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Brexit roundup

Brexit has created enormous complexities for artists travelling to and from the UK. There are new rules to follow and processes to complete that our members need to understand. DCMS has released a series of checklists for touring in Europe which includes information for musicians.

Our Brexit advice pages offer further information on visas and work permits for UK artists, ATA carnets, CITES and EU workers coming to the UK. If you have consulted these pages and still have questions, or wish to become a member, then please contact [email protected] or call 020 7221 3499.

UK-based artists visiting the EU

Visas and work permits for short-term paid work

All UK nationals holding a valid passport (with at least six months' validity) can travel for up to 90 days in a 180-day period in the Schengen area under the existing visa-waiver regime. However, after 90 days in the Schengen area, they must return to the UK for at least 90 days before they go back for another 90 days. As of 1 January 2021, each Member State can now choose to treat UK citizens as ‘visa nationals’ when entering that country for paid work and may require both a visa and a work permit.

Whilst some EU countries offer exemptions for cultural activity, many Member States require visas and/or short-term work permits (see ISM overview). We strongly encourage organisations and individuals to check with the consular authorities for the countries they will be working in before travelling. This is a very complex picture and we continue to lobby government for clear guidance to help navigate the different entry requirements in each EU Member State.

Travelling between the UK and the EU with a musical instrument

ATA Carnets

Individuals taking musical instruments or equipment temporarily out of the UK to work, perform or tour in the EU need to consider the customs requirements for each visiting country.

The Government has produced guidance confirming that musicians transporting instruments or equipment in their baggage or vehicle (accompanied throughout the journey), for either personal or business use, may be able to use a temporary admission procedure in the country of destination. In order to pay no duty, musicians can go through the green ‘nothing to declare’ channel or make an oral declaration to a Border Official.

EU Member States are responsible for their own customs requirements and you should check these for each country you intend to travel to. It is important to note that ‘equipment’ is not defined in EU legislation and so it is advised that if you are travelling with both instruments and equipment, that an ATA Carnet is used to avoid goods being held at the border.

Please note, we have heard reports of at least one musician being fined at the Eurostar station in France for not being able to show proof of purchase of their accompanied instrument to customs officers on request. This meant that they could not prove that the instrument had been purchased for use for professional purposes and not for resale. You are therefore advised to take proof of purchase and ownership of any accompanied instruments you are travelling with.

For instruments and equipment that are not accompanied (i.e. they are carried as freight), the government guidance states that other temporary admissions procedures must be considered such as an ATA Carnet.


Musicians travelling with instruments or accessories containing protected materials need to obtain a CITES permit and certificate. For instruments carried as hand luggage for personal use, a Musical Instrument Certificate (MIC) is required. For the shipment of instruments that are not carried as hand luggage for personal use, UK and EU regulations require a Travelling Exhibition Certificate (TEC). The holder must travel through CITES-designated points of entry and exit to allow customs authorities to endorse the certificate when entering or leaving the UK.

Together with the Musicians Union, the Animal & Plant Heath Agency (APHA) and UK Border Force have published a webinar series that provides a clear guidance note on how to make Musical Instrument Certificate (MIC) applications. The webinars includes CITES requirements for travel and the criteria for use, as well as practical issues such as Designated Ports of Entry when travelling with instruments requiring MICs.

Northern Ireland will remain part of the EU CITES zone, meaning that CITES permits will be required to move goods between Great Britain and Northern Ireland. For the movement of CITES specimens from GB to NI, and NI to GB, CITES import and export checks will all happen in Northern Ireland. Individuals can use any point of entry/exit from GB but must use one of the CITES-designated points of entry/exit in NI (Belfast International, Belfast Seaport, and Larne).

Road Haulage

If you are using a UK-based haulier to transport your instruments or equipment to the EU, there are now movement restrictions. Once in the EU, hauliers are only able to carry out two additional movements, either cross-trade or cabotage (the movement of goods or people between two places in the same country), with a maximum of 1 cabotage movement within a 7-day period.

Under the terms of the Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) goods for commercial purposes can only be transported by a vehicle which is exclusively used for this purpose, such as a lorry.

The Department for Transport (DfT) has confirmed that, following talks with counterparts in the EU Directorate-General for Mobility and Transport (DG MOVE), 'splitter vans that are carrying both goods and passengers will not be subject to the Trade and Cooperation Agreement market access rules. This means that once in the EU, splitter vans will not be subject to the TCA restrictions on cross trade/cabotage for UK hauliers, and will be subject to individual Member States’ rules.'

Additional information

Transporting merchandise in baggage

Commercial goods, also known as Merchandise in Baggage, are goods to sell or use in your business where:

  • a commercial transport operator does not carry them for you or you do not pay them to carry them for you
  • you have travelled from or to Great Britain carrying goods either in your baggage or in a small vehicle that can carry up to no more than 9 people and weighing less than 3.5 tonnes

You have to make a declaration when taking goods out of and bringing them into Great Britain. The type of declaration depends on how much the goods are worth and how much they weigh.

Health insurance

When you travel to an EU country or Switzerland you should have either:

  • a UK Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC)
  • a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC)

You should also have travel insurance with healthcare cover. If your EHIC is still in date, you do not need to apply for a GHIC.

Apply for a GHIC for free on the NHS website.

There are slightly different arrangements for Spain and Ireland.

Social security

If you’re an employee or self-employed, where you pay social security contributions will depend on your circumstances and the country you are going to work in.

If you go to work in:

  • the EU or Switzerland, you’ll only have to pay into one country’s social security scheme at a time
  • Iceland, Liechtenstein or Norway, you may only have to pay into one country’s social security scheme at a time

This will usually be in the country where the work is being done.

More information and access to the relevant HMRC certificate forms can be found on the Government website.

        EU-based artists visiting the UK

        From 1 January 2021, EEA and Swiss nationals can visit the UK for up to six months without a visa. For paid work, there are several different routes available depending on the duration of the work.

        Options for applications made at the UK border for short-term work include Permitted Paid Engagement (PPE), Temporary Work - Creative Worker visa (previously known as a T5 visa) and Permit Free Festival (PFF).

        It is important to remember not to go through the electronic gates (e-gates). You must speak to a border official to obtain the correct visa before crossing the border.

        Applications for the Temporary Work - Creative Worker visa which allows up to 12 months’ stay must be made up to 3 months prior to arrival.

        For long-term work, options include the Frontier Worker Permit, Skilled Worker Visa, Global Talent visa and Graduate Immigration Routes.

        More information can be found on the Government website.

        ISM Brexit advice pages