Episode 109 — Philip Trott — U.K. Immigration Lawyer


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Episode 109 — Philip Trott — UK Immigration Lawyer

Hey, everyone!

This is Allan McKay. Welcome to Episode 109! I’m speaking with Philip Trott, one of the leading Immigration Lawyers in the U.K. I’m really excited about this one! I’ve interviewed a few immigration lawyers, around the world. So far we’ve covered:

– Canada: allanmckay.com/83

– The U.S.: allanmckay.com/52

– Coming up, on the same subject: An interview with Weta Digital’s main immigration firm.

Obviously, London has a big VFX industry and it’s important to cover the in’s and out’s what what you need to know to be able to work and live in the U.K. or apply for citizenship.

Let’s dive in!



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[-[42:12] I will be opening up registration for the Live Action Series mid-December. This will be for 2018. I’m excited about that too!

[-[38:55] I’ve been working on a new website. The upcoming site will have so much cool stuff:

– Houdini tutorials;

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– Career related material;

– Video tutorials;

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I’m hoping to launch it by the end of the month.



Philip Trott, one of top Immigration Attorneys in the U.K., talks the types of Visitor and Work Visas and the evidence required to support each type of application.

Philip Trott has been recognized as a leading expert in both personal and business immigration. He has been listed in the Citywealth Leaders List 2017 as a leading immigration lawyer: https://www.leaderslist.co.uk/leaderslist/philip-trott. He is a parter at Bates Wells & Braithwaite Law Firm in London, U.K.

Philip heads a team of seven lawyers that provides specialist immigration advice to commercial, charity and individual clients. He is also a member of the Law Society Brexit task force involved in the making representations to the government.

In this Episode, Philip explains the types of U.K. Visitor visas and the evidence required to support each type of application.


Philip Trott’s Profile on the Bates Wells & Braithwaite Website: http://www.bwbllp.com/people/philip-trott

Philip Trott’s Profile on the Legal 500: http://www.legal500.com/firms/252/offices/32/lawyers/6041

Philip Trott’s Citywealth Leaders 2017 Profile: https://www.leaderslist.co.uk/leaderslist/philip-trott

Article by Philip Trott Published by Law Gazette: https://www.lawgazette.co.uk/analysis/my-legal-life-philip-trott/69075.article

Gov.UK Visas and Immigration Site: https://www.gov.uk/browse/visas-immigration


[-[37:58] Allan: If you don’t mind, do you want to give us a quick introduction to who you are and what your firm does?

Philip: Yes, my name is Philip Trott. I’m the Partner in charge of the Immigration Department at Bates Wells & Braithwaite. We are a full-service law firm with a niche department in immigration in media work:

– We draft contracts for people who want to work in the arts and entertainment.

– We draft material for employers who want to engage with staff.

– And we do tax advice which flows from the arts and entertainment engagement.

Does that help?

[-[37:12] Allan: Absolutely! Just to start out, it would be great to get a bird’s-eye view of what the typical process would be for working in the U.K. What would usually the process be, from looking for work to applying for a visa? What could one expect?

Philip: Well, the first thing one needs to remember is that not all work needs a visa. We have a very flexible system when it comes to people in the arts and entertainment sector, getting permission to work in this country. For example, there is a category of entrant called Visitors. The immigration rules cater to the Visitors from the arts, entertainment or music sectors; and they can come to the U.K. for performances, competitions, to make personal appearances or take part in promotional activities, festivals or cultural events. All they need at that point is a letter of invitation and evidence — when walking through the border — that they’re coming to do what they’ve been invited to do. I would be inclined to take:

– That letter of invitation;

– A copy of the resume;

– Some sort of promotional material.

So they can literally walk through. Typically, you may see I’ve done for lots of your country’s rappers like Snoop Dog. Those individuals would come in and present their evidence. They would have a commercial agreement between the American and U.K. entities. They would be admitted for the period of the engagement.

Typically, a Visitor can be admitted from one day to up to 6 months. If you’re an entertainer, you may well come in for a day.

