worker category of the UK government's Points Based System (PBS). They have to be issued in the UK by a registered sponsor, which is usually the organiser of the trip. They are issued before the film worker, band or whatever travels to the UK and in most cases they are used as an entry document - the exceptions to this are where the holder is coming here for over 3 months, or they are "visa nationals" (holding a passport which the UK government wants to put through a screening process before they travel here), or they have a serious criminal record. The vast majority of people we deal with are from the States, Canada, the EU and Australia - they just show their CoS when they enter (please note they CANNOT USE THE E-GATES; they must see a human border officer). The CoS gets activated on the computer system by an Immigration Officer and the band/workers are given stamps in their passports.
Since Brexit, E.U. nationals now need work permission to do most paid work/shows here - many will use CoS, just like acts from outside the E.U. have done for several years. They don't generally need visas unless they're coming for more than 3 months - they can use the CoS as entry documents.
The sponsor company has to provide the UKVI (part of the Home Office) with a fair bit of legal paperwork in order to get its licence, and from then on it is trusted to assign CoS appropriately. The UKVI come and check sponsors on a random basis to ensure they're not abusing the system. Sponsors are obliged to keep records of the people they issue CoS to, to show the UKVI that they are issuing appropriately and making sure the acts enter and leave the UK when they are supposed to. We assist our clients to comply with these rules. Acts must usually be of international status to warrant being issued CoS, and their work here must not pose a threat to the resident labour force. There are Codes of Practice for some fields of entertainment (most notably film and TV); in these the UKVI prescribes what checks a sponsor has to make before it can issue a CoS to a film worker or on-screen talent.
T&S is a licensed sponsor, able to issue CoS to non-UK entertainers where they have no other licensed sponsor to act for them. We have an "A" rating with the UKVI for our licence since 2011. As well as having sponsored music stars including Diana Ross, Chic, Jimmy Cliff, De La Soul, Grandmaster Flash, George Clinton, Major Lazer, Cyndi Lauper, DJ Premier, Cirque du Soleil and Prince (RIP) we increasingly sort out sponsorship for foreign stars and the creative staff involved in making motion pictures and adverts here.
Film, TV and theatre projects we've sponsored include RuPaul's Drag Race UK, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri (Oscar-winning film), Beauty And The Beast (film soundtrack), The Wife (film), McMafia (TV series), The Infiltrator (film), Downton Abbey (film and TV series), Man In The High Castle (TV), EE mobile phones (Kevin Bacon TV ads), The BFG (film), Etruscan Smile (film), SS-GB (TV), You Me and the Apocalypse (TV), The Current War (film), Alice Through the Looking Glass (film), Pete's Dragon (film), Bliss (TV), Crooked House (film), The Death of Stalin (film), Hampstead (film), Hitman's Bodyguard (film), Queen of the Universe (TV), Guilt (TV), Elephant Man (theatre), Direct Line Insurance (TV ads), Nocturnal Animals (film), & Watcher In The Woods (film).
Steve's IMDb Pro page is here (you may need to be an IMDb Pro to view):
For non-pro users this is the page:
He is listed on IMDb as Steve Richard (IX)
If you have a project that we may be able to help with call us on (44) (0)1969 663983.
Examples of where CoS might NOT be required;
Visitor categories have now mostly been amalgamated into "General visitor" - This covers the old categories like 'entertainer visitor' (amateurs and those performing at 'permit-free festivals), and can cover performers who are not being paid for their work. If an act is just doing a permit-free festival they can enter (or apply for a visa, if they're a visa national) based on a letter from the festival, BUT the festival must first gain permit-free status, then gather all their information for a special UKVI database several weeks before the acts arrive (some sponsors may consider this more hassle than issuing CoS; it certainly seems that way). The UKVI reviews the permit-free festival list annually and the organisers must prove the festivals are well-run and relatively trouble-free.
Sports events and competitions. Sports performers, athletes and their support staff who are based and employed overseas can come to the UK to perform or compete on a temporary basis without the need for CoS. They are covered under the provisions of the UK's Visitor Rules. Signing for a UK-based team would be a different matter, though.
Shows where the act is donating the income to a registered charity and waiving its fee can also be done under the visitor route without CoS.
Film crews working on location shoots and employed by non-UK companies (studio work is not covered by this) can generally come in under the visitor category. If the work is on a UK production they can't use this; they must have CoS instead.
