Step by step, our guide will lead you to all the important information you might need for your international work.

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The Guide


Do I need a visa and/or work permit for a work stay in Germany?


As of 1 January 2021, UK nationals will still be able to enter the Schengen area without a visa if they meet the criteria for a short stay.
This is because all countries that are part of the Schengen area apply the same entry rules for non-EU nationals. The Schengen area, in which there are no de facto internal border controls, acts as a kind of connected "visa area". Passport checks usually take place only on entry into and exit from the Schengen area, and selectively within the Schengen area.

Please note: The Schengen area is not congruent with the EU! The Schengen area includes the non-EU countries of Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein (and soon also Gibraltar), but not the EU countries of Bulgaria, the Republic of Ireland, Romania and Cyprus.

A short stay in the Schengen area is limited to a maximum of 90 days within a 180-day period. All days of the stay

  • contiguous or not,
  • within the last 180 days,
  • in all countries of the Schengen area

are counted as part of a short stay.

If you are staying in the Schengen area, it is necessary to check whether you have already stayed in the area for 90 days in the respective 180-day period prior to each individual day of stay. So prior to any visa-free entry into the Schengen area, your previous history of stay in the Schengen area over the preceding 180-day period must be checked. Entry and exit days are considered full days of stay.

You stayed in the Schengen area for a total of 50 days from 1 June to 20 July 2021 in France and Belgium (visiting friends and family) and also for a total of 35 days from 1 August to 4 September 2021 in Poland and Lithuania (holiday). Now you are planning another stay in the Schengen area from 1 October to 10 October 2021 in Germany.


For each planned day of stay in Germany in October, you must check whether a visa-free entry is permissible (i.e. whether your stay qualifies as a short stay). In order to do this, you must check your previous days of stay in the Schengen area over the respective 180-day period prior to the respective day for each planned day of your stay:

  • 1 October 2021: days of stay in the 180-day period prior: 50 + 35 = 85.

The stay on 1 October 2021 is possible (Day 86). A stay on 2 and 3 October is possible as well.

  • 4 October 2021: days of stay in the 180-day period prior: 50 + 35 + 3 (1 to 3 October) = 88.

The stay on 4 October is also possible (day 89), but you must leave the country on the following day (5 October), as the maximum stay of 90 days will be reached on that day. You will not be able to stay from 6 to 10 October.

  • If you stay from 1 to 5 October, a new visa-free short stay in the Schengen area would only be permissible again from 28 November, since the day of stay of 1 June is no longer part of the 180-day period prior to November 28 and is therefore no longer counted. Note: 28 November does not start a new 180-day period; rather, the previous days of stay in the 180-day period prior to 28 November only amount to 89, since the day of stay of 1 June is now outside the 180-day period prior to November 28. You can also stay on 29 November, as the day of stay of 2 June is also now outside the 180-day period prior to November 29.

Further information:

The question of whether a visa or resident permit is required for paid work under national German law must be considered. Since British nationals are no longer EU nationals and therefore no longer have the freedom to offer their services or work in the EU, the national law of the respective EU state is decisive in such cases.

The question of whether non-EU nationals need a visa or other work document for paid work is decided on a national basis (there is very limited coordination within the EU with regard to this issue).

In Germany, this is regulated in the Employment Ordinance (Beschäftigungsverordnung/BeschV), which governs access to the labour market for non-EU nationals. Section 30 of the ordinance contains a list of activities that are not considered gainful employment for the purposes of residence law. Section 22 BeschV (only available in German) is particularly relevant for artistic activities. It states that the following artistic activities are not considered "gainful employment" (even if they are paid) and that no special visa must be obtained to pursue them:

  • persons, including their support staff, who, while retaining their ordinary residence abroad, engage in lectures or performances of special scientific or artistic value or in performances of a sporting nature in Germany, if the duration of the activity does not exceed 90 days within a period of twelve months (§ 22 Nr. 1 BeschV- only available in German),
  • persons employed in the context of festivals or music and cultural events or posted in the context of guest performances or foreign film and television productions, if the duration of the activity does not exceed 90 days within a period of twelve-months (Section 22 No 2 BeschV- only available in German) ,
  • persons performing in one-day shows or events* for up to 15 days a year (Section 22 No. 3 BeschV- only available in German),
  • photo models, advertising models, fashion models (Section 22 No. 6 BeschV- only available in German).

