24 August 2020

The new Immigration Rules for UK sport

Changes to the UK Immigration Rules

On 1 January 2021, the existing working rights of EU citizens entering the UK will end. A modified version of the current ‘Points Based System’ that is now in place exclusively for non-EU workers will extend next year to anyone who is not British and Irish. Certain EU and non-EU nationals covered under the existing provisions will also be exempt. This article explains the proposed changes and what steps clubs should take to minimise disruption.

The existing Points-based system

The Rules provide several routes that enable non-EU athletes and coaches to work in the country. Most fall within the Tier 2 (Sportsperson) and Tier 5 (Creative and Sporting) visa categories, each of which requires the club to have a Sponsor Licence in place. A single licence, which can be renewed every four years, can be used to sponsor any number of sportspeople and at any UK site.

The individual sportsperson must have an endorsement from the relevant governing sports body to support his or her visa application. Tier 2 applicants must also meet an English language requirement.

The ‘new’ Points-based system

Clubs will breathe a sigh of relief to know that the existing system will largely remain intact except, crucially, that EU citizens entering the country after 1 January 2021 will require permission to work under the new PBS. The current governing body endorsement regime will continue and there will be no cap on the number of sportspeople a club can sponsor at any one time.

What will change?

  • The Tier 2 and Tier 5 routes will be renamed to the Sportsperson long-term leave and short-term leave, respectively.
  • Any sportsperson entering the UK on or after 1 January 2021 will require a governing body endorsement.
  • All sportspeople will need to be paid the National Minimum Wage.
  • The immigration routes for non-sportspeople staff who are not British, who have no form of permanent leave, or who have not applied to the EU Settlement scheme, will change substantially in January. We cover these changes in a separate article.

What happens to existing sportspeople now in the UK?

  • Non-EU sportspeople in the UK before 31 December who accept a contract extension and/or a contract at another club to commence from 2021 onwards will transition to the new visa categories.
  • EU sportspeople in the UK before 31 December can remain in the UK without having to meet the new changes if they apply to the EU Settlement Scheme before 30 June 2021.

Can you employ a sportsperson who is in the UK on another type of visa that is issued after 2021?

The answer very much depends on the type of non-sportsperson visa held by the individual. Many work and study visas explicitly restrict an individual from engaging in professional sports (which includes semi-professional sport that is both paid and unpaid). This is the same as the position now. You can contact us to verify a person’s entitlement to be employed as a sportsperson.

Can a sportsperson work elsewhere in the UK?

An individual with a sportsperson visa is restricted in their entitlement to take up additional work for another employer. Supplementary employment is restricted to 20 hours and should generally be confined to work as a sportsperson. A sportsperson in the UK on a different type of visa (such as the family or ancestry route) will not be restricted.

What steps should I take to prepare?

We recommend clubs take the following steps:

  • Clubs wishing to sponsor EU sportspeople entering the UK on or after 1 January 2021 should apply for a sponsor licence now in readiness for the new system. Clubs that already sponsor will automatically be granted a new licence with an expiry date consistent with their current licence.
  • Ahead of any new season, clubs should plan the number of sportspeople they intend to sponsor. New and existing sponsors will need to have enough certificates of sponsorship to support both non-EU and EU sportspeople. To date, clubs have only needed to ensure they have sufficient certificate numbers to sponsor non-EU sportspeople.
  • Clubs who are employing EU sportspeople and non-sportspeople staff before 31 December 2020 should encourage those individuals to register with the EU Settlement Scheme for pre-settled status (if they have resided in the UK for less than 5 years) or for settled status (if they have resided for 5 years or more). There are provisions to upgrade from pre-settled status to settled status after reaching the residence requirement. There is no application fee and the deadline for applications is 30 June 2021.
  • Complete an audit of your non-sportspeople staff to identify and, where possible, forecast any skills gaps and/or people requirements beyond January 2021. General non-sportspeople staff can be employed under the club’s existing sponsor licence. However, that licence may need to be adapted, in advance, to enable the sponsorship of both general and sportspeople staff at the same time. Clubs are entitled to adapt existing licences now to enable the sponsorship of non-sportspeople staff after 2021.


Newfields is a niche firm that specialises in sport immigration. We can support you in your preparations for the changes due in 2021. Please contact us and a member of the team will be happy to advise you.


Gareth Anscombe

Welsh National Rugby Union player

“With the help of Glyn, our visa applications that at first were a challenging and daunting prospect, were made straightforward and were done in a very efficient manner. I would definitely use Glyn and his team's services again.”

Brad Barritt

English Premiership and England National Rugby Union player

“Glyn provided a fantastic service to my family and I, they were professional, extremely helpful and very efficient, and were always on hand for friendly advice.”

Hadleigh Parkes

Welsh International Rugby Union player

“Newfields provided a seamless service – from preparing all the paperwork and personally attending the Home Office with me, through to returning all of my documents in person. Very approachable, reassuring and quick to answer queries – a great service for international athletes.”

Rugby Football Union

“Glyn has been instrumental in advising the England Rugby Football Union as well as many clubs on a wide range of immigration matters, and is always on hand to steer us in the right direction. He and his colleagues always respond promptly, efficiently and often with very little notice, which is essential in the fast moving environment within which we work.”

Francois Louw

English Premiership Rugby Union player

“Outstanding and efficient service for my family and I”

Federico Fernández

Premier League football player

“Glyn was always available when needed and made our applications, which were time sensitive and very daunting at first, less stressful and more straightforward. Highly recommended.”

Rugby Football League

“The RFL have worked with Newfields on a wide range of immigration issues and have found that they have an excellent understanding of many immigration matters. Glyn is always available for both the governing body and the clubs to answer the most straightforward or complex query; his attitude and work ethic are outstanding.”


Bryan Habana

Rugby Union player

“The efficiency, professionalism and swiftness with which Glyn handled the situation I presented him with (at very short notice) was absolutely outstanding. I will definitely be using his services in future.”

Do you think
we can help?

Let us know what you need, and we’ll be in touch as soon as possible.

Contact us