Actors / Theatre Work Permits
This page explains the work permit criteria for actors: theatre. These criteria were agreed following consultation with Equity. Please note these criteria should also be applied to an opera singer singing a role in a production (usually in costume). This criteria sheet is supplementary guidance to the published employer guidance notes and both sets of guidance should be referred to when making an application.
Work permits will only be issued to actors established within the theatre environment. Work permit applications received for actors may be submitted to Equity for further information unless one or more of the criterion below apply. Please note that any consultation with Equity may take up to 10 working days.
To ensure that overseas actors are of a sufficient high quality and not displacing resident labour force in the United Kingdom it has been agreed with Equity that the employer must, in all cases, provide evidence of one of the following:
- The work is for continuity.
- For example if the person has worked for a period of one month or more on the same piece of work overseas.
- Applications submitted under the criteria for continuity must supply proof that the overseas national is currently, or has recently been working on the same piece of work overseas (i.e. contracts or press reviews or other such documents) and has done so for at least one month.
- The UK Border Agency will still consult with Equity if the actor/actress has played the same part abroad in a production of the same name, as this would not be classed as continuity.
- The person has international status.
- For example if they are internationally famous in their field.
- An actor with international status is a well-known star who would not displace resident labour. This does not mean the same as being established overseas.
- Applications for actors who are of international status do not need to give details of a resident labour market search.
- The worker(s) forms part of a unit company.
- A unit company is a large group of entertainers who have regularly performed together in their own country and have toured overseas as part of an established production before entering the United Kingdom.
- Evidence to this effect should be included with the application.
- This may include contracts of employment to show that the individual/s has/have been a permanent part of the unit company.
- Equity operates a theatre exchange programme both in the United States and in Australia for actors/actresses not of international status, whereby we will allow an actor who does not necessarily meet the full criteria, from one of these countries, on the basis that an English actor will be allowed to work overseas.
- From the information supplied in the application, it would not be reasonable to expect an employer to engage a European Economic Area (EEA) national. One example would be a role which requires particular attributes considered unlikely to be available from the EEA labour force.
- Where none of the above can be provided, evidence that the post has been advertised should be provided (see below for further information on advertising).
Evidence required for first applications
In order to establish the level of previous experience, applications for entertainers must be accompanied by:
- Publicity material (biographies alone are not sufficient). This should include:
- Press reviews.
- Past programmes or actual video recordings of films or TV in which the overseas actor is credited.
- A copy of the signed contract must be provided with all applications.
The UK Border Agency can also consider evidence from official websites. This evidence may not be required with future similar applications made within the next four years.
Where advertising is appropriate, posts must be advertised in an appropriate media that provides the best way of reaching suitably qualified resident workers allowing four weeks from the date the advertisement appears to receive applications.
The advertisement should have been placed within the six months before the application for a work permit.
The employer must provide with the application:
- Evidence that a thorough and genuine search for a worker from the EEA was undertaken prior to casting an overseas national.
- Proof of a full resident search including lists of all actors auditioned and offered the part and confirmation letters from agents who were approached.
- Responses must mention the specific part which the auditions were to fill and must give valid reasons why any EEA national who was auditioned was not suitable or state if and why an actor considered for the part was unavailable.
Length of issue
The UK Border Agency normally give approval for the period as stated on the contract, up to a maximum period of five years.
Salary Payment should be commensurate with Equity's guidance on salary levels. The current rates can be found on Equity's website and are based mostly on negotiations between Equity and the Society of London Theatres, Theatre Management Association and Independent Theatre Council.