*A "one-day show or event" is "when a special event, which is also recognisable as such to the outside world, is organised outside the normal course of business. A daily performance is generally announced in a special way, e.g. through advertisements or posters. Performances may not take place on more than two days in a row" (Source: Visum-Handbuch des Auswärtigen Amts, under Künstler 2)b. - only available in German). Any preceding rehearsals on up to two days do not count (Source: Fachliche Weisungen - Fachliche Weisungen Aufenthaltsgesetz und Beschäftigungsverordnung, 19c.22.3 - only available in German).

These regulations apply to both employees and self-employed persons.

The exceptions outlined above do not apply to individuals engaged by a German establishment in the field of performing arts (such as a theatre, an orchestra, an opera or a musical or circus troupe). All performances and rehearsals, whether paid or unpaid, require a visa or residence permit authorising employment.

This information of the German Missions in the United Kingdom provides an overview of professional activities not classed as economic activities/work ("Erwerbstätigkeit").

In summary, if the activities of British artists

1) meet the conditions for a short stay in the Schengen area (maximum of 90 days within the last 180 days) and

2) do not exceed the maximum duration of activity according to Section 22 BeschV (maximum of 90 days in each 12-month period),

no visa is required.

Therefore, the same rules apply to British artists after Brexit as to other nationals who may enter the country without a visa for a short stay, such as US or Japanese nationals. Based on our experience in recent years, this group of people did not encounter any particular problems when entering the country for a short stay, for example, they were not required to prove upon entry that a performance or activity met the conditions set forth in Section 22 BeschV (only available in German).

Nevertheless, we recommend that you carry the following documents with you:

  • letter of invitation from the organiser in Germany,
  • confirmation of health insurance that is valid in Germany (or an A1 form and a valid European Health Insurance Card or the British successor, the "Global Health Insurance Card"),
  • information about where you are staying in Germany (address, hotel booking or similar).

What regulations apply to British nationals who are protected by the Withdrawal Agreement and live in an EU country?
Information is available here.

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Does UK health insurance coverage apply during work stays in Germany?

The EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement establishes that postings from the UK to EU member states (and vice versa) will continue to be possible. This means that the previous social security legislation will continue to apply if a posting is temporary and does not exceed 24 months.

A1 certificates will continue to be issued as proof of a posting under this agreement for a transitional period.
Information for individuals insured in the United Kingdom can be found here.

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Transports of works of art, merchandise, etc. from the UK to Germany or the EU for sale

The implementation of Brexit as of 1 January 2021 has changed many aspects regarding the movement of goods between the EU and the UK. Import duties in the form of customs duty and import VAT must generally be paid when importing works of art, merchandise, etc. into the EU from third countries for commercial purposes (sale). Since the abolition of exemptions for commercial deliveries in July 2021, small amounts/values are now also subject to import duties. Customs authorities in each country levy import duties in accordance with their national regulations. In Germany, the standard import VAT rate is 19%, while the reduced rate is 7%.

Cultural professionals in Germany are eligible for reduced import duties on certain items, regardless of the country of origin. For instance, works of art are subject to a customs duty rate of 0% and a reduced import VAT rate of 7% (instead of 19%).

An overview of the customs tariff numbers and rates of duty levied on the importation of works of art into Germany:

  • Paintings (oil paintings, watercolours, pastels) and drawings that are no more than 100 years old and created entirely by hand:
    customs duty: 0%, import VAT: 7%, customs tariff number: 9701.9100.000
  • Original sculptures made from all kinds of materials that are no more than 100 years old:
    customs duty: 0%, import VAT: 7%, customs tariff number: 9702.9000.000

Installations that are disassembled for transport may contain various materials and objects. It is important to document what the assembled work looks like when transporting such works. Photos, exhibition catalogues etc. can be helpful in proving that a work is artistic in nature.

Merchandise, such as T-shirts and CDs, must be imported as what it is. The import VAT for these items is typically 19%, while the customs duty rate varies.

The Electronic Customs Tariff (EZT) provided on the EZT-Online website by the German customs administration (available in German only) is the only legally binding information platform that offers an overview of the expected import duties. In the "Einfuhr" ("Import") section, you can search for the goods description (under "Einreihung" ("Classification") > "Stichwortverzeichnis" ("Index")) or, if known, you can also search directly for the customs tariff number or the goods intended for import. In addition to duty rates, the website also provides information on any applicable bans and restrictions.

The Access2Markets web portal operated by the European Commission also offers support on issues relating to the import and export of services and products to and from the EU. The portal can be a useful tool for artists, creative professionals and event organisers seeking information on customs duties, import VAT and other duties, as well as their legal bases. Please note, however, that the information provided on this portal is not legally binding.

