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.


Jamie Roberts

International and professional rugby player

“Perhaps one of the most stressful things about moving abroad is all the admin around the visa application procedure. I was very fortunate that before and during my time in South Africa I had Glyn on hand to help with my application. He was extremely helpful and very professional, which certainly helped alleviate quite a lot of my stress! I would definitely recommend Glyn to anyone looking for assistance with their Visa application Abroad.”

John Mitchell


“We have had nothing short of exceptional service from Glyn and his team at Newfields. Their attention to detail for our visas was beyond anything that we had anticipated with every step of the process being made as simple as possible for us - even to the point where Glyn went out of his way after hours to meet me to receive my BRP. We couldn't have asked for a better service and have recommended Glyn to numerous other South Africans engaging in the visa process”

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.”

Sean Maitland

International and professional rugby player

“Very professional and makes life a lot easier, amazing to work with”

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.”

Eloise Sohier


“My experience with Newfields and Glyn was second to none! All of our correspondence was via email in which Glyn would reply within hours if I had any questions or concerns. I was very impressed with Glyn and would have no hesitation in using his services again.”

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”

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.”

Jo Trip

Netballer, Saracens Mavericks

“I have used Newfields for numerous visa applications, and I am so grateful to Glyn and his team for their commitment and hard work to make sure each application was seamless. Glyn personally went above and beyond; efficiently communicating what was required, and taking the time to walk me through the process, making sure I understood each step. He made a very overwhelming application process a lot easier and a lot less stress!”

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.”

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.”

Admiral Insurance

“With Admiral Insurance being a global brand with offices all over the world we have a lot of visa and immigration queries. We have used Newfields for a number of years now and I have found every interaction with them to be a very positive and helpful experience. The customer service they provide is second to none and I know I can always count on their fantastic service and advice.”

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.”

Eddie Jones


“Newfields did an exceptional job in helping us with our immigration requirements - very professional and personal with a minimum of fuss. I recommend their practice very highly”

Tania Hoffman

Head Coach, Celtic Dragons

“Glyn and Newfields make the visa process seamless each season; from the moment we inform them of the signing of our import players to the day they arrive in the UK. Glyn has always given sound advice and I would recommend Newfields Law wholeheartedly”

Ayaka Suzuki

Professional and international rugby player

“Newfields has supported me in the challenge of playing rugby in England. Despite facing difficulties due to the pandemic, Glyn has handled the matter promptly and professionally. With that great support, I am looking forward to a great start in the UK”

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