With the London 2012 Olympics bringing some of the world’s best sportspeople to the United Kingdom, British teams, clubs and associations may be thinking about how they can tap into the overseas talent pool. It may therefore be useful to provide a quick overview of the steps that would need to be taken before signing up a sportsperson from out with the European Union.
The UK immigration rules have some specific categories that cater solely to sportspeople. In this note, we will look at the Tier 2 (Sportsperson) category. This aims to give British clubs and teams the ability to hire elite sportspeople from abroad in order that they can ‘make a significant contribution’ to the development of their sport at the highest level in the UK. It is interesting to note that the rules around sportspeople are much more relaxed than they are for all other workers and this is intended to ensure that British sports teams and clubs stay competitive on the international arena.
The starting point is for a club is to obtain a sponsorship licence from the UK Border Agency. This licence enables an organisation to start sponsoring sportspeople from overseas. In theory, obtaining the licence should be relatively straight forward, though in practice, the application process can prove quick tricky. A key aspect of the process includes the organisation/club obtaining a letter of endorsement from the sport’s governing body (eg FA/SFA, RU/SRU, British Boxing Board of Control, ECB/Cricket Scotland, British Wrestling Association etc). The appropriate governing body has to confirm that the club/association is a genuine one and that it has a need to sponsor migrants from overseas.
Once the licence has been obtained, everything is ready to start sponsoring migrants. When there is an individual that the club wishes to sponsor, the governing body of the sport again has a further role to play. They have to give an endorsement to the individual confirming that the individual to be sponsored is internationally established at the highest level, can make a significant contribution to their sport in the UK at the highest level and the role cannot be filled by someone who is already settled lawfully in the UK. With the sponsorship certificate from the club/association and an endorsement from the governing body and as long as they are able to meet the English language requirements, then it is likely that the sportsperson would have little trouble in obtaining the appropriate visa to come to Britain.
So whether the sport is cricket or Kabbadi, boxing or badminton, athletics or gymnastics, why not consider investing in a UKBA sponsorship licence to keep