Laurens Meijer
Advisor Mobility Info Point

The EU travel ban and the exemption for cultural and creative professionals

The EU travel ban and the exemption for cultural and creative professionals

Working together with a cultural or creative professional based outside the European Union? This article explains the travel ban and the exemptions in place.
By Laurens Meijer

The EU travel ban is in force since 19 March 2020 limiting travel to the European Union and the Netherlands. This has serious implications for international cultural exchange. The ban means that most non-EU citizens are not allowed to enter the Schengen area. Fortunately, there is hope that the restrictions will be eased in the near future. There is a growing list of countries whose residents are exempted from the ban, currently including Australia, New Zealand, Rwanda, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand, China and Israel. Due to the rollout of vaccines it is expected that residents from the United States and the United Kingdom will soon be added to this list as well.

Does the EU travel ban apply categorically?

Of course there are exceptions. If you are a resident or citizen of a country that is on the EU’s list of ‘safe countries’, the travel ban doesn’t apply to you. Do mind that regular visa requirements based on nationality still apply. If you for example are a citizen of Thailand living in a safe country like Singapore for example, you would still need to apply for a Schengen visa.

Other exceptions are in place for travellers that are EU-citizens and bring their non-EU family members with them, non-EU citizens with a residence permit issued by one of the EU/EEA member states and people with an essential job or need. Cultural and creative professionals invited to take part in important cultural activities are included as one of these essential jobs that qualify for an exemption to the travel ban.     

Who qualifies as a cultural or creative professional that can invoke this exemption?

Cultural and creative professionals that serve a Dutch social, cultural and economic interest are invited to apply for an exemption. For example directors, conductors, choreographers, musicians, but also restorers and conservators. If this is the case depends on whether:

  1. The work is part of the activities of a cultural or creative institution that receives a multiyear grant from the Dutch central government through the BIS (Basisinfrastructuur) or one of the six cultural funds: the Netherlands Film Fund, the Cultural Participation Fund, the Performings Arts Fund, the Dutch Foundation for Literature, the Mondriaan Fund or the Creative Industries Fund NL for the period of 2017-2020 or 2021-2024;
  2. The professional is invited by the Dutch cultural or creative institution for his/her/them unique qualities and skillset and receives a fee for the work;
  3. This professional’s physical presence and participation is essential to the organisation’s overall ability to conduct its activities;
  4. The income generated from this activity should be substantial in relation to the financial situation of the inviting institution. This proves the added economic value of the professional.
What should an invitation letter include?

The inviting organisation composes an invitation letter that includes information on all four aspects indicated above. The letter should be written on the organisation's letterhead and include:

  • the name and address of the professional in his/her/their country of residence;
  • the date of the activities (both repetitions and stage dates, for example) for which the professional is invited;
  • a declaration that the organisation receives structural funding from the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science or one of the six sector specific cultural funds*; 
  • information about the unique qualities and skillset of the professional and the renumeration he/she/they receive in return;
  • an explanation on why the presence and participation of the professional is vital for the organisation to continue its planned activities, or in other words, why the activity can't continue without this professional physically present; 
  • information about how the direct or indirect monetary value ; and, lastly,
  • name of the responsible person at the inviting organisation, signature and date.

* In exceptional cases organisations that do not receive a multi-year subsidy from the national government or a national culture fund for the period 2017-2020 or 2021-2024 can also apply succesfully. The exception is limited to cases in which the work is urgently and immediately necessary for the continuation of the applying organisation. These applications are assessed by the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, but must also be submitted to the Performing Arts Fund.

Apply with the Performing Arts Fund

The Performing Arts Fund has the task to handle and decide on applications for permission to enter the Netherlands. You can find additional information on the application process here (in Dutch only). It takes up to 5 days before you receive their decision. 

The Dutch government has indicated that it wishes to apply the exemption as limited as possible. Therefore it is important to substantiate your arguments as best as you can to fall within the scope of the exemption. 

Please note that the invitation letter can also be used to prove that the cultural or creative professional is allowed to interrupt self-quarantine. You can find more information about the rules on self-quarantine upon arrival here.

Please also check the Dutch government's checklist for travel to the Netherlands here. For further questions on mobility and the coronavirus, please contact DutchCulture’s Mobility Info Point.