The Visitor rules are then subdivided into other sectors:

– Film crew, actors, producers, directors can come to the U.K. and take part in a location shoot. The key to this is to have an employer that engages you overseas. The idea behind it is that as a producer you want continuity in relation to the artist. So that person can come in a Visitor. If you’re part of a series, the person would have a contract with the film company.

– If you’re a Visa National, you need a visa before you come which is a process in which the person applies at a British Consulate. Within 15 working days, they would have a visa provided they’ve supplied all the necessary paperwork. There is a way to curtail the 15 working days down to 5 working days. Basically, you pay more money for to have it expedited.

– On top of the that, a film crew can be accompanied by their personal technical staff. I’ve had situation where that staff is linked to security individual, hair dressers, nannies; anyone who gives the artist a sense of well-being. Again, the personal technical staff can stay up to 6 months.

[-[32:12] The concept of work in the U.K. is a very refined one. As a Visitor, you can’t work here. But if you’re coming in as part of the creative sector — even though you are working here — it’s not defined as work provided you follow the Visitor rules. But they can’t be paid by a U.K. company apart from a situation called Permitted Paid Engagements (PPE). The most important thing is if you’re not coming in under PPE, you’re engaged from overseas.

– [-[31:28] PPE route is as good but the individual can only stay up to a month. It helps artists — provided they get invited by a U.K. entity — and they get paid here.

– [-[31:06] If you want to stay for longer and get paid in the U.K., there is something called the Tier 5 Creative and Sporting.

[-[30:50] Allan: So if you paint OR you kick a football around, you can apply.

Philip: Exactly! It’s a category that was created for short-term working individuals. There is a test and you need to make a unique contribution to the U.K. Labor Market. But being internationally renowned is always needed and proof of that typically would be a portfolio of evidence.

Someone like a director or a producer coming in, that person would come in with a contract and a certificate of sponsorship. That’s a paper document but it has an electronic number attached to it, as the individual comes up to Immigration Control. The person will be admitted for up to 3 months.

However, that’s not the end of it. If you’re coming for more than 3 months — and you’re a Visa National — you have to get a visa before you arrive. Typically, the employer in the cause will promise to maintain the worker / artist. If the film gets delayed, the employer has to be able to maintain the worker for up to one month post entry. If the employer can’t do the maintenance, the worker must show that he / she has 945 pounds in savings.

[-[28:23] If you anticipate staying the U.K. for a longer time — for example, putting on a show which has a longer anticipated run or you might anticipate saying here permanently — there is another immigration term called Tier 2. That, again, is one available for employers who wish to sponsor a worker. Once again, the worker has to be maintained and the sponsorship could be valid for up to 5 years. (Then, you can apply for Permanent Residency.) The key here is there has to be a higher level of skill. They must get a visa before they come!

The 12-month Tier 5 can be extended but it doesn’t need a Permanent Residence — while Tier 2 does need a permanent residence. These are all categories where there is either an overseas employer, or a U.K. invitor or a U.K. employer (that’s Tier 5 and Tier 2).

[-[26:33] I recently [had a case] for the West Side Story director wanting to use his past acquired skill in the U.K. If the artist is at the top of their game, there is another Tier: Tier 1 Exceptional Talent. How on earth can you prove that? Immigration Service doesn’t pretend to know what that is. They go to the Arts Council of England and you give them evidence of what your talent is. If they’re convinced of your exceptional talent — the West Side Story director as an example — you get an endorsement, which is given to the immigration officer and the officer automatically grants the artist a visa. 

I say “automatically”, some of the people I’ve worked with have had a colorful past which could be a criminal conviction. We have a complex range of immigration rules which could bar you from entry for a year, 5 or 10 years, or indefinitely. The message to all artists to take advice [from immigration attorneys]. With Tier 1 Exceptional Talent, you get 5 years, then you get Permanent Residence.

[-[24:33] The final category which would be of interest to your listeners would be Commonwealth Citizens with the U.K. born parents or grandparents. What’s that? It’s a citizen from our old Commonwealth.

[-[24:04] Allan: So if you don’t have the Queen on the back of your coins, you’re not qualified.

