Representatives of the U.K. live entertainment sector say they have received "very positive responses" from government over concerns about a contentious points-based visa system which they claim is dissuading performers from appearing in Britain.

London-based lobbying body the National Campaign for the Arts (NCA) led a delegation of arts industry representatives to meet the Minister for Borders and Immigration, Phil Woolas MP, to discuss the impact of visa rules which came into operation in November 2008.

Under the rules, performers from outside the European Economic Area entering the United Kingdom to work now have to meet a specific number of criteria to build the requisite number of points and have a sponsor before they can obtain a temporary (12-month) visa.

The NCA complains that the new system is not flexible enough and that officials in various offices and embassies around the world are not familiar with the requirements and are therefore providing incorrect advice and information.

In a statement, the body said: "the difficulties for some artists to obtain visas to perform in the U.K. become too onerous to justify. The NCA and Society of London Theatre have already received separate indications that musicians from Western Africa and a producer of a show with performers from India and Sri Lanka are assessing touring the U.K. in future."

Promoter Paul Fenn, co-founder of the Asgard agency (whose clients include Jackson Browne, Alison Krauss & Union Station, Steve Earle, Faith Hill and Tom Waits) attended the meeting as a representative of the Concert Promoters Assn.

According to Fenn, "there are some simple measures the Home Office could take to improve the IT systems and thus the experiences of arts organizations and promoters when using the system. We are delighted that the Minister and his officials have said that they will deal with these as a priority."

In the statement, NCA director Louise De Winter said the Minister "was very receptive to our concerns and gave us a sympathetic hearing," at the meeting earlier this week. Woolaas was "keen to stress that he wanted to remove problematic hurdles and that he wanted to be flexible and responsive."

Participants in the NCA-led delegation comprised: the Association of Circus Proprietors; Concert Promoters Association and the Agents Assn; Royal Opera House; Society of London Theatre and Theatrical Management Assn; and Arts Council England.