"Permitted paid engagements" (shortened: PPE). This was a new route, introduced hurriedly in April 2012 without the normal consultation that should be expected. It allows some entertainers (as well as expert speakers, lecturers, legal advocates, sports commentators, artists staging exhibitions etc) to come and perform in the UK and be paid for those performances without a UKVI-registered sponsor issuing a CoS. This route contradicts the Points Based System but was brought in due to pressure from a lobby group representing arts organisations. This route only covers one month and the entry of people under this route is subject to the paperwork they hold and the immigration officer's interpretation of the rules. The subjective nature of this goes against the UKVI's general moves towards an objective system based on accountability. It is, in fact, also largely unaccountable (sponsors issuing CoS are accountable for what they issue but the PPE route dodges this responsibility). Entertainment personnel wanting to use this route must have a printed invitation from an arts organisation or broadcaster. They will only be landed for one month and this is not extendable. This route does not specifically cover support personnel - entertainers can use it but its not clear that crew can. Unpaid shows are not covered (it's permitted paid engagements only). The traveller has to prove they have enough money to cover their trip (unlike CoS, where the sponsor can vouch for the sponsored artist). In our view PPE should only be used for entertainers where there is no sponsor and the entertainer has "all their ducks in a row". We also feel that PPE should not be used by registered sponsors. If you can issue a CoS you should.
We recognise there was a need for visual artists exhibiting work here to be covered within the immigration rules, but the PPE guidelines encroach onto other areas that were already adequately covered within the law. And where work is of an ongoing nature (longer than one month) the person should not use PPE multiple times to get around the Certificate of Sponsorship scheme.
THIS PART ADDED DUE TO SO MANY ERRORS BEING MADE AT U.K. PORTS OF ENTRY (as of August 2021 onwards):
It seems that the prolonged hiatus in entertainment tours, plus Brexit, plus a seeming influx of new border officers and airport staff, means I need to do something I never envisaged: give advice on how UK border staff should DEAL WITH TEMPORARY WORKER Certificates of Sponsorship FOR ENTERTAINERS
This refers specifically to Temporary Worker CoS in the Creative and Sporting category (previously called Tier 5 - UKVI changed the name in 2020 but forgot to change many of the guidelines, or indeed the text on the actual CoS itself).
CoS (Certificates of Sponsorship) in this category are mostly activated on arrival in the UK (the exceptions being visa nationals and those who are working here solidly for longer than 3 months). So if you're dealing with a non-visa national (US, EU, EEA, Australia, Brazil, Japan, NZ, Mexico, Canada and more) working here for less than 3 months (for instance they're a band on a concert tour) the CoS needs to be checked on arrival using the CoS checker (this will probably be in the Duty Office / Watchtower). Usually if someone competent (like T&S) has been dealing with the band they'll have a printed summary sheet showing all the CoS numbers next to their names, nationalities etc. It'll normally also say who the UK sponsor company is, when the work dates are, and so on. But sometimes they'll just have the CoS numbers (each is valid; all you really need is the 11-digit CoS numbers and the passports).
One note on CoS numbers: you'll get a "computer says no" if you type a zero as a capital O, or a lower-case l for listen instead of a capital I for Italy. The format is this: the 1st, 3rd, 5th and 11th characters are always capital letters and the rest are always numbers. They'll all start C5C......
On the CoS checker: the CoS number should bring up a record containing the sponsor name, the 'work dates' covered by the CoS (the period between these should be less than 3 months), the job title, a description of the work and so on. If the dates and everything seem right and tally with the stated intention of the holder, it's your decision to admit the passenger or not. Assuming all is OK, you would activate the CoS, stamp the passport with the relevant leave (that can be up to 14 days before the first work date, to a maximum of 14 days past the last work date). The passenger needs the stamp to prove they can work here, and their sponsor needs the passenger to show it to them, because the sponsor is obliged to have these on file (failure to collect them means UKVI can find them non-compliant with sponsor duties). This is why it's so important CoS holders don't get waved through the E-gates or landed simply with a date stamp (no leave conditions).
If the CoS has been used before it will say "Used"; it might be that the artist is coming back for another show after an earlier one a few weeks ago, perhaps. The CoS should list the work (for instance it should say the dates and venues for live shows); if one show was 3 weeks ago and another is listed on the CoS for tomorrow, this tallies - as long as the CoS has been ticked by the sponsor as being "multiple entry" you can land the passenger with work conditions again.
What conditions / landing code do I give? We've always been told it's code 4.
Code 4 is "No recourse to public funds. To work with (name of sponsor). Changes must be authorised" and then the date and officer stamp. This tallies with the stamps sponsors had been collecting from their artists since 2009.
This guidance is by no means meant to replace officer training or official guidance; it's just that SINCE LOCKDOWN so many entertainers holding CoS have been either directed through the E-gates (hence can't be paid unless their sponsor gets their landing conditions changed), or been given the wrong landing stamp (or no conditions at all). We feel there must currently be a disconnect, and the system is not working how it should. In fact it's 12 years since the Points Based System was introduced for this route and right now is the worst we've ever known it. We want to see it working correctly again.