Football – Sports Immigration has its Own Rules
Football fans are well accustomed to seeing the English and Scottish Premier Leagues populated by overseas talent. But few will appreciate the legal means by which they, as supporters, are able to watch and enjoy the talents of the world’s finest sportsmen. It may seem as though the likes of Manchester City’s Sergio Aguero or Mohamed Elneny of Arsenal simply arrive in the UK whenever they choose. But, reassuringly perhaps, those stellar performers are subject to the same immigration regulations as the rest of us.
As South Americans the two footballers named above are not automatically entitled to ply their profession in the UK. As with any non-EEA worker they – or their clubs – must apply for and be granted a visa by the UK Border Agency before they can begin to entertain British football fans.
Big Spending Solution
For the bigger clubs, for whom the recruitment process involves a global reach, it is not uncommon for clubs to establish themselves as Tier 2 sponsors – legally accepted and licenced employers of non-EEA labour. Elite clubs (and players) may have the means to explore other routes to a visa – including the high net worth investor visa that requires the player to invest £2 million in the UK.
Tier 2 Sportsperson’s Route
However, the more traditional route, and one that is more often employed by smaller clubs, is what is known as the Tier 2 Sportsperson’s route. In the case of the Tier 2 sportsperson’s route, the player will have to be ratified by his national governing body as an established international. In practice that means that the player will have to have played in a given percentage of his or her country’s national team’s games for which he/she was available over the preceding two years, depending on how high that country is rated in FIFA’s official ranking list – the higher the ranking the lower the percentage. Inevitably, each of these criteria is somewhat indeterminate, so the Tier 2 route may be problematic, as Arsenal’s Egyptian signing Elneny discovered last season.
In other cases, a more economical solution may be available on the basis of a family connection – e.g. if their wife is an EU citizen. There are various other means by which a player may gain the right to play in the UK – and not all of them fall into the multi-million-pound category.
YDVISAS specialise in all visa categories and are specialist immigration lawyers in the UK. Please contact the expert team at YDVISAS, should you need any professional help with your visa application.