Immunity from Seizure – The Application Process

The Counterculture legal team has helped and advised institutions of various sizes to prepare successful applications for Immunity from Seizure (IfS).

Why would you need to make such an application?

Many overseas lenders request that objects they loan to galleries and museums are protected by Immunity from Seizure (IfS). They won’t lend if you haven’t got it!

The Tribunals, Courts and Enforcements Act 2007 (the Act) provides immunity from seizure (IfS) for cultural objects provided they meet certain conditions.

What are the conditions?

  • the object is usually kept overseas;
  • the object is not owned by a person who is resident in the UK;
  • the import of the object does not contravene any law;
  • the object is brought into the UK for the purpose of a temporary public exhibition at an approved museum or gallery; and
  • the museum or gallery has complied with the Protection of Cultural Objects on Loan (Publication and Provision of Information) Regulations 2008 and published information about the object where required to do so by regulations.

Who approves the application?

The Secretary of State for Culture Media and Sport approves museums and galleries and awards IfS status.

Hang on, why and by whom would objects be seized?

Objects might be seized in the following scenarios:

  1. Someone asserts ownership over them, is awarded a court remedy, and attempts to enforce it;
  2. The lender’s creditor is awarded a financial judgment but cannot enforce it in their own country; or
  3. They are seized by the police as part of a criminal investigation.

How do we make an application?

Museums and galleries based in England must apply to DCMS and show that they have a robust due diligence policy and procedures that enable objects’ provenance to be thoroughly and independently checked. Policies and procedures must adhere to international standards and DCMS guidelines. Galleries and museums usually set these standards and guidelines out in a Loans In Agreement, and a accompanying checklists.

You will need to send your policies and procedures to DCMS along with a completed form and case study. The case study must show that the institution has carried out a thorough due diligence exercise and adhered to its policy by carrying out all the relevant independent checks.

Will it take a long time?

Yes, it is important to note that DCMS advise institutions to submit their applications at least three months before the objects are due to arrive in the UK.

If a lender asks you to obtain IfS, then you will need to start work straight away and review your existing due diligence practice. This may involve drafting new policies and accompanying provenance checklists and you will also need to train your staff on their content. You will also need to prepare a case study and this can be a time-consuming process.

If you need any help or have any questions related to IfS then please get in touch with or