The new definition of a ‘professional sportsperson’ has caused chaos as it widens the definition of activities which fall within this prohibition. The government announced the amendment to the definition of a ‘professional sportsperson’ on 7 March 2019. Many are now concerned that their activities may accidently constitute a breach of their visa conditions.
The new definition states:
“A ‘Professional Sportsperson’, is someone, whether paid or unpaid, who:
- is currently providing services as a sportsperson, playing or coaching in any capacity, at a professional or semi-professional level of sport;
- is currently receiving payment, including payment in kind, for playing or coaching that is covering all, or the majority of, their costs for travelling to, and living in the UK, or who has done so within the previous four years;
- is currently registered to a professional or semi-professional sports team, or who has been so registered within the previous four years. This includes all academy and development team age groups;
- has represented their nation or national team within the previous two years, including all youth and development age groups from under 17’s upwards;
- has represented their state or regional team within the previous two years, including all youth and development age groups from under 17’s upwards;
- has an established international reputation in their chosen field of sport;
- engages an agent or representative, with the aim of finding opportunities as a sportsperson and/or developing a current or future career as a sportsperson, or has engaged such an agent in the last 12 months; and/or
- is providing services as a sportsperson or coach at any level of sport, unless they are doing so as an “Amateur” in a charity event.”
Under most visa categories apart from Tier 2 (sportsperson) and Tier 5 (creative and sporting) visas there is a prohibition to undertake any activities in the UK as a professional sportsperson. The most common visa categories where this restriction is applicable is Tier 4 students, Tier 1 migrants and Tier 5 migrants (apart from creative and sporting). This new definition would mean that those who are in the UK under any of the visa categories which prohibit working as a professional sportsperson, may innocently fall into this grey area. This is particularly important when considering that a breach of visa conditions could may well lead to curtailment of leave.
The new definition has abolished the previous requirement that the professional sportsperson must be someone who has derived, or is seeking to derive, a living from such activities. Therefore, someone who is engaging in any of the specified activities without intending to derive a living from them, will be effectively breaching their conditions of stay in the UK.
Commonly those who may be caught up in this dilemma are Tier 4 students who in the course of their sports course undergo a placement whereby they spend time working as a coach, for example. Many universities are now advising their students to not take part in higher level sports or coaching as a placement as they fear their visa conditions may be breached. Further to this, a common misconception is that as long as a person is not being paid for taking part in such activities, then it will not constitute as employment such as those who are volunteering to coach a cricket team. However according to the new definition, it is immaterial whether the person is being paid or not for taking part in such a sport either as a sportsperson or a coach. The only exception would be if the person is engaging in the sport for a charity event at an amateur level.
Even though an individual can rely on the exception that the activity is solely for personal enjoyment, they can still be caught by the new definition regardless of whether they are being paid or not. Many organisations including universities have asked for the government to review the new definition of a professional sportsperson as it currently risks many people having their visa curtailed.
29th March 2019