A Guide to the International Sportsperson Visa
If you are a sports club you may want to bring overseas international sportspersons or coaches to the UK. For elite players and athletes, the goal may be to move to the UK to play or engage in athletics. The international sportsperson visa may be the visa you need. In this blog, our immigration solicitors take a look at the international sportsperson visa and the eligibility criteria.
UK Online and London Based Immigration Solicitors
The international sportsperson visa
The international sportsperson visa is intended to help elite sportspersons and sports coaches come to the UK. There are 2 types of international sportsperson visa:
- An international sportsperson visa of 12 months or less and
- An international sportsperson visa for over 12 months – a sportsperson visa of over 12 months can lead to settlement in the UK
An international sportsperson visa of either length allows a sportsperson to bring family members with them to the UK on dependent visas.
The eligibility criteria for the international sportsperson visa
The eligibility criteria for the UK international sportsperson visa are:
- The sportsperson is aged at least 16 – there is no upper age limit
- The sportsperson has a job offer as a sportsperson or coach
- The job offer is from a sponsoring employer with a Home Office-issued sponsor licence
- The sponsoring employer has allocated a certificate of sponsorship to the person applying for the international sportsperson visa
- The sportsperson has been endorsed by a governing body in the relevant sport
- The sportsperson meets the English language requirement – this is only relevant if the visa application is for over 12 months. The required English language skill level to meet the English language requirement is set at level A1 on the Common European Framework of Reference for language in speaking and listening for the international sportsperson visa. The English language requirement can be met by sitting and passing an English language test or by the sportsperson being a national of a majority English-speaking country on a Home Office list of countries or through the sportsperson having an academic qualification taught in English and recognised as being the equivalent to a UK bachelor’s degree, master’s degree or PhD qualification
- The sportsperson meets the maintenance requirement - the visa applicant needs to have had at least £1,270 in their bank account, held for at least 28 days, ending not more than 31 days before the date of the visa application. The holding of these monies is unnecessary if the sportsperson has been in the UK with a valid visa for at least 12 months or, if on the certificate of sponsorship, the sponsoring employer agrees to cover the visa applicant’s costs during their first month spent in the UK
- The visa applicant meets the general eligibility criteria for UK entry clearance and won't be refused entry under the general grounds for refusal
- A TB certificate is produced if the visa applicant comes from a country on a Home Office list of counties where visa applicants have to produce a TB certificate
Endorsement by a governing body in the relevant sport for the international sportsperson visa
Sponsorship Licence lawyers say that to sportspersons and clubs it can seem onerous for the club to need a sponsor licence as well as for the sportsperson to require endorsement from an appropriate UK sports governing body. However, the immigration rules for the international sportsperson visa require both sponsorship and endorsement.
The chosen and relevant UK sports governing body has to confirm that:
- The sportsperson is internationally established at the highest level and
- The sportsperson will make a significant contribution to the development of their sport at the highest level in the UK
The sport’s governing body has to provide its endorsement before the sponsoring employer can allocate the sportsperson with a certificate of sponsorship. Without a certificate of sponsorship, the international sportsperson cannot apply for a visa.
Allocating a certificate of sponsorship to an international sportsperson visa applicant
The requirement to allocate a certificate of sponsorship means an employer employing an international sportsperson needs a specialist sponsor licence to sponsor international sportspersons rather than a general sponsor licence, such as a sponsor licence to sponsor skilled worker visa applicants.
To qualify for a sportsperson sponsor licence the employer must be a UK-based sporting body, club, or organisation in the sporting sector with endorsement from the Home Office-approved sports governing body.
An agent cannot qualify for a sponsor licence to sponsor a sportsperson visa applicant. Nor can an overseas-based club or organisation apply for a sponsor licence.
Once the organisation has its sponsor licence it can allocate a certificate of sponsorship to a qualifying international sportsperson. The sportsperson must then use the certificate of sponsorship within 3 months. If the certificate isn’t used in that timeframe it lapses.
Length of the international sportsperson visa
If an applicant applies for an international sportsperson visa for 12 months, the applicant can stay in the UK for 12 months or for the employment period on the certificate of sponsorship plus an extra 14 days, whichever is the shorter period.
If an applicant applies for an international sportsperson visa for more than 12 months and the application is granted by the Home Office, the applicant can stay in the UK for the period of employment referred to in the certificate of sponsorship plus an extra 14 days or 3 years, whichever is the shorter period.
An international sportsperson can apply to extend their visa. Once they have been in the UK for 5 years, they can apply to settle in the UK by securing indefinite leave to remain. To do so they will need to meet the continuous and lawful residence requirement for an ILR application.
Time spent on the international sportsperson visa can be combined with other visas ( such as the skilled worker visa or global talent visa or innovator visa) to qualify for the 5-year ILR residence requirement.
To meet the residence requirement the sportsperson must not have been outside the UK for more than 180 days in any 12 months during the 5-year period they are relying on to meet the residence requirement. In addition, the sportsperson will need to show that:
- They are in sponsored employment and will continue to be employed for the foreseeable future
- They are paid at least £35,800 gross per year
- They meet the English language requirement to level B1 or they are exempt from sitting the English language test
- They have passed the Life in the UK test
International sportsperson visa conditions and work opportunities
In addition to undertaking sponsored employment an international sportsperson can also:
- Play for their national team
- Play in British University and College Sport (BUCS) competitions
- Undertake temporary work in sports broadcasting to provide commentary
The refusal of an international sportsperson visa application
If an application for an international sportsperson visa is refused then either an administrative review of the decision or a fresh application can be considered.
UK Online and London Based Immigration Solicitors and Sponsorship Licence Lawyers