You may have recently seen that the UK’s Immigration Rules had a fairly significant update, with many visa routes and procedures being tweaked, added and removed. We summarised some key points within the new rules in our article UK Immigration Rules: Let’s keep up with the changes! One visa route in particular that got a fair bit of coverage within the new rules is the new International Sportsperson visa, which is presented as different to sports related visas of the past, such as the T2 Sportsperson visa. This new visa type will open from 11 October 2021.
In this article we will examine the requirements and allowances that come with this visa type and examine whether or not the Home Office have indeed added a new and exciting route to their arsenal, or if this is simply a rehashing of old routes.
Who is the International Sportsperson visa targeted at?
As you may have guessed from the name, this visa is for sportspeople across the globe to come and showcase their skills in the UK. However, it is worth remembering that this visa can be used for both players and coaching staff.
The official description of a person eligible to apply to this route is as followed:
‘The International Sportsperson route is for an elite sportsperson or qualified sports coach who is internationally established and can make a significant contribution to the development of their sport at its highest level in the UK.’
The visa is designed, allegedly, to allow such applicants easier access into the UK. The Home Office have even gone so far to call this new route a ‘fast-track’ option for sporting professionals.
How long is the International Sportsperson visa and can it be extended?
The applicant can apply for a visa up to 3 years for the first time, provided that he/she possesses an English level of no lower than A1, unless the applicant is applying for a visa not exceeding 12 months. In such case, there is no requirement for English.
After the expiry of the first 3 years, the applicant will be able to apply for further extension of another three years. This means that the applicant will be able to stay as an international sportsperson/coach in the UK for a maximum of 6 years.
If the applicant wants to apply for a new visa, he/she will have to prove that he/she will be paid an annual salary of no less than £35,800.00.
Can this route lead to settlement?
It is possible that this route can lead to settlement. In fact, one of the main differences between this new route and the previous T2 Sportsperson route is that the continuous residency requirement for settlement as an International Sportsperson can include time spent on the visa’s short-term route. Previously, such a time period would not count towards continuous residency.
The requirements for settlement under this route, among others, are as follows:
- The applicant has held international sportsperson visa for no less than 5 years;
- The applicant has been paid or will be paid in a near future for no less than £35,800 per year;
- The applicant has never been away from the UK for more than 180 days in any 12 consecutive months; and
- The applicant has an English level no lower than B1 and has passed the Life in the UK test.
What are the requirements of the route?
The International Sportsperson requires a Certificate of Sponsorship from a club. Different sports will have their own Governing Body Endorsement (GBE) criteria that has been previously consulted and agreed to by the Home Office.
Once the GBE has been checked and agreed to, the sponsoring club will issue a Certificate of Sponsorship, allowing the applicant to stay in the UK and work legally. Also, biometric information will have to be obtained at a visa application centre – unless the person is an EEA or Swiss national. In this case they should be able to access the UK Immigration ID Check app to verify their identity.
The Immigration Health Surcharge will also have to be paid under this route, and the applicant must be aged 16 or over at the time of the application. Further, the applicant must have funds of at least £1,270 on the date of their application.
It is also worth mentioning that this route is also points-based, bringing it in line with the points-based system and there is a requirement to demonstrate English language ability for those who apply for a stay that exceeds 12 months, as stated above. The necessary points are attainable by meeting the sponsorship, biometric and financial requirements listed above.
Dependent family members
International sportspersons are allowed to bring their family members with them to the UK. They include their spouses and any children who are less than 18 years old. Such family members are also able to settle in the UK with their main applicants, provided that they satisfy the following requirements:
- Having been holding a dependent visa of their sponsor continuously for no less than 5 years;
- Having not been away from the UK for more than 180 days in any consecutive 12 months;
- Possessing an English level of no lower than B1; and
- Having passed the Life in the UK test.
So, is this a brand new route or a simple rebranding?
In our opinion, there is not enough of a difference between the new International Sportsperson route and the previous T2 Sportsperson route to get truly excited about, but there are some small improvements.
To call this a fast-track route is to exaggerate quite dramatically. Much of the requirements are the same as they ever have been, and it does not appear to us that the process has been significantly streamlined. The one significant change, being that time spent on the temporary visa can count towards eventual settlement, is something worth celebrating. This should allow more people to make the UK their home based on this visa.
Full details of this visa are available from page 72 of Immigration Rules.
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