The UK is a top destination for athletes and sporting professionals in a diverse range of disciplines. Whether you are a sportsperson, coach or club, our immigration barristers are well versed in the full range of UK visas available to sportspersons who wish to visit, or work in, the UK.
General visa information
If you want to work as a sportsperson, undertaking sporting activities in the UK, you will normally need to have a visa under one of the tiers of the points-based system. The points-based system has special categories and rules for those in the sporting industry, both professional and amateur. In most categories you will have to be sponsored by an employer. However, if you are going to be in the UK briefly, or for a single event or activity, one of the visitor visas may be appropriate.
The main immigration routes available to sportspersons are:
- Visit (Standard) – Business Sports
- Permitted Paid Engagement
- Tier 2 (Sportsperson)
- Tier 5 (Temporary Worker – Sporting)
Employers, clubs and event organisers
If you want to employ someone who does not already have the right to work in the UK, you will need to sponsor them. All companies and organisations who want to sponsor their employees must obtain a Sponsor Licence.
To sponsor a sportsperson under the Tier 2 (Sportsperson) or Tier 5 (Temporary Worker: Creative and Sporting) categories, you must be a sporting body, sports club, event organiser or other organiser operating, or intending to work in, the sporting sector. Agents cannot be sponsors.
You will need to obtain an endorsement from the governing body for your sport, which must be recognised by the Home Office. The endorsement will confirm that you are a genuine club or similar organisation and have a legitimate requirement to bring migrants to the UK as sportspersons. If the governing body for your sport is not recognised by the Home Office, it is important to ensure you plan well ahead if intending to sponsor any migrants, as it can take up to 6 months for a governing body to be added to the approved list.
Players on loan: if you sponsor a sportsperson you will have special duties if they are on loan to another club. You can only loan and accept loaned players if your governing body permits this. If one of your players is moving on loan then you must report this to the Home Office. The player may only be loaned if they will return to your club after the loan period. You will continue to be responsible for the player and must make arrangements with the loan club so that you can continue to meet your sponsor duties. The loan club does not need to make an application for an endorsement or have a Sponsor Licence.
If the player is permanently transferred, you must inform the Home Office and the new club must make an application for the player, both for an endorsement and a visa. The player must be granted leave to play for the new club before they begin playing for them. If a player is on loan from an overseas club to a UK club, you must meet all the requirements of Tier 2 or Tier 5 and have a governing body endorsement.
How we can help
Our immigration barristers provide expert advice to sportspersons, coaches and clubs on UK visa and immigration requirements. We assist professional and amateur sportspersons, employers and event organisers across all sports to ensure that they can visit and undertake sporting activities in the UK.
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Applications for Visit (Standard) – Business Sports Visas
The Visit (Standard) – Business Sports visa is designed for non-EEA nationals who wish to come to the UK for the purpose of undertaking business activities.
A sportsperson may take part in a sports tournament or sports event as an individual or part of a team; make personal appearances and take part in promotional activities; take part in trials provided they are not in front of a paying audience; take part in short periods of training provided they are not being paid by a UK sporting body; and join an amateur team or club to gain experience in a particular sport.
Personal or technical staff of the sports person, or sports officials, may support the activities mentioned above, if they are attending the same event as the sports person, and are employed to work for them outside the UK.
Applications for Permitted Paid Engagement Visas
The Permitted Paid Engagement visa is for non-EEA nationals over the age of 18 who wish to come to the UK for a short paid engagement. During your stay you will be able to undertake certain specific activities. For example, a professional footballer may enter to give a paid interview and also attend meetings to discuss a contract.
Applications for Tier 2 (Sportsperson) Visas
The Tier 2 (Sportsperson) visa is designed specifically for elite sportspersons and coaches internationally established at the highest level, whose employment will make a significant contribution to the development of their sport at the highest level in the UK, and who will base themselves in the UK.
Applications for Tier 5 (Temporary Worker - Sporting) Visas
The Tier 5 (Temporary Worker) category is for certain types of temporary worker whose entry to the UK will help to satisfy cultural, charitable, religious or international objectives. You will need to have an offer of a position before applying for a visa. If you apply for a Tier 5 (Temporary Worker) visa as a sportsperson, you will need to be endorsed by the governing body for your sport and demonstrate that you will make a significant contribution to your sport at the highest level in the UK.