International Sportsperson Visa
The International Sportsperson Visa allows elite sportspeople and coaches to come to Britain to make a difference to their sport in the UK.
We can help with your visa application.
International Sportsperson Visa
The UK’s international sportsperson visa is for elite, recognised sportsperson or coach to work in the UK to develop their sport here at the highest level.
The visa provides a simplified immigration route for elite sports coaches and internationally established sportspeople, replacing and merging the Tier 2 Sportsperson Visa and the sporting component of the Tier 5 Creative and Sporting Visa.
International Sportsperson eligibility requirements
A sportsperson wanting to apply for an international sportsperson visa must be 16 years or over, and will need to follow a two-stage process.
First, they must obtain a Governing Body Endorsement (GBE) from the Governing Body for their relevant sport.
They must then apply for entry clearance or permission to stay in the UK under the international sportsperson visa route.
Each sport will have its own GBE criteria, which will have been agreed with the Home Office.
Sports Governing Bodies for each individual sport are responsible for issuing endorsements and will certify that the athlete in question is classed as “elite” for their relevant sport.
After the GBE has been issued, the sportsperson must be provided with a valid Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) by their sponsoring club.
Once they are in possession of the CoS, they should make an online visa application within three months.
The visa application must meet the following requirements:
- The immigration fee and Immigration Health Charge must have been paid
- The applicant must have provided their biometrics (if required); and
- The applicant must have already provided a passport or other travel documentation, which sufficiently establishes their nationality and identity.
Other qualifying criteria include:
- The applicant must provide their travel history for the previous five-year period
- The applicant has a valid TB test (if applicable)
- The applicant has an eligible qualification (if applicable)
Prior to October 2021, it was possible to obtain permission to enter the UK without a visa, provided applicants could show their GBE and CoS. This has now changed and international sportspersons based outside the UK must go through the visa application process from overseas before travelling to the UK. It is expected that such a change is likely to cause delays and increased costs for sports teams wishing to bring in sportspeople from outside the UK.
Sponsorship for the International Sportsperson Visa
How much does an International Sportsperson Visa cost?
How long is the Sportsperson visa valid for?
What an international sportsperson is permitted to do?
As well as working for their sponsor, the applicant can study provided it does not interfere with the job they are sponsored to do, travel abroad and return to the UK, carry out supplementary employment and voluntary work. They may also work for their national team while their national team is in the UK, compete in British University and College Sport competitions, and perform temporary roles such as a sports broadcaster.
Things a sportsperson visa holder cannot do:
- Receive public funds
- Begin or run a business
- Apply for a second job until they have already started working for their sponsor
Bringing dependants to the UK
The dependants of a sportsperson (partner and/or children) can apply to join them providing they meet the eligibility requirements. For those who are successful, their visa ends on the same date as the applicant.
A dependant partner or child, is any of the following:
- A husband, wife, civil partner or unmarried partner
- A child under the age of 18 (including if they were born in the UK during their stay). Children born in the UK do not automatically become a British Citizen. Applicants can add them to their visa before the child reaches 18 if they want to stay in the UK.
- A child over the age of 18 if they are currently in the UK as the applicant’s dependant
Evidence of the applicant’s relationship will need to be given when making the visa application, by proving either:
- They are in a marriage or civil partnership recognised in the UK; or
- They have been living together in a relationship for at least two years when the application is made.
Child dependants over the age of 16 must:
- Live with the applicant (unless they are in full-time education (boarding), college or university)
- Not be in a civil partnership, married, or have their own children
- Be financially supported and dependent on the applicant
Evidence of the child’s address must also be provided, such as credit card or bank statements, driving licence, NHS registration document, or an official letter from their college or university.
The applicant’s partner or children must have a certain amount of money available to them in order to support themselves whilst they are in the UK. They will need:
- Partner = £285
- One child = £315
- Each additional child = £200
Does the International Sportsperson Visa lead to ILR?
Previously, a sportsperson coming into the UK on a T2 visa could stay in the UK for up to six years, although T5 visas were limited to 12 months. The recent change removes those pressures, and that of having to leave the UK for failing to settle within six years.
For those international sportspeople who wish to settle and apply for ILR, they must, amongst other criteria, be paid at least £35,800 per year. It is probable that many will easily achieve this figure, however, those in lower leagues, for example, or newly emerging professional sports, are not likely to be earning such sums.
Although the salary threshold may be problematic for some and mean they may never be able to settle in the UK, since there is no limit on time spent in this category, they can continue to extend their stay.
Other settlement requirements include:
- The applicant has been a holder of an international sportsperson visa for no less than five years
- The applicant has not been out of the UK for more than 180 days in 12 consecutive months
- The applicant meets the English language test (if applicable) and they have passed the Life in the UK test.
Settlement can now include time spent on the international sportsperson’s visa short-term route (those who entered on T2 or T5 visas before October 2021). Under the previous system, this was not allowed.
Extending an international sportsperson visa
An application to extend an international sportsperson visa should be made before the expiry of the current visa. A dependant partner or children must apply separately, although this can be done at the same time as the main applicant.
The sportsperson must have had their endorsement renewed by their sport’s Governing Body and have received a new CoS reference number to be eligible to apply to extend their visa.
Visas can be extended for up to three years at a time, and depending on the type of visa, a fee applies. The applicant may also be required to pay £19.20 to have their fingerprints and photo (biometrics) taken.
Decisions tend to come through around the 8-week mark using the standard service, although it can be speeded up by paying to get a quicker decision (applicants are told they can do this when they apply). Following receipt of the decision letter, the biometric residence permit takes around ten days to arrive.
The applicant will be contacted if any supporting documentation needs to be verified, or if they are required to attend an interview or they have a criminal conviction (or have received one whilst in the UK).
Switching to the International Sportsperson Visa
Previous sponsored sporting licences have been automatically converted to the new system, and all CoS are collated under the single international sportsperson visa heading.
This aids sponsors in managing their CoS information and allocation because the new system has created a single expiry date before which a CoS allocation must be renewed or used, whereas the previous T2 and T5 certificates tended to expire at different points in the year.
Those sportspeople and their dependants currently working in the UK on a T2 or T5 visa route will not be affected by the change. They can easily transition onto the new route as and when they apply to extend their permission to stay in the UK.
International Sportsperson Visa FAQs
What is sportsperson visa?
A sportsperson visa is for elite sportspeople and sports coaches who are internationally established and whose employment will help towards making a significant contribution to the development of their sport in the UK.
How do I get a sports visa UK?
If you are an elite sportsperson or qualified coach and are recognised by your sport’s Governing Body as being at the highest level of your profession internationally, and your application is endorsed by them, then you are eligible to apply for an international sportsperson visa.