Tier 2 Sportsperson Visas For African and Latin American Footballers

The recent decision to refuse the Tier 2 Sportsperson Visa application of Venezuelan footballer Adalberto Peñaranda has once again put the visa application and decision-making processes of the Home Office in the spotlight. There are numerous requirement criteria that the Home Office in conjunction with the English FA expect overseas players to meet, and which are particularly onerous for players from non-EEA nations ranked outside the top 60 of the FIFA World Rankings. Given that there are numerous African and Latin American nations below this mark, it is no surprise that players from those nations should encounter visa refusals.

What is a Tier 2 Sportsperson Visa?

The Tier 2 Sportsperson Visa for footballers is still commonly referred to as a ‘work permit’, though it should not be mistaken as one by football clubs, applicants or their advisers. A Tier 2 Sportsperson Visa is part of the Points-based System, and as such is subject to far stricter rules than a work permit.

As well as the Home Office requirements, a Tier 2 Sportsperson Visa applicant will need to be able to meet the requirements of their sport’s governing body in the United Kingdom.  This is because the Home Office requires that each applicant receives a Certificate of Sponsorship, which it is the duty of that sport’s governing body to assign upon endorsement of that sportsperson.

Tier 2 Sportsperson Visa Requirements For Footballers

The Home Office’s requirements for a Tier 2 Sportsperson Visa are that:

  • the applicant is internationally established as a player or coach at the highest level;
  • their employment will make a significant contribution to the development of their sport at the highest level in the UK;
  • they intend to be based in the UK for the duration of their permission to stay; and
  • the post could not be filled by a suitable settled worker.

The Tier 2 Sportsperson Visa applicant will be expected to meet a minimum English language requirement. They will also need to meet the requirement for maintenance – which means that their financial resources are sufficient to enable them to support themselves in the United Kingdom.

The most important requirements are those of the English FA, however, as they will be endorsing the sportsperson and then assigning the Certificate of Sponsorship that is used in the visa application. The English FA’s guidance provides that the non-EEA national sportsperson must have participated in a ‘required percentage’ of senior competitive international matches played by their National Association during the year prior to application. The threshold can be high: a sportsperson whose National Association is ranked between 31 and 50 in the FIFA World Rankings will be required to have participated in 75% of senior competitive international matches; National Associations ranked lower than 60 in the FIFA World Rankings are not mentioned in the guidance.

The English FA does allow certain discretionary criteria, however, and those sportspeople who do not meet the criteria for endorsement are able to request that the Exceptions Panel consider the player’s experience and value. This gives them and their prospective club the opportunity to present their case, though should they be unsuccessful they may not request a further hearing for the following four months.

Tier 2 Sportsperson Visas: Is There a Level Playing Field?

One of the concerns reportedly expressed by Watford FC was that they felt that their Tier 2 Sportsperson Visa application was judged differently to applications submitted by larger, more famous football clubs. Those footballers who are unable to automatically meet the criteria set out by the English FA can be considered under discretionary criteria, should the transfer fee and wages they command be high enough, or if they have played in a ‘top league’. This clearly favours certain clubs who can afford to meet the criteria or who can attract the players from top leagues. Many footballers from Africa and Latin America would not be able to meet such criteria, as not only would their National Association not be ranked highly enough, their transfer fee and wages would not be able meet the requirements.

Whilst this does not necessarily show a bias towards larger clubs, it is illustrative of how the endorsement system is weighted towards footballers who command greater fees or who are more widely known. This is because a ‘settled worker’ could be assumed to be able to fill the role of a lesser-known non-EEA player, who would not be making a ‘significant contribution’ due to their lesser status.  In the case of African and Latin American footballers, especially where loans are concerned, the case of Adalberto Peñaranda shows that there is a need for both football clubs and football players to have a thorough understanding of the guidance provided by the Home Office and the English FA.

Using Legal Representation to Apply for a Tier 2 Sportsperson Visa in the United Kingdom

Legal representatives, such as our specialist immigration and visa law firm, are qualified to advise you on immigration law and your immigration status. It is possible to instruct an immigration and visa legal representative to apply for a Tier 2 Sportsperson Visa in the United Kingdom.

Caseworkers at the Home Office are trained to reject applications which are improperly prepared, for example by failing to provide the correct supporting evidence. In order to ensure your application succeeds, all necessary documents must be provided.

This can be a significant administrative task and you will need to submit the correct documentary evidence. The UK Immigration Rules are complex and a legal representative can help ensure that your application meets the Immigration Rules.

Successfully Apply for a Tier 2 Sportsperson Visa in the United Kingdom

Our team of solicitors and barristers are specialist immigration lawyers who act in your best interest. We offer a client-tailored approach from the outset. From the very first meeting, we will be able to advise you in respect of your immigration status and the merit of your visa and immigration application before your matter even reaches the Home Office UK Visa & Immigration department. We can assist you with the preparation of your immigration and visa application and ensure that you meet all the requirements of the relevant rules.

We are based in the legal epicentre of London, just across the road from the Royal Courts of Justice in order to ensure we get the best results for our clients.  We are minutes away from the Immigration and Asylum Tribunal, the Royal Courts of Justice and other central London courts.

Preparation is the key to successful immigration applications. Our UK immigration and visa solicitors are here to guide you through the complex immigration rules and requirements. If you wish to meet one of our lawyers, please call our Immigration Team so we can assess your case and arrange your legal consultation.

Contact our London immigration solicitors on 02071830570 or complete our contact form.

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