Sheffield Doc/Fest director joins call to end ‘complex’ UK visa process

Some of the UK’s biggest festivals and their directors have signed a letter calling for the government to change the “overly complicated” visa system, including Melanie Iredale, deputy director at Sheffield Doc/Fest. 

The calls come after a surge in refusals for artists and musicians invited to perform at festivals in the UK. The letter, published in the Guardian, states: “The current visa application process for artists is lengthy, opaque and costly, with artists and/or festivals often spending thousands of pounds on visas and associated costs for a visit of often only a few days. The overly complex process leads to mistakes being made by both applicants and assessors, and refusals being made for visas that could theoretically be granted.”

“Artists have to surrender their passport while the application is considered. Although the Home Office aims to complete most visa applications within 15 working days, applications can take much longer. There is no way for the inviting festival to find out the progress of a visa application, or answer any questions that arise, leading to refusals where missing information or documentation could easily be provided.”

Organisers at Doc/Fest commented: “Proud to be one of the many festivals named in this open letter appealing against the rise in UK visa refusals for international artists. Enabling doc makers the freedom to travel and showcase their work can only be of benefit to all.”

A Home Office spokesperson responded to the Guardian by saying: “We welcome artists and musicians coming to the UK from non-EEA countries to perform. Each case is assessed on its individual merits against the published immigration rules.”

Nick Barley, the director of Edinburgh international book festival, and Chris Smith, the director of Womad, have been the most vociferous in their support for the letter, with both discussing their festivals’ attempts to get visas for authors and musicians rejected for applicants from Middle Eastern and African countries.

Image credit: Doc/Fest

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