In October 2021, the Home Office created the International Sportsperson Visa route for elite sportspersons and qualified sports coaches. It offers wonderful benefits to those that qualify, including Settlement in the UK. The new visa route replaces the old Tier 2 Sportsperson Visa and the sporting part of Tier 5 Creative and Sporting Visa. The replacement will not affect sportspeople and dependants currently in the UK on the old Tier 2 and Tier 5 routes. They will be able to switch to the new Sportsperson route when they apply to extend their stay.
How to qualify for the International Sportsperson Visa
To qualify, you have to be 16 years or older and fulfil the following criteria:
- You have to be an elite sportsperson or qualified sports coach, and your sport’s governing body must recognise you as being at the highest level of your sport internationally.
- Your sport governing body must endorse your visa application.
- Your employment in the UK will develop the sport in the country at the highest level.
- You have to have a valid certificate of sponsorship for your job. The UK employer (usually sports clubs in the UK) will provide you with this certificate of sponsorship.
English Language Requirement
If you apply to stay for longer than twelve months, you must fulfil the English Language Requirement. There are various ways to meet this requirement. Please speak to your Breytenbachs consultant for more information.
Applicants will also have to fulfil a maintenance requirement. You must have a certain amount of money in your bank account to show that you can support yourself in the UK. However, your employer can cover your costs during your first month in the UK. If your employer is supporting you, your certificate of sponsorship must confirm this. You do not need to fulfil the maintenance requirement if you have already been in the UK with a valid visa for more than twelve months. Your Breytenbachs consultant will be able to provide you with all the information on the maintenance requirement.
Length of Stay
You can apply to stay for up to twelve months or, alternatively, for up to three years. It is possible to extend the visa, provided you are still eligible. You have to apply for an extension before your current visa expires. Every extension for the International Sportsperson Visa can be for up to three years at a time. There is no time limit on the time spent on this visa.
Switching to the International Sportsperson Visa
It is possible to switch to this visa if you are currently in the UK on another type of visa. You have to switch before your current visa expires. However, it is not possible to switch from certain types of UK visas, such as the Visitor visa, unless you have been doing permitted activities as a sportsperson. If you cannot switch from your current visa, you will have to leave the UK and apply from abroad. We recommend that you speak to a Breytenbachs consultant to clarify whether you will be able to switch from your type of UK visa.
Right to Work
The sportsperson or sports coach will be able to do the work as described in the certificate of sponsorship. You will also be able to play for your national team in the UK. You can work as a broadcaster. Unpaid voluntary work is allowed. You can also study, provided that it does not interfere with the job you have received sponsorship for. You will not be allowed to start or run a business. Under certain circumstances, you can work a second job. However, you cannot apply for a second job before you have started working for your sponsor. We strongly advise that you speak to your Breytenbachs consultant about the relevant rules if you consider taking up a second job.
Partner and Dependants
Your partner and children can apply to join you or stay with you in the UK as your dependants. If their visa application is successful, their visa will be valid for the same length of time as the main applicant. The Home Office classifies dependant partners and children as follows:
- A husband, wife, civil partner or unmarried partner.
- Children under the age of 18 years, including any children born in the UK during your stay.
- Children over the age of 18 years, if they are currently in the UK as your dependant.
You will have to fulfil a maintenance requirement for your partner and children when they apply.
Indefinite Leave to Remain
After spending five years in this visa category, it is possible to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) in the UK. If you have previously had a Tier 2 Sportsperson Visa or Tier 5 Sporting Visa, the Home Office will count your time on this visa towards the five-year qualifying period for ILR. This is a welcome rule change, as the Home Office did not previously consider the time spent in the Tier 5 category. To qualify to apply, applicants must also fulfil the other ILR criteria, including the English Language requirement and passing the Life in the UK test. Applicants in this route also had to be paid an annual salary of at least £35,800 to qualify for ILR. If applicants do not meet the criteria for ILR, they can apply for an extension of their visa. They can keep extending their visa, as there is no time limit on time spent on the International Sportsperson visa.
How Breytenbachs can help you
If you want to apply for the International Sportsperson Visa, please contact one of our consultants. Breytenbachs will guide you through the sponsorship, endorsement and application process. We have a dedicated team of consultants who will be happy to assist.