There have been very few updates regarding the impact of COVID-19 on UK visa holders and applicants within the sporting sector. This summary sets out the position as it applies to professional sportspeople (including their family members) who are being sponsored by clubs and governing bodies in accordance with a Tier 2 (Sportsperson) and/or a Tier 5 Sporting and Creative visa, and how sponsoring clubs and bodies should respond under the circumstances.
Player salaries and employment (Tier 2 and 5 only):
- Those sponsored under the Tier 2 and 5 sporting subcategories can continue to be employed on reduced salaries. However, those salary changes will ned to be reported to the Home Office via the sponsor management system.
- Those sponsored under these route whose visa conditions prohibit access to public funds should still not access public funds (a list of public funds are listed here). Furloughed workers will not be in breach of these restrictions.
Players who are not training or attending the club, but who remain employed (Tier 2 and 5 only):
- There is no requirement to inform the Home Office if a club has temporarily released a sponsored sportsperson to return overseas (and that person is expected to return to country)
- Similarly, there is no requirement to inform the Home Office about any sponsored sportsperson serving a period of quarantine away from the club
- There is no requirement to record the absences of a sponsored sportsperson who has been granted permission not to attend the club for the above reasons
Visas that expire before 31 May 2020 (all visa holders, including dependant family members):
- Any sportspeople whose UK visas are scheduled to expire between now and 31 May 2020 (and who cannot leave the UK) will be permitted to remain in the UK without breaching the Immigration Rules. However, those visa holders captured by this temporary permission to stay will need to submit representations to the Home Office. We will advise and support any player and his/her sponsor affected by this provision without any professional fee
- Players who have left or who intend to leave the club/the UK permanently between now and 30 May 2020 can do so (a Home Office notification is however required)
Visas that expire after 31 May 2020 but before the end of the season (all visa holders, including dependant family members):
- There are no changes here: players and their family members will need to extend their existing visas or leave the UK, before their current visas expire
- Players and their families might not have a contract ahead of the new season but may be fearful of returning home. These individuals can potentially leave the UK on or before the expiry of their existing visas to any country based outside the UK (except Ireland) before subsequently re-entering the UK as a visitor. Visitors are not permitted to work, attend school, access non-emergency NHS, and cannot generally switch back into a work category from within the UK.
Access to NHS, restrictions on public funds and visa appointments:
- Access to the NHS is preserved for visa holders (including to those whose visas expire before now and the end of May 2020)
- Visa appointments based in the UK and outside the UK are extremely restricted. Many visa processing centres are now closed.
- Many English language test centres, used by certain nationals to support Tier 2 visas, are similarly closed.
- EU Settlement Scheme applications are likely to be delayed.
What can we offer?
We all have a part to play under these circumstances, and lawyers should be assisting as much as any other profession. For this reason, we will not charge any professional fees for queries and/or matters that arise from the following:
- Any queries and advice arising from the current circumstances
- Salary reports (and any other type of report) to the Home Office
- Liaise with the Home Office for the temporary extension of visas that expire before 31 May 2020, until the end of May 2020
If you need further advice, please do contact us as usual.