1. International Sportsperson Visa UK: Overview and Criteria
The International Sportsperson Visa UK, succeeding the Tier 2 Sportsperson and Tier 5 Creative and Sporting visas, is designed for elite sportspersons and qualified sports coaches. This visa is for those who are internationally recognized and aim to contribute significantly to their sport in the UK.
Core Eligibility and Requirements
- Age and Employment: Applicants must be at least 16 and have a job offer from a UK entity involved in sports, holding a sponsor license.
- Governing Body Endorsement: Obtain an endorsement from a relevant UK Sports Governing Body, affirming international recognition and potential impact in the UK.
- Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS): A valid CoS from an authorized Home Office sponsor is necessary, detailing job specifics, salary, and endorsements.
- Financial Stability: Applicants need a minimum of £1,270 in savings unless exempted, maintained for at least 28 days prior to application.
- English Language Proficiency: For stays over 12 months, proficiency at CEFR level A1 in speaking and listening is required, unless exempted.
Duration, Benefits, and Path to Settlement
- The visa is typically granted for up to 3 years initially, with the possibility of extension.
- After 5 years in the UK, applicants can pursue Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR).
- Benefits include engaging in employment, sports broadcasting, studies, and unrestricted travel in and out of the UK, along with bringing dependent family members.
Alternative Visa Options
- For those not qualifying for the International Sportsperson Visa, the Skilled Worker visa can be an alternative.
It’s crucial for applicants to tailor their applications according to individual circumstances, and seeking advice from an immigration lawyer can be beneficial for a streamlined process.
2. Applying for the International Sportsperson Visa UK
Applying for the International Sportsperson Visa UK involves several steps, each requiring specific documentation and actions.
- Letter of Endorsement: Obtain from your sport’s governing body.
- CoS – Certificate of Sponsorship: Provided by your employer with a reference number.
- English Proficiency Evidence: Test results or academic qualifications proving English language skills.
- Financial Proof: Bank statements or employer support as reflected in the CoS.
- Valid Passport: Must have at least one blank page for visa stamping.
- Travel History: Previous passports or travel documents.
- Tuberculosis Test Results: Mandatory for applicants from certain countries.
- Online Application: Complete and submit the visa application form online.
- Fee Payment: Pay the application fee, which varies based on stay duration.
- Document Upload: Attach all required documents to your online application.
- Biometric Appointment: Schedule and attend at a Visa Application Centre to provide fingerprints and photograph.
- The usual processing time is about 3 weeks, with options for expedited processing available for an additional fee.
- Short Stay (<12 months): £259
- Long Stay (>12 months): £625
- Healthcare Surcharge: £624 per year for adults, £470 per year for children, allowing access to the NHS.
Note: Always confirm fees on the official website or consult an immigration expert, as costs are subject to change.
3. Sportsperson Visa Extension and Switching Rules
- As an International Sportsperson visa holder in the UK, you can opt for a visa extension for an additional 3 years. However, the same eligibility criteria that applied during your initial application will remain in force.
- Before your current visa expires, you must submit an application for an extension.
- Acquire a renewed endorsement and a new Certificate of Sponsorship from your employer to facilitate the extension.
- There’s a fee of £719 for every individual applying for an extension.
- Processing can take up to 8 weeks. If you apply before the current visa expires, you can live and work in the UK while awaiting the Home Office’s decision. Dependents, like your partner and children, can simultaneously request an extension.
If you are in the UK under a different immigration category, you can shift to the International Sportsperson route. There are, however, exceptions to this rule. You cannot make the switch if your last granted permission was under categories like Visitor (exceptions apply for sportspeople in permitted activities), Short-term student, Parent of a Child Student, Seasonal Worker, Domestic Worker in a Private Household, or anything outside of the Immigration Rules.
- Visa Duration for 12 Months or Less: If approved, you will receive permission to stay in the UK either for the employment period stated in your Certificate of Sponsorship plus an extra 14 days or a total of 12 months, depending on which duration is shorter.
- Visa Duration for More Than 12 Months: Upon approval, you can stay in the UK either for the employment term specified on your Certificate of Sponsorship plus an additional 14 days or a span of 3 years, depending on which duration is shorter.
Once your International Sportsperson visa application gets approved, the following conditions apply:
- Primary Employment: You can work in the job you have been sponsored for.
- Supplementary Activities: You are allowed to engage in supplementary employment and studies.
- Additional Provisions: You can work as a sportsperson for your national team during its stay in the UK. Participation in British University and College Sport (BUCS) competitions is permitted. Moreover, you can accept temporary roles as a sports broadcaster, offering expert guest commentary on specific sporting events.