Philip: Exactly. The old Commonwealth is Canada, Australia, New Zealand and a few countries in the north of South America. If you have a U.K. born parent or grandparent, you get a permit and eventually get Permanent Residence.

[-[23:27] Allan: All of this is really helpful! Most of my audience is in film or visual effect, which means a longer contract. So I would assume a lot of time, people would want to go for the Tier 1. It sounds like the equivalent of the O-1 in the U.S.

Philip: It is indeed!

[-[22:58] Allan: With that one, what would be the turnaround time from applying to receiving it?

Philip: If your listener is going to be an exceptional talent — or an exceptional promise person — typically, the Arts Council takes about 4 weeks to process it. But the key for the artist is to gather together the information that supports his or her application. So if you’re an exceptional talent, you might expect the person to get a BAFTA or a Golden Globe — in which case, it’s a no-brainer. If you’re an exceptional promise person, you’ve got to get together evidence that you are indeed someone of exceptional promise and you’re on your way up. Even though you haven’t got a Golden Globe, you’ve had a nomination.

[-[22:52] Allan: That’s really cool. Are there other things you could do? Besides getting awards, are there interviews or contributions to magazines, or having a book written one could do?

Philip: That would certainly help, but it’s not the only thing. There is a well publicized list on potential pieces of evidence on the U.K. Immigration Service (UKVI) website: https://www.gov.uk/browse/visas-immigration. But the key to it is getting the evidence in the right form. For example, you’re required to get a letter of support from someone [who is successful] in the industry. The letter must state how you’re a fine person. It has to be a high quality recommendation. 

[-[19:58] Allan: One of the big questions was is can you apply for a visa yourself, or it is better to find an employer before worrying about the visa?

Philip: The most important thing to remember is that you can do it all yourself and that can be good and bad. If you’re articulate, well educated and good at putting the paperwork together, then I’d say, great job! If you want to make sure you push the right buttons, get someone to help you. The worst the thing is to show up at the border and you have nothing in terms of evidence.

[-[18:46] Allan: It’s the same when you’re doing your taxes: You can do it all yourself, or you can hire a professional who knows the laws and the loopholes and can protect. I always think it’s better to hire a professional. Would it be better to go to the U.K. and apply for work ahead of time? Or is it better to get a visa and then start looking for work?

Philip: Again, it comes back to the category of your entry visa:

– If you’re a Visitor, you’re going to have a U.S. employer sending you to the U.K.

– If you’re coming for a permitted paid engagement, you’re going to have an invitation from someone in the U.K.

– If not, it’s got to be a Tier 1 Exceptional Promise or Talent.

– If not, it has to be a Tier 5 coming for a sponsored work.

[-[17:30] Allan: So with the Tier 1, not everyone is an exceptional talent but that’s probably the one most people want to aim for, being people who’ve worked in the industry for 10 year. Would they need to apply for a work permit through their employer?

Philip: This is an individual who probably doesn’t have an employer. If that person is a director, that person wants to be free to sell his / her services in the U.K. So that person is looking for the freedom to work as a result of their work history.

[-[16:42] Allan: Exactly! So you can freelance. That’s really awesome. With the UKVI, is there any material that’s effective that people should focus on providing?

Philip: If you’re talking about Tier 1, then we are looking at:

– Press reviews,

– Letters of recommendation,

– Awards,

– Situations where people say, “if you come to the U.K. — I would employ you!”

That’s the list of best quality evidence.

[-[15:44] Allan: In regards to getting letter of reference, do that have to be from the U.K. or could they be world wide?

Philip: They could be world wide. So I’m just thinking about my West Side Story person: We had something from Andrew Lloyd Webber, press releases from all of his international production, something from Tim Rice who is a person who puts on shows in this country, and other well known individuals. I think it rather depends on the sector and the type of work they’ve done in the past.

[-[14:53] Allan: I want to touch base on emergency visas. I’ve had this happen so many times. They need me there within 48 hours. Are there ways to expedite things?

Philip: Not for Tier 1. When you say, “Hey, we want you here…”

[-[14:19] Allan: It would be more for an office, let’s say for video games, visual effects, things like that.

