Joining Equity & the North American Actors Association (NAAA)

Two more questions from an actress who recently moved to London from New York:

Q: I was not a member of any union in NYC, and was told it's fairly easy to qualify for UK Equity here. I was wondering if there are rules posted online I may be missing.

A: I'd start on the How to Join page on the Equity website. They have a link to download application forms, and they say the following about overseas performers:
"Overseas Experience: If you have worked professionally overseas and can provide proof of your employment, together with details of membership, if any, of the relevant union in the country or countries concerned you are eligible for membership of Equity. This applies to UK and EU citizens, or to those from other countries who have been granted permission to work in the UK."
You can also just phone any of the offices using the details listed on their Contact page.

I was told by the North American Actors Association, two years ago (when thinking of moving), that I was not allowed to join unless I was a member of a union. But I've met several actors who joined while not in a union. Curious if you have any insight.

A: I was a member of AEA (Actors Equity Association) and SAG (Screen Actors Guild), and a UK permanent resident when I joined, so I didn't run into an issue. In your case, I'd fill out the new member application form and see what happens. If you have to be a union member to join, I'd chase Equity and try to convince them to let you join since you have professional experience.


James Swift said…
I'm going to be moving to London in June '08 and have dual citizenship US/UK because my father is British. I have a bit of professional stage experience in Seattle, and have done union corporate videos for Microsoft. I'm wondering what advice you could give me for getting my foot in the door once I arrive?
James Swift said…
I just posted the comment about moving to London in June...if you'd like to contact me back I can be reached via e-mail at Thanks!!
Unknown said…

I'm an American NYC actress looking to relocate to London and I was researching visas and others who have done it and came across your blog. I was hoping you could tell me what it was like obtaining your visa and how you went about it, offer advice on breaking into theatre out there (I'm a non-union actress here), etc. My email is Would totally appreciate it! Thanks!
Anonymous said…
I am having the same trouble with my visa....I do not have my degree yet so coming with a work visa is proving almost well as convincing employers to convince the government that they need you....I am trying to get into school now at last minute in clearing...but how did you come over....any advice...also how does london's film community stand to LA(I know lA IS The center of the world) but I am curious about londons film scene though I am gonna focus on theatre there first and getting into drama school...

Elena said…
Hi Kosha,
I am currently a theatre student and have always wanted to live in England and work in the theatre there. I do not plan to work in the West End straight away, as I realise that would be foolish to assume that I would be hired, however I do want to work in regional or smaller theatres outside of London. As I will be finishing theatre school within two years I have started doing research on what is needed to become an expat to the UK. Unfortunately I am not finding a lot of useful information and wondered if you had any ideas of where I would even start finding out what I need to do to make the move in a couple of years. I have been planning on leaving the States since I was fifteen, but have recently realised that time is creeping up on me and these things take time to get them done. Any advice or ideas you could offer me would be great and very much appreciated, my email is
Thank you, Elena Lewis
Anonymous said…
I am an American and lived in London for years having trained at top places in both the USA and UK. Something Americans might take note of - in May of 2011 British Equity instituted a rule change - (From the Equity Journal - "The rules currently
guarantee the right for every member to hold and express their personal political and other beliefs in both private and professional capacities. The proposed rule change would remove that guarantee ..." A tiny number of members voted (around 3,000) and the rule changed passed by around 800 votes. So the entire union membership has lost the right to free speech by 800 votes. 800 out of a total membership of 35,000.Hardly a mandate. Aside from the absurdity of a union for creative people restricting speech (If your politics are totally leftwing you'll have no worries) it is worth noting that such a rule change, regardless of how reached (referendum or edict) would be illegal in the USA. The First Amendment guarantess our right of free speech. In brief: a contingent of radical leftists engineered this "referendum" (of which the vast majority of the members were and still are unaware) because they didn't like the politics of a ballerina on immigration issues. Like the Universities, foundations, media, TV, Theatre and unions in the states, the unions in the UK are also controlled by the political left. Following this change, a member could now be thrown out of the union if his/her politics annoy the Equity Council. Latest count indicates that people on the Left and Right on the Council is 45 to 5. So political correctness is increasingly the law of the land as it has become in the States, except in the USA, thanks to the much attacked of late, Bill of Rights, there is some judicial means of fighting back. It is a sad and absurd outcome now that British actors and dancers have less fundamental rights of citizenship than bakers, plumbers, cab drivers etc. due to the threat of union explusion and the end of their career held over them if their politics offend that of the ruling council. Take note.
Anonymous said…
The only two ways I knew of when I was there was either through dual-nationality or by marriage to a British citizen. The Americans who stayed and worked there are still there with families and British spouses. Otherwise the work permit is denied.

Popular Posts