4. Settlement via International Sportsperson Route
International Sportspersons can qualify for ILR after 5 years of continuous residence in the UK, given they meet the following conditions:
- Visa Duration: They must have been granted leave as an International Sportsperson for over 12 months at any point in the last 5 years.
- Continuous Residency: Applicants cannot have been outside the UK for more than 180 days in any 12-month period throughout these 5 years.
- Combined Time: Residency as an International Sportsperson can be combined with periods in the Skilled Worker, Global Talent, Innovator Founder, T2 Minister of Religion, Representative of an Overseas Business, and certain Tier 1 routes (excluding Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur)).
- Sponsorship and Salary: The applicant’s sponsor must confirm their continued need for the sportsperson’s employment and that they earn at least £35,800 annually.
- Language and Life in the UK Test: Unless exempted, applicants need to have proficiency in English up to level B1 of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages and must pass the Life in the UK test.
Holders of ILR enjoy several advantages:
- Permanent Residency: They can reside in the UK without the constraints of immigration control.
- Work and Study: They can work, study, and undertake other activities without restrictions, marking their status as a settled person.
- Pathway to Citizenship: After an additional 12 months with ILR status, individuals are eligible to apply for British citizenship.
5. Family Members on Sportsperson Visa
- International Sportspersons can bring their dependent partner (provided they are married, in a civil partnership, or have been in a relationship for at least 2 years) and/or dependent children under the age of 18 to the UK.
- For children aged 16 or older, they must be proven to be dependent on the visa holder. They should be living with the visa holder (unless studying away from home) and be financially supported by them. Furthermore, they must not be married or leading an independent life.
Dependents may need to meet certain financial requirements. Unless they have been in the UK with a valid visa for at least 12 months or if the International Sportsperson’s employer commits to covering their initial month’s costs, the following funds must be shown:
- £285 for a partner£315 for the first child£200 for each subsequent child
The above amounts should have been held for at least 28 days and the proof should not be more than 31 days old from the date of their visa application.
- Proof of relationship between the International Sportsperson and the dependent(s).
- The visa application number (either Global Web Form or Unique Application Number) of the main applicant should be included in the dependent’s visa applications.
Dependent partners aiming for settlement in the UK need to:
- Complete 5 years of continuous residence.
- Have no more than 180 days of absence in any 12-month period within the 5 years.
- Unless exempt, show English language proficiency in speaking and listening to at least level B1 of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages.
- Successfully pass the Life in the UK test.
6. FAQs: International Sportsperson Visa UK
What are the main eligibility requirements for an International Sportsperson Visa?
Applicants need an endorsement letter from their sport’s governing body, a certificate of sponsorship reference number, proficiency in English, and financial proof to support themselves in the UK, among other documents.
How long does the visa application process take?
Typically, International Sportsperson visa applications are decided within 3 weeks. Extensions usually take up to 8 weeks.
Can I bring my family with me?
Yes, International Sportspersons can bring dependent partners and/or dependent children under the age of 18. Financial requirements for dependents include £285 for a partner, £315 for the first child, and £200 for each subsequent child.
How can I extend my visa?
You can extend your visa for another 3 years if you continue to meet the initial eligibility requirements. Your endorsement needs to be renewed and you require a new Certificate of Sponsorship from your employer.
What should I do if my visa application is refused?
In case of a refusal, you may have the option to make a fresh application or apply for Administrative Review. If the decision seems unlawful or not aligned with the rules, you can consider applying for Judicial Review.
Can I apply for settlement in the UK after holding this visa?
Yes, after 5 years of continuous residence and meeting certain requirements (like not being outside the UK for over 180 days in a 12-month period and demonstrating English proficiency), you can apply for settlement or Indefinite Leave to Remain.
Is there a visa for short-term sports visits?
Yes, the Sports Visit Visa allows sportspersons and related personnel to undertake permitted unpaid sporting activities for up to 6 months in the UK. However, it doesn’t lead to UK settlement.
What’s the difference between an Administrative Review and a Judicial Review?
An Administrative Review challenges a decision based on a failure to correctly apply Immigration Rules or Home Office policy. Judicial Review is used when a decision appears unlawful, unreasonable, or procedurally improper.
What are the financial requirements for dependents of International Sportsperson visa holders?
Dependents may need to show funds of £285 for a partner, £315 for the first child, and £200 for each subsequent child unless certain conditions are met.
How can I achieve settlement status as an International Sportsperson?
For settlement, you need 5 years’ continuous residence, limited absences from the UK, a sponsor’s confirmation of ongoing employment, a minimum annual salary of £35,800, and, unless exempt, a demonstrated proficiency in English and a passed Life in the UK test.
For further information and updates, please refer to Immigration Rules Appendix International Sportsperson.