Philip: In that scenario, you’ve got someone inviting the individual to come here. So, for example, it will be a company in the U.K. That person would be offered a PPE. You can walk in with the right evidence. If you’re sent by a U.S. employer for a film production company, that person can just walk in and stay for up to 6 months. But it’s all about the evidence. If they don’t have the evidence, it’s a really long journey home.

[-[13:30] Allan: Even with a U.K. employer, that applies to as well. That’s really cool! I know at one point, there were some relationships set up for people under 30: You could get a tourist visa and work pretty easily, for the Commonwealth Countries. Is that still so?

Philip: That’s still applicable. It’s called the Youth Mobility Visa. Theres is, again, of nationals: Canada, Australia, Japan, and New Zealand. You get 2 years, unlimited permission to work.

[-[12:41] Allan: I’m originally from Australia. That is why there are so many Australians in the Commonwealth Countries, working and getting life experience. It’s great to have that option! What happens if you were denied a Tier 1 Visa? Does it take more paperwork?

Philip: It depends on the reason for the denial. If the reason that you lack evidence, then my first bit of advice is to take a look at the evidence — and get better representations of it. OR, make a fresh application and get better evidence. The Arts Council is really helpful at identifying what’s wrong with the application. It’s about identifying what improvements can be made to the evidence.

[-[10:52] Allan: You’ve touched on this before: If you were to lose your job, what happens to your status? You’ve mentioned that with Tier 5, the employer would have to compensate for up to 1 month or does it apply with most employment. How long would you have to stay in the country to seek new sponsorship?

Philip: Again, that depends on the category. For Tier 1, it’s a visa that’s valid for 5 year. If you’re on Tier 2 or Tier 5, if the work stops, the best thing — is to not leave the U.K. If you leave the U.K., the permission you’ve got lapses and you wouldn’t get back in. The sponsor has a legal obligation to notify the UKVI once the sponsorship has ceased. Tier 1 doesn’t rely on having an employer. You’re free to apply your skills within the permitted 5 year period.

[-[09:04] Allan: That’s good advice though! In regards to spouse visas, are you able to get them work permits?

Philip: If you’re coming as a Visitor, in reality — nobody can work other than the person who’s admitted as a Visitor. If you’re coming in as a spouse or children of a Tier 5 or Tier 2 person, you can work but you have to have a visa to do it.

[-[08:17] Allan: Is there a spouse visa?

Philip: There is! Again, with Tier 1 you get a spouse visa.

[-[08:05] Allan: How is Brexit affecting immigration? 

Philip: We haven’t left Europe yet. It’s being debated at the moment. Anyone who is a EU National has the right to be employed, self-employed, be a student or be economically inactive. The people who are already here can apply for a residence document or Permanent Residence if they’ve been here for 5 years.

[-[06:59] Allan: In terms of taxes, how does that play out? What do you expect to pay?

Philip: I’m not a tax lawyer. But if you’re a resident here for over 90 days, that could make you taxable. There is a withholding tax that producers have to take when you’re getting paid.

[-[06:09] Allan: This gives a lot of insight. What are some of the benefits of hiring an immigration firm? Every time, I’ve hired someone else. What are the key services and benefits you provide?

Philip: The key benefit is getting it right. Alternatively, you can recast the person’s qualifications so that fit the right category. If you get it wrong, you can end up on the same plan.

[-[04:39] Allan: If anyone was interested in seeking services, would they reach out to you or someone else at your firm?

Philip: I think talk to me first. If I’m not the right person, I would pass it on to another colleagues. There are other categories, for example, if you’re married to a Brit.

[-[03:26] Allan: What facts would a person need to provide you with?

Philip: I’d need to know what their personal script was. Ideally, I would like to get it in writing: who they are, what they do, do they have a U.S. or a U.K. employer and how long they would like to stay for.


I hope you enjoyed this Episode. I want to thank Philip for taking the time to do this Episode. I hope you got some great insight. If you have questions, feel free to email me at [email protected].

Also, if there is a specific country whose immigration procedures you’d like to learn about, please email me as well. Let me know — and I will track the best immigration in that country.

Please review this Episode on iTunes.


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