Artists' Mobility and Visas: A Step Forward

As a part of its advocacy activities for better conditions for the international mobility of artists and cultural professionals, On the Move (OTM) tackles visa issues: on this crucial theme we have developed a part of our Charter for a sustainable and responsible cultural mobility (soon online on this website) and we organise capacity building activities for our members, in particular a training workshop in November, 15th- 16th in Brussels devoted to Schengen visas. The results of this workshop form the core of this report.

Although Schengen is not the only problematic area in the world, the workshop focused on it for different reasons. Firstly, most of OTM members are based in, and have relations with, the EU or neighbouring countries; in addition, the discussion on artists’ mobility and visas is on the agenda of the European Commission - DG EAC as a part of the Work Plan for Culture 2011-2014, and the DG Home Affairs is going to revise the EU Visa Code (in force since 2010) in 2013. The workshop gathered 9 OTM members and 19 selected external experts to discuss the situation of non-EU artists having to travel to the Schengen area and needing a visa. While acknowledging the improvements introduced with the EU visa code, the real-life problems pointed out by the – relatively small, but still significant – sample were discussed, and possible solutions in the short, medium and long term were commented. The meeting took place in an informal setting allowing exchange and debate between cultural organisations from EU and non-EU countries, representatives of the European Commission (DG EAC and DG Home) and of the Ministry of Culture and Communication, France.

As the workshop Artists’ mobility and Schengen visas: a step forward was a constructive exchange among the participants about the problems faced by non-EU artists applying for a Schengen visa – and possible solutions –, so this report is a concise document presenting problems, explanations and concrete actions to undertake in order to help improve the conditions for mobile artists traveling across the Schengen borders.

The report is meant in particular as a reference for cultural organisations and institutions based in the EU and inviting non-EU nationals for short periods, and for EU Member States and their representatives (at Embassies, Consulates), who are responsible for the way the visa procedures are handled and for the final decision taken on applications. Artists and cultural professionals can find in this report selected and concise information related to the Schengen visa process.

Far from being a solution in itself, this report is a milestone in OTM’s concrete engagement on visa issues: On the Move aims to create a platform for dialogue between the cultural sector and the policy- and decision-making level (nationally, EU-wide and internationally), while taking into account the experiences of the cultural field and of other advocacy groups. Our work goes on: in the upcoming months, and in particular with the launch of our Charter for a sustainable and responsible cultural mobility, we will continue advocating for better conditions for artists and cultural professionals working across borders. As we like saying, mobility happens anyway: let’s make it happen better!