The Tier 2 visa system is generally designed to admit immigrants who have talents valuable to the UK jobs marketplace. Skilled workers with the expertise to benefit UK businesses are given priority, but the measure by which these workers are judged is primarily their salary. In many cases this is a reasonable yardstick; a highly-skilled worker will earn substantially more than one without quite so much experience. However, there are certain sectors in which success does not necessarily bring with it a high salary, and one such field is professional sports.
The UK Government has made a strong commitment to the ongoing development of sports in the country, and part of this is ensuring that the UK is a welcoming venue for sportspersons from around the world. The Tier 2 Sportsperson visa provides a path which athletes can use to gain entry to the UK and compete in their chosen field. In this article, we’ll cover the various requirements for this type of visa, and examine the ways in which this differs from other Tier 2 applications. This article will cover many of the most important points, but applicants will need to consult the Government’s own website for further information before applying.
The sportsperson visa is highly specialised, and designed to work only for a specific subset of applicants. First and foremost, candidates will need to supply evidence that they are a top-tier sportsperson, endorsed by their sport’s governing body. They will also need to demonstrate that their stay will benefit their chosen sport in the UK.
The restrictions placed upon a sportsperson’s visa can make it difficult to take on work in any other field, so applicants should be sure they can support themselves through their main professional employment. The terms of the visa only allow an initial stay of three years, after which time an extension of another three years may be sought (up to a maximum of six years in total).
Applicants must prove that they are moving to the UK to take on a specific role. To do so, they should receive a certificate of sponsorship reference number from the organisation they’ll be working for; this will give details of the type of work they’ll be undertaking, what they’ll be paid for it and how long it’s expected to last.
In addition to providing details of the specific employment the applicant will be carrying out, the sponsoring organisations will also have to show evidence that the applicant is a top level athlete. In order to prove this, they will need to apply for endorsement from the sports officially recognised governing body (a full list of these can be obtained from the Government’s website).
Applicants for this type of visa must show that they are highly talented. In order to determine whether an applicant is a top-level athlete, the Government requires candidates to submit a Certificate of Sponsorship from the recognised authority in their field. There are four main areas which this certificate should cover, which are detailed below:
Intention to Remain in the UK
The work which a sportsperson carries out should be primarily based in the UK, and as such they should not be living in another country at any point during their visa period. Of course, as a competitor at international level, the candidate will need to travel across the world, so overseas travel is not restricted; this requirement simply means that applicants can’t base themselves in another country.
Internationally Established at the Highest Level
This visa is intended for the “best of the best”, and so is only open to those who are actively competing at the top level in their chosen sport. The sponsoring body must confirm that the applicant is an athlete with the ability to take part in the highest level of competitions, whether that be the Olympics, international sporting tournaments or other widely recognised events.
Benefit to UK Sports
Entrants on this form of visa are expected to have a significant positive impact on their chosen field in the UK. This could be because they’re so well-known that their presence will generate interest in their sport, or because they have a high level of talent that they can pass on to other players.
Need for an Overseas Player
This requirement seeks to protect domestic UK sportspersons by specifying that applicants must be filling a role that could not feasibly be filled by someone already settled in the country. If a UK sportsperson and a foreign player have the same skills, the UK player should be recruited for the role.
Working while on a Tier 2 Sportsperson Visa
This form of visa is designed to allow individuals who work within sports to carry out their jobs in the UK. They needn’t be athletes themselves; coaches, trainers and broadcasters are all able to apply for this type of visa, as long as they can meet the requirements. However, entrants on this visa will be limited to the types of employment they can take on, since their visa only grants them the ability to work in a particular field.
If a sportsperson decides to take on a second job, it must not exceed 20 hours per week in total, and must not compromise their ability to perform their primary job (that which they were initially sponsored for). If the second job is not on the list of Shortage Occupations, they must submit an application for permission to take on this additional work; until this permission is granted, they must not begin work.
Costs and Timeline
A visa of this type costs £575 to apply for in person, and £664 to apply for online. It takes around 8 weeks to get a decision, but this can be reduced to ten days through the “priority” service at an extra cost of £500.