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Be prepared for upcoming changes to the Creative Worker route

13 May 2024

Updated sponsorship requirements will be in place for applications made on or after 16 May 2024. This impacts artists, entertainers and fashion models coming to the UK for work. Sponsors and applicants should be aware of these changes to ensure they address the new requirements.

The changes were announced in the Home Office’s latest Statement of Changes in Immigration Rules HC 590, published on 14 March 2024.

While many of the changes to work routes set out in HC 590 are designed to restrict who can come to the UK, the changes to the Creative Worker route do not have this effect. Instead, they broaden the sponsorship requirement, making the route more useful to the sector. They also seek to protect workers and make existing administrative practice clearer in the Rules.

New sponsorship requirements for applications made on or after 16 May 2024

Under the current Rules, if the occupation a Creative Worker will fill does not fall under a relevant Code of Practice for the Creative Worker route, the sponsor must either:

  • Ensure the role appears on the (previous) Shortage Occupation List, or
  • Keep evidence of having taken into account the needs of the resident labour market in the field and be satisfied the work could not be carried out by a settled worker.

For Creative Worker applications made on or after 16 May 2024, a sponsor must ensure that the applicant:

  • Complies with the relevant Code of Practice where one exists for their occupation; or
  • Will perform a role in the creative industries that appears in Appendix Skilled Occupations and is able to demonstrate they can make a unique contribution to creative life in the UK.

We anticipate the new formulation of the Rules will be supplemented by updated guidance elaborating on how an applicant can evidence the contribution they can make to creative life in the UK. We welcome the changes, which will allow a wider range of skilled individuals to come to the UK and enrich cultural life.

An amendment to the sponsor eligibility requirement

Additional text will be added to the requirement on who can act as a sponsor licence holder, which will align the Rules with the current sponsor guidance.

The sponsor must operate or intend to operate within the creative sector and be authorised by the Home Office to sponsor the job in question under the Creative Worker route.

There does not have to be a direct employment relationship with the sponsored worker, but the sponsor must be able to comply with the relevant sponsor duties.

Other changes to the Creative Worker route

There are two other notable changes from 16 May 2024.

Requirement for applicants to confirm expenses paid by the sponsor

An applicant must provide details of any transport, living allowances and other expenses paid by the sponsor to the applicant and include details of whether the sponsor will seek to recoup these costs, either through payroll deductions or any other means.

This should help the Home Office prevent exploitation and reduce the risk of impoverishment of workers, who may be paid a low salary and then asked to pay back fees related to either their employment or their sponsorship.

In the case of indirect employment relationships, employers must communicate details of expenses and any recouped costs with the sponsor so that any necessary reporting can be completed.

Refusal of group applications

 Certain entourage members can apply to accompany an entertainer or cultural artist to the UK as part of a group Creative Worker application. A new Rule is being inserted to confirm that if the application of the entertainer or cultural artist is refused, the applications of their entourage will be as well.

This amendment just reflects the process already followed by the Home Office in practice.

Reminder about Electronic Travel Authorisations for some short-term Creative Workers

If a Creative Worker’s nationality is not on the visa national list and they have engagements of no more than three months in total, they may seek entry at the border without first obtaining entry clearance.

However, the following non-visa nationals must obtain an Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) in advance of travel to the UK:

  • Bahrain
  • Jordan
  • Kuwait
  • Oman
  • Qatar
  • Saudi Arabia
  • United Arab Emirates

An ETA costs GBP 10 and lasts for two years (or the expiry date of the person’s passport, if earlier). They must be applied for before travelling to the UK and are usually processed within three working days. A new ETA will be required when a person is issued with a new passport. Travelling to the UK while waiting for a decision is allowed.

The Home Office is aiming to roll out the ETA requirement to all non-visa nationals by the end of 2024, however the exact timings have not yet been made public. We will share further information on this as it becomes available.

Although the cost of an individual ETA is small, businesses intending to cover the cost of ETAs should ensure the volume is estimated and incorporated into the relevant budgeting process.

If you have any queries about this update or need assistance with a Creative Worker application, please contact a member of our immigration team.

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