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ISM's top tips for musicians working abroad

Laura  Barnes
ISM's top tips for musicians working abroad

The prospect of travelling abroad to make music, especially on a professional basis, is a dream of many musicians. In its latest column for MI Pro, the Incorporated Society of Musicians (ISM) takes a look at some of the things you will need to think about if you might be offered the opportunity to work abroad…

The ISM would advise all musicians to get their offers of work abroad in writing and to have taken time to consider it properly - including taking advice if you are unsure of anything.

Musical engagements are of all varying length, and as we know, this is true whether at home or abroad. So the first thing to think about is the duration of the engagement, and how long you will be away.

If you are contemplating a short-term engagement, make sure you are satisfied with arrangements before you accept a contract. Here are some things to think about.
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– Passport – do check that your passport is valid for the full duration of your engagement. You should also check if there are any other conditions which might apply: for example, some countries require that a passport be valid for a minimum of six months from the point of entry. You may be required to take an additional (and costly) visa to satisfy this requirement – sometimes at the point of entry, and where you may be required to pay in local currency rather than by card. It is also a good idea to have a copy of your passport in some form: either a photocopy but also an electronic copy. If you can make a scan of your passport (and if possible, a copy of any relevant visas), store it on a cloud-based service such as Dropbox, iCloud or any of the many secure file storage services available from which you can access your stored documents from anywhere in the world. You may need some evidence to prove your identity if your passport is lost or stolen.

– Travel out and back from the destination country – who is responsible for organising travel – you or the other party? Who will pay for it? Make sure that whatever you agree is properly reflected in a written agreement.

– Visas, work permits and other paperwork – again, what is required by the local authorities, and who will arrange and pay for it? This can be a particularly complicated area and you will need to satisfy yourself that all arrangements have been made properly.

For further guidance, see the UK Government’s Travel Advice at - you will be able to search by country and within each, you can find out entry requirements.

– Insurance – are you covered properly for health, loss and other expenses? Is this covered by you or the other party? If the other party is arranging insurance make sure you understand the terms and conditions of the cover and how to make a claim.

– Instruments – if you are taking your own instrument with you, what are the transportation arrangements and again, who is responsible and who pays? Check that your instruments will be covered by an appropriate and adequate insurance. Also check what happens if your own instrument becomes lost or damaged and a replacement is needed to fulfil the engagement: who will arrange and pay for this?

– Accommodation and subsistence – you need to know what the arrangements are before you accept a job.

– Incidental travel and other costs – how will you get to the venue from your accommodation? Will you pay? Can you claim it back? Or are there other arrangements? What about laundry?

Much of the foregoing will also apply if you are offered work which looks like it will require to live abroad for any period of time (as opposed simply to visiting in order to fulfil some specified dates).

But there are some things to consider. If you are working on a permit, what rights do you (and your family, if they have accompanied you) have to remain in the country if you leave the job, or are dismissed? Make sure you are clear on all these details before signing a contract.

Being out of the country for certain periods could impact on your tax affairs at home. So we would suggest again getting some advice for your circumstances: there are rules about whether you are resident or non-resident for tax purposes which are triggered by the length of time you live and work abroad.

You can find a useful introduction to this subject on the UK Government’s website at

Check accommodation arrangements closely. If you are not going to be in a hotel, where will you be staying and who will arrange it? What are the arrangements for deposit, rent in advance, bills and so on?

Think very carefully before committing to a contract where it specifies that rent and other overheads are deducted from your earnings: we have seen contracts of this kind. What happens if the accommodation is unacceptable to you? Can you make your own arrangements? You may still be obliged to hand over any deductions from your pay if you have accepted this as term in your contract.

ISM members can seek advice from our in-house legal team and legal and tax helplines.

Tags: ism , Opinion , top tips , working abroad

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