Goods imported in personal luggage – direct entry from the UK to Germany by plane

When entering Germany by plane, any works of art or merchandise carried in your luggage must be declared to customs. It is strongly recommended that you carry a list of the works/goods and a statement of value (customs declaration, pro forma invoice, sales catalogue, etc.).

For works or items imported for sale or already sold, you should seek clearance for free circulation under customs and tax law. Upon import, all duties are then paid at the customs office of entry based on the proof of value you carry with you. Payments can be made on-site in cash (up to a maximum of 2,000 euros) or by card.

The different customs declaration options are as follows:

When crossing the external EU border, verbal customs declarations can be made by using the red exit, which is usually prominently located in the arrivals hall of an airport. This type of declaration can only be used for works of art/merchandise valued at up to 1,000 euros. An EORI number (see also below) is not required for this type of declaration.

An electronic customs declaration may be submitted for all goods (total value over or under 1,000 euros) but is required for goods with a total value of over 1,000 euros.
The following electronic declaration options are available:

  • Online customs declaration – The artist creates a declaration online at and submits it electronically to the relevant customs office in Germany in advance. Upon arrival at the airport, a printout of this customs declaration must then be handed over to local customs officials for further processing on-site.
    Please note: This type of customs declaration is not recommended for individuals who do not have knowledge of import/customs clearance procedures. The document is not very accessible, is only available in German and can be challenging to fill out correctly, even for professionals.
  • Declaration via ATLAS (communications and data transfer platform of the German customs authorities) – This requires the assistance of a shipping company/customs agent, as only they have the necessary software and expertise to complete the process (see below “Assistance from companies/customs agents specialising in customs services”). The clearance process can be completed immediately based on the nature, price and destination of the works/goods, and any import duties owed can be paid on-site.

EORI number: Artists who import works of art, merchandise, etc. into the customs territory of the EU as part of their business activities – as entrepreneurs – and are making a customs declaration for this purpose require an EORI number. The EORI number (Economic Operators' Registration and Identification Number) has been in use since 2009 for identification purposes when communicating with customs authorities.
Information at GOV.UK: Get an EORI number

Sales price: If the goods are cleared for free circulation upon import, they are considered "duty paid and taxed". The sales price for customers in Germany should include the value of the goods and the import duties to be paid and is then considered to include VAT. In B2B transactions, import VAT is relevant for input tax deduction.
If the goods are sold to a customer in Germany prior to import, it must be made clear that the price may be subject to additional import duties.

In the UK, exports must be declared in accordance with UK law, which is essentially similar to or the same as EU law.
Information at GOV.UK: Export goods from the UK: step by step

Goods imported in personal luggage – but: entry via another Schengen state, e.g. France or Belgium, and sale in Germany

In principle, the rules described above apply to imports from third countries in the same way in all EU countries, but may be supplemented by national law in some cases.

Musicians who arrive in Germany by tour bus for concerts bringing CDs, merchandise, etc. worth up to 1,000 euros with them and enter the Schengen area via France or Belgium can declare the goods directly to customs authorities at the border in France or Belgium and pay the corresponding duties. The same applies to works of art, for example.

Goods valued at over 1,000 euros require an electronic customs declaration. We recommend that you seek assistance from a shipping company/customs agent with this process (see below “Assistance from companies/customs agents specialising in customs services”).

If the goods are declared for free circulation under customs and tax law in the EU country of arrival, France or Belgium for example, and the duties are paid in that country, they are considered taxed in all other EU countries. This means there is no double import VAT taxation in two EU countries. It should be noted that import VAT rates vary by country (France 20%, Belgium 19%).

For residents of the UK, the import VAT and any other import duties incurred when selling the goods in the EU should be regarded as non-refundable costs.

T1 transit document: It is generally possible to transport items in duty unpaid condition within the EU provided a transit document, or T1 for short, has been issued. However, this procedure is rather unsuitable for transporting works of art or merchandise within the EU due to the stringent requirements involved. To use this procedure, securities must be deposited and corresponding permits must be available. The transit procedure may be an economically interesting option for commercial road haulage companies, but it is not suitable for touring artists.

TIR Carnet: The same is true with regard to the TIR Carnet procedure, which was designed for multiple border crossings, or at least for the re-importation of the listed goods into the country of departure in unchanged condition, e.g. for trade fair goods or props and instruments as part of an international tour or traveling exhibition. It is important to note that the sale of goods is expressly not permitted under this carnet procedure.

