Call for reform of points-based visa system

Supporters of the Manifesto Club’s Visiting Artist campaign were among signatories to an English-PEN-led letter to the Daily Telegraph today, calling for a reform of the points-based visa system.

SIR – Since its introduction in 2008, it has become clear that the points-based visa system, introduced to manage migration to the United Kingdom, is inappropriate for short-term visits by artists.

Writers and performers who have long been welcomed by Britain now find that they are required to undergo a visa application process that is needlessly bureaucratic and intrusive.

Non-European Union artists wishing to enter the country have been treated poorly, either through the application process or at entry points.

Acclaimed artists, such as the Cannes Palme d’Or-winning director Abbas Kiarostami, and Grigory Sokolov, one of the world’s great concert pianists, have been dissuaded from future visits.

The “licensed sponsors” system places a burden on arts organisations, many of which cannot afford the cost or cope with the administrative burden. Nor do they wish to be required (or are in many cases able) to “monitor” the artists they invite.

A recent Greater London Authority survey found that 70 per cent of arts organisations in London have been adversely affected by the scheme.

As short-term visits by artists have no impact on migration, there is no need to administer their entry via the points-based system.

Artists who showcase their unique talents do not take away employment from British or EU nationals, and there is no need to place extra strictures on them because they are paid. There already exists, outside the points-based system, a route for entertainers who attend festivals.

We call on the Government to widen this route, creating a visitor route for artists and entertainers which does not distinguish between those who are and are not receiving payment.

This will enable artists to attend their exhibitions, writers to be paid for reading from their works, and musicians to be paid for performing.

Our great tradition of cultural exchange is being badly damaged through the points-based system, and in the long term we will suffer economically. As we approach the Cultural Olympiad’s culminating year, this is a situation that must change.

Earl of Clancarty, Lord Hall of Birkenhead, Sir Nicholas Hytner, Sir Nicholas Serota, Charles Saumarez Smith, Alistair Spalding, Sir David Tang, Sandy Nairne, Gillian Slovo, Bridget Riley, Countess of St Germans, Matthew Slotover, Julia Peyton-Jones, Sir Tom Stoppard, Baroness Rendell, Dame Antonia Fraser Pinter, Dr Stephen Deuchar, Jude Kelly, Edmund de Waal, Iwona Blazwick, Kamila Shamsie, Salman Rushdie, Lord Black of Brentwood, Bill Woodrow, Cornelia Parker, David Anderson, John Leighton, James Rhodes, Lewis Biggs, Kate Mosse, Howard Jacobson, Michael Morpurgo, Philip Pullman, Susan Hiller, Michael Frayn, Alison Plumridge, Gayle Chong Kwan, Suki Chan, Jeremy Deller, Stephen Snoddy, James Lingwood, Simon Wallis, Peter Murray, Fiona Bradley, Clive Gillman, Godfrey Worsdale, Tom Trevor, Keith Jeffrey, Rosy Greenlees, Paul Hobson, Gillian Nicol, Sally Lai, Gill Lloyd, Judith Knight, Mike Stubbs, Stephen Hough, Deborah Bestwick, Zineb Sedira, Rocca Gutteridge, Cathy de Monchaux, Mark Ball, Alessio Antoniolli, Baroness Young of Hornsey, Jenni Lomax, Lord Clement-Jones, Hilary Gresty, Sarah Perks, Dave Moutrey, Aaron Garfield Cezar, Lord Freyberg, Baroness Bakewell, Lemn Sissay, Maureen Duffy, Blake Morrison, Anne Fine, Ali Smith, Andrew O’Hagan, Anita Sethi, David Hare, David Nicholls, Deborah Moggach, Elleke Boehmer, Esther Freud, Hanif Kureishi, Hari Kunzru, Jo Shapcott, Mark Haddon, Mohsin Hamid, Nell Leyshon, Nicola Beauman, Philip Hensher, Ruth Padel, Salil Tripathi, Sarah Waters, Simon Singh, Terence Blacker, William Fiennes, Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, Sarah Dunant, Susie Orbach, Manick Govinda, Claudia Zeiske, Wessie Ling, Mike Nelson, Stephen Foster, Helen Pearson, Robert Sharp