I needed a visa, I bought off a geezer…*

* Pavement!

The Home Secretary, Theresa May, made a statement to Parliament a couple of weeks ago announcing plans to reduce Tier One and Two economic migration through from 28,000 to 21,700 a year. The vast majority of these will be Tier Two, i.e. skilled migrants with job offers. In fact, if the cap is reached, this represents an increase of nearly 7,000 from the number of Tier Two applicants allowed in last year, although it will be restricted to graduate level jobs – no more care assistants allowed in. Intra-company transfers won’t count towards the cap, but will be restricted to people on more than £40,000 a year. Currently 50% of intra-company transfers would meet this criteria. “This will ensure those coming are only the senior managers and key specialists that international companies need to move within their organisations.”

So…. if you want to come here to work, you’ve either got to have a graduate level job offer, or you’ve got to work for an international company and earn more than £40,000 p.a. (N.B. That’s just a factual summary, I’m not expressing an opinion, one way or the other).

Or you have to fit the Tier One spec. And this is the bit that interests me.

The Tier One limit – those without a job offer – is to be set at 1000 – down 13,000 on those allowed in under this last year.

The Home Secretary said she wants “to use Tier One to attract more investors, entrepreneurs and people of exceptional talent. Last year investors and entrepreneurs accounted for fewer than 300 people – that is not enough. So I will make the application process quicker, more user-friendly, and I will not limit the numbers of these wealth creators who can come to Britain”. [I assume this means that they won’t come within the 1,000 limit?]

She continues: “There are also some truly exceptional people who should not need sponsorship from an employer but who we would wish to welcome to Britain. So I will introduce a new route within Tier One for people of exceptional talent – the scientists, academics and artists – who have achieved international recognition or are likely to do so. The numbers will be limited to one thousand per year.”

What I want to know, and what I’m trying to find out – and I discussed this with the Musicians Union yesterday –  is just how this will affect musicians, performers, artists, etc, who want to tour or perform in Britain.

I’ve been involved in supporting visa applications in the past, for example, for a Somali performance poet, Sikh musicians, and a group of circus artistes. I also met the other day in Parliament with a young Columbian musician, Jota Ramos, who was touring the UK (performing solo, but this is his band, Soporte Klan – www.myspace/soporteklan) and campaigning with www.columbiasolidarity.org.uk.

None of these performers “have achieved international recognition or are likely to do so”. Obviously depends on interpretation of international recognition – plenty of the Somalis in Bristol had heard of the performance poet; does that count? And how do you interpret “exceptional talent“? Who decides? Someone at the UK Borders Agency? The Home Secretary? I suspect Theresa May’s idea of musical talent might differ somewhat from mine…. And if only 1000 are allowed in, and some of those are scientists and academics….

So how will this affect musicians – from bands that some of us have heard but haven’t exactly made the big time – who want to come and tour Britain or play a few festivals? And the road crew they might want to bring with them? I genuinely don’t know. There might be something I’ve missed. But it looks to me as if this is going to make it much harder for bands to come to the UK.

I’m not even talking about bands who are trying to “make it”. I was at the Didmarton Bluegrass Festival in the summer (lured there by friends…) and there were American performers there, who are exceptionally good at what they do but are basically a bunch of old men playing music that only a few afficionados will ever want to hear. (Not just men. For some reason they all seemed to have a woman on double bass. I have no idea why this should be).

In future will their work permits depend on someone else’s interpretation of whether they are “of exceptional talent” and “have achieved international recognition or are likely to do so”? I assume they have to have work permits if they’re being paid to perform? You’re not allowed to do any paid work if you come in on a tourist visa.

Anyway… I don’t know the answers but going to try to find out more.

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