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UK Visa & Immigration Routes for Sportspersons

The UK has a range of immigration routes that provide both temporary and long-term opportunities for international sports persons to participate in sporting activities in the UK.

The main immigration routes open to international sports persons are:

Sports Visitor Route

If you are an international sports person travelling to the UK for a short trip for which you will not be paid, you may be able to undertake certain sports activities under the visitor immigration rules

Sports Visit Visas are available to both amateur and professional sportspersons.  However, in common with other Visitor routes, Sports Visitors may not receive payment from a UK source for any activities undertaken in the UK. 

A sportsperson visiting the UK may undertake the following activities:

  • 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; 
  • Join an amateur team or club to gain experience in a particular sport if they are an amateur in that sport.

In order to enter the UK under the visitor immigration rules, the sporting activity must be unpaid (except for reasonable expenses to cover the cost of travel and subsistence and prize money) and you must intend to stay in the UK for less than 6 months.

Personal or technical staff of a sports person who are employed to work for the sports person outside the UK may also enter the UK as visitors provided they are attending the same event as the sports person in order to support the permitted activity.

If you are an EU, EEA or Swiss citizen travelling to the UK to carry out any of the above non-paid activities and your stay will last less than 6 months then you do not need to apply for a visa before travelling.  

Similarly, if you are a non-visa national travelling to the UK for less than 6 months then you can undertake the above-mentioned unpaid sports activities under the visitor immigration rules, without a visa.  

However, if you are a national or citizen of a country or territorial entity listed in Immigration Rules Appendix Visitor: Visa national list then you will need to apply for a visit visa prior to travelling to the UK as a visitor.

The Sports Visitors route does not lead to settlement in the UK and all visitors must make a separate application, even when travelling as part of a group.

Permitted Paid Engagement Route

If you are a professional sports person aged 18 or over and you have been invited by a sports organisation, agent or broadcaster based in the UK to come to the UK for a short paid engagement lasting not more than 1 month then you may be able to enter the UK under the Permitted Paid Engagement route.

The paid engagement must be arranged before you travel to the UK and be evidenced by a formal invitation.  It must also relate to your area of expertise and occupation overseas and last not more than 1 month.

For example, a professional footballer may enter to give a paid interview or attend meetings to discuss a contract.

Personal or technical staff of a sports person who are employed to work for the sports person outside the UK may also enter the UK to support a sports person who is undertaking a paid engagement.

If you are an EU, EEA or Swiss citizen travelling to the UK to carry out a permitted paid engagement then you do not need to apply for a visa before travelling.  

Similarly, if you are a non-visa national travelling to the UK to carry out a permitted paid engagement then you can undertake the paid engagement without needing to apply for a visa.  

However, if you are a national or citizen of a country or territorial entity listed in Immigration Rules Appendix Visitor: Visa national list then you will need to apply for a Permitted Paid Engagement visa prior to travelling to the UK.

The Permitted Paid Engagement Visa route does not lead to settlement in the UK and all visitors must make a separate application, even when travelling as part of a group.

International Sportsperson Route

If you are an elite sportsperson or qualified coach aged over 16 who is sponsored on a long-term contract then you may be able to come to the UK on an International Sportsperson visa.  If you are outside the UK you will need to apply for an International Sportsperson visa before you travel.

International Sportsperson visas are available for a period of either 12 months or less, or for a period exceeding 12 months.

You will need to be recognised and endorsed by your sport’s UK governing body as being at the highest level of your professional internationally.  Your employment will also need to make a significant contribution to the development of your sport at the highest level in the UK. There is no requirement to show that the post could not be filled by a settled worker.

You will also need a Certificate of Sponsorship from an organisation that holds a valid International Sportsperson sponsor licence.  This will be a UK-based sporting body, sports club, events organiser or other organiser operating, or intending to operate, in the sporting sector that has been endorsed by a Home Office-approved sports governing body.  

If applying for an International Sportsperson visa for a period exceeding 12 months, you will need have English language skills at level A1 on the Common European Framework of Reference for language in speaking and listening.

If you are applying for entry clearance from outside the UK or have been in the UK for less than one year at the date of application, you must show that you have enough funds to support yourself and any family members in the UK.  Your sponsor may be able to certify that this requirement is met.

If you apply for an International Sportsperson visa for a period of 12 months or less and your application is successful you will be permitted to enter and remain in the UK for either the period of employment stated on your Certificate of Sponsorship plus 14 days  or 12 months, whichever is the shorter.

If you apply for an International Sportsperson visa for a period of more than 12 months and your application is successful you will be permitted  to enter and remain in the UK for either the period of employment stated on your Certificate of Sponsorship plus 14 days or 3 years, whichever is shorter.

The International Sportsperson visa provides a route to settlement for sportspersons who have been granted leave in the International Sportsperson category for a period exceeding 12 months.

Contact our Immigration Barristers

For expert advice and assistance with an application for an international sportsperson to enter the UK to participate in sporting activities, contact our immigration barristers in London on 0203 617 9173 or complete our enquiry form below.

SEE HOW OUR IMMIGRATION BARRISTERS CAN HELP YOU

To arrange an initial consultation meeting, call our immigration barristers on 0203 617 9173 or fill out the form below.




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