The visa process is ‘overly complex’, ‘humiliating’ and detrimental for artists wanting to perform in the UK, says a prestigious group of festival directors.

Published in the Guardian, the letter decries various festivals’ attempts to get visa approvals for authors and musicians – citing unexplained delays and multiple refusals particularly for applicants from MEA countries.

The letter’s content includes this excerpt: “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 by assessors, and refusals being made for visas that could theoretically be granted. The situation has led to artists now telling festivals they are much more reluctant to accept invitations to come to the UK due to the visa process, despite the assistance we receive from bodies such as the British Council and UK embassies across the world.”

The letter was signed by:

Nick Barley, Artistic director, Edinburgh international book festival

Chris Smith Director, Womad festivals

Eckhard Thiemann, Artistic director and Daniel Gorman Executive director, Shubbak: A Window on Contemporary Arab Culture

Syima Aslam Director, Bradford literature festival

Monica Ferguson Chief executive and artistic director, IF: Milton Keynes international festival

Bill Gee Creative director, IF: Milton Keynes international festival

John E McGrath, Artistic director and chief executive, Manchester international festival

Emma Gladstone, Artistic director and chief executive, Dance Umbrella

Peter Florence Director, Hay festivals

Andrew Comben Chief executive, Brighton festival

Melanie Iredale Deputy director, Sheffield Doc/Fest

Donald Shaw Director, Celtic Connections

Ruth McCarthy, Artistic director, Outburst Queer Arts festival

Helen Medland, CEO and artistic director, Sick! festival

Richard Wakely, Artistic director and chief executive, Belfast international arts festival

Kris Nelson, Artistic director and joint CEO, Lift

Liz Holmes, Director, Knockengorroch World Ceilidh

Adrian Turpin, Artistic director, Wigtown book festival

Taher Qassim Chair, Liverpool Arab Arts festival

Miguel Oyarzun, Co-director, BE festival

Eleanor Livingstone, Director, StAnza festival

Donald Smith, Director, Scottish international storytelling festival

Alistair Moffat, Director, Borders book festival

Bob McDevitt, Director, Bloody Scotland festival

Tom Baker, Director, Field Day

The letter comes after some high profile criticisms of the visa process.

Peter Florence, director of Hay festival, has previously spoken out against the recent trend he sees in organisers having difficulties in getting Palestinian writers.

Elsewhere, 12 authors who were planning to attend this year’s Edinburgh international book festival had their visas refused, according to the director, Nick Barley.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “We welcome artists and musicians coming to the UK from non-EEA countries to perform. In the year ending December 2017, 99% of non-settlement visa applications were processed within 15 days and the average processing time in 2017 was just under eight days. Guidance on visa and entry clearance requirements is publicly available on GOV.UK. Each case is assessed on its individual merits against the published immigration rules.”