Can import duties be refunded if part of the merchandise has not been sold and is being taken back to the UK?

Customs law does not allow for the refunding of import VAT that has already been paid. The rule here is: paid is paid. (Only natural and legal persons based in the EU can request a refund under separate customs procedures.)

To avoid paying import duties on unsold merchandise that is being returned to the UK, you can apply for a temporary import procedure. This involves a UK export declaration, a returned goods procedure, a temporary import declaration in Germany, etc. However, the process is very time-consuming and requires the payment of security deposits at the time the goods are transported. These deposits will be partially refunded upon the return of the goods (see Temporary use without an ATA Carnet).

Assistance from companies/customs agents specialising in customs services

Information provided by the British Government at GOV.UK:
Export goods from the UK: step by step > 4. Decide who will make export declarations and transport the goods > Find out how to hire someone to deal with customs for you

Sending goods from the UK to Germany by courier or parcel service

Artwork, merchandise etc. can be shipped from the UK to Germany by courier or parcel service. Parcel service providers also offer customs clearance in the destination country. However, please note the following:

  • A customs declaration should be included with the shipment. Blank forms for this purpose may be available on the parcel service's website. Alternatively, a pro forma invoice can be used.
  • The courier company will invoice the recipient for import duties, either in advance or payable as cash on delivery. It is important to clarify this beforehand with the recipient, e.g. the venue to which the merchandise is being sent.
    It may be possible to charge import duties to the sender in the UK as part of a corresponding agreement with the parcel service. The available options must be discussed with the company.
  • Conditions of carriage (size, weight, etc.) and prices vary greatly from company to company, so it may be worth shopping around.
  • Most parcel services only insure goods shipments against loss or damage up to a value of 500 euros as standard. To ensure full coverage in case of damage, you must declare a higher value and take out a corresponding insurance policy. However, this may result in considerably higher shipping costs.

Additionally, experience has shown that the customs clearance services offered by many parcel service providers are rather poor, which can cause delays of several days due to a lack of the necessary knowledge. The often standardized processes are not transparent to private individuals, and the availability of hotlines and group email addresses for inquiries may not always be satisfactory. The experiences of artists and cultural professionals vary greatly in this regard and range from "problem-free" to "terribly frustrating".


The implementation of Brexit has changed and complicated many aspects of the movement of goods between the EU and the UK. When importing works of art and merchandise (already sold or intended for sale) from the UK to Germany, it is advisable to deal with customs clearance before the start of the journey and, in the best case, to commission a company to clear the goods. As electronic customs declarations have become the norm, artists and cultural professionals are now dependent on the assistance of companies/customs agents specialising in customs services.

The only exception is for goods with a value of up to 1,000 euros being transported by car, tour bus or in the artist's personal luggage.

If you need a larger quantity of goods, you should also check whether, for example, T-shirts or other merchandise can be produced locally in Germany.

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Temporary import of works of art, equipment, etc.

An A.T.A. carnet should be requested for temporary use of equipment, musical instruments, works of art and set design in Germany for exhibitions, tours, etc. The London Chamber of Commerce and Industry is responsible for issuing carnets in the United Kingdom (additional information). Small items (e.g., musical instruments) transported as carry-on baggage will likely not require a carnet.

A CITES permit should be obtained for musical instruments made of protected woods or species and the export declared in the UK.

Note: Transport companies from the UK or the EU are now only allowed to carry out a limited number of cabotage transports in the respective other territory (a maximum of 2 in any 7-day period). This applies to vehicles with a gross weight of more than 3.5 tonnes. This means that for tours in the EU using UK vehicles that exceed this weight limit, only two more trips can be made after the vehicle enters the EU.

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What tax regulations must be observed?

Nothing has changed with regard to income tax (withholding tax, "foreigner tax"), as the bilateral double taxation agreement between the UK and Germany continues to apply. Information on the topic of withholding tax can be found here. Detailed information concerning the taxation of performances in Germany by self-employed artists domiciled abroad can be found in the Checklist: Withholding tax for performing artists from abroad.

The United Kingdom is no longer to be treated as a Member State concerning VAT, but as a third country. The information on third countries in the VAT section of the touring artists website applies accordingly.

Deliveries are now subject to import VAT. Please note: As of 1 July 2021, the tax-free allowance for deliveries to the EU customs territory will cease to apply, i.e. all deliveries will be subject to import VAT (further information can also be requested from the customs authorities- only available in German).

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Arts Infopoint UK

Contact Arts Infopoint UK for questions related to visits to the United Kingdom