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Sports Visitor

Last updated 01 December 2010


This is internal guidance for use by entry clearance staff on the handling of applications made outside the United Kingdom (UK) for visit and transit visas. It is a live document under constant review and is for information only.

Immigration Rules
Paragraph 46M-46R of the immigration rules replaces the previous concession for sportspersons.  In addition those applying in this category will need to meet the general visitor Rules in Paragraph 41.

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Further information

VAT17.1 What type of people and sports qualify?

Those coming for a specific event, tournament, or series of events as individual competitors or as members of an overseas team.  This includes persons coming for charity events, exhibition matches, and so on. Amateurs joining amateur teams. The intention is to enable sportspersons coming to the United Kingdom for one of these purposes to do so outside the points-based system. 

Those seeking entry for personal appearances and promotions such as book signings, television interviews, negotiating contracts or to discuss sponsorship deals may also be treated as sports visitors as may those seeking entry for `trials’ provided that the trial is not in front of an audience, either paying or non-paying.

The following are all accepted as sports for the purposes of a sports visit. Note: This is not an exhaustive list - any sport not listed should be referred to ECCCAT.

Aikido, American football,  Angling, Aquathlon, Archery, Arm wrestling, Artistic skating (roller), T Association football, Athletics, Australian rules football, Badminton, Ballooning, Ballroom dancing, Basketball, Baseball/Softball, Baton twirling, Biathlon, Bicycle polo, Billiards, BMX, Bobsleigh, Boccia, Bowls, Boxing, Camogie, Canoeing, Caving, Chinese martial arts, Clay pigeon shooting, Cricket, Croquet, Curling, Cycling, Dance sport, Darts, Disability sport, Diving, Dragon boat racing, Duathlon, Equestrian, Exercise and fitness, Fencing, Folk dancing, Flying, Fives, Futsal, Gaelic football, Gliding, Golf, Gymnastics, Handball, Hang gliding and paragliding, Harness racing, Health and beauty exercise, Highland games, Hockey, Horse racing, Horse riding, Hovering, Hurling, Ice hockey, Ice skating, Jet skiing, Judo, Ju jitsu, Kabaddi, Karate, Keep fit, Kendo, Knee boarding, Korfball, Lacrosse, Land-sailing/Yachting, Luge, Model aircraft flying, Modern pentathlon, Motor cycling, Motor cruising, Motor sports, Mountain biking, Mountaineering, Movement and dance, Netball, Octupush, Orienteering, Parachuting, Petanque, Polo, Polocrose, Pool, Powerboating, Power lifting, Puck hockey (roller), Quoits, Rafting (white / wild water), Rackets, Racquetball, Rambling, Real tennis, Roller sports, Rounders, Rowing, Rugby league, Rugby union, Sailing / yachting, Shinty, Shooting, Show jumping, Skateboarding, Skater hockey (roller), Skeleton, Skiing, Skipping, Snooker, Snowboarding, Softball, Sombo, Speedway, Speed skating (roller), Squash, Sub aqua, Surf life saving, Surfing, Swimming and diving, Table tennis, Tae kwon do, Tang soo do, Tennis, Tenpin bowling, Trampolining, Triathlon, Tug of war, Unihoc, Volleyball, Wakeboarding, Water polo, Water skiing, Weightlifting, Windsurfing, Wrestling, Yoga.

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VAT17.2 Sportspersons coming for specific events

Amateur and professional sportspersons coming to the UK to take part either as an individual or as part of a team in a specific event or series of events provided that they are visiting or touring and are not seeking to base themselves here.

Examples include:

  • Persons coming for championships such as the British Open Golf or  Wimbledon;
  • Touring rugby, football or cricket teams;
  • Boxers coming for one fight.

A series of events is defined as two or more linked events, such as a tour or rounds of a competition, which do not add up to a league or a season.

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VAT17.3 Technical, support staff and officials

Members of the technical or support staff of amateurs or professionals,  who are attending for the same event may treated as sports visitors.  Examples of such staff include physiotherapists, coaches, dieticians, bodyguards and press officers.  Polo grooms may be included where they are accompanying a polo player and where the ECO is satisfied that the groom does not intend to base himself/herself  in the UK for the sporting season in order to take up employment in the stables.

Officials attending the same event as the sportsperson such as linespersons and umpires may also be regarded as sports visitors.

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VAT17.4 Charity events and exhibition matches

Amateur and professional sportspersons coming to take part in specific one-off charity sporting events, testimonials, benefit and exhibition matches, even though they may be joining UK-based teams may be treated as sports visitors providing that they do not receive payment other than for travelling and other expenses.

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VAT17.5 Sportspersons coming for training

Amateur and professional sportspersons may come for training for short periods (whether as an individual or as part of a team), provided that:

  • They are not basing themselves in the UK;
  • They are not being paid by a UK sporting body;
  • They are not joining a UK team; and
  • Any matches they are involved in are of the friendly / exhibition type.


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VAT17.6 Amateur sportspeople joining amateur teams

Sportspersons who are amateurs at home, will be able to join a club in the UK as a sports visitor provided that the team is represented wholly or predominantly by amateur players and they are not being paid by the club  other than board and lodging and living expenses. The club must be regarded within their sport as an amateur one (i.e. one where the players are not normally paid or contracted to play for the club) and must not be in a professional league.

In the Immigration Rules an `amateur’ is defined, for the purpose of distinguishing him from a professional who is paid a salary for participation in sport (eg someone contracted to play for a sport or club) as a person who engages in a sport solely for personal enjoyment and who is not intending to derive a living, either wholly or in part, from the sport. Amateurs may not receive fees and sponsorship but may receive cash prizes as well as board, lodging and living expenses.

Sports visitors may undertake some informal or unpaid coaching provided that it is incidental to their playing with a club as amateurs.

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VAT17.7 Dependants

Dependants should be treated as visitors under Paragraph 41-46.

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VAT17.8 Is entry clearance mandatory?

Entry clearance is mandatory for visa nationals.

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VAT17.9 What is the maximum stay in the UK for a Sports Visitor?

Leave to enter should normally be granted for six months and entry clearance endorsed accordingly.  Entry clearance is mandatory for visa nationals.

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VAT17.10 Entry clearance endorsement

Entry clearance should be endorsed as follows:
C:  Visitor – sportsperson.  LTE 6 months.  Code 3

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VAT17.11 Examples of refusal wordings

Wording for refusals: Section 1-5

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VAT17.12 Do sports visitors have full appeal rights?

No. Sports visitors only have limited appeal rights in line with general visitors.

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VAT17.13 Switching

Sports visitors may undertake permissible activities of business visitors whilst they are in the UK. This means, for example that a sports visitor coming to take part in a specific event, may do some promotional activities during his stay

Switching to a purpose covered in the Points Based System after entry to the United Kingdom as a sports visitor is not permissible.  However if a person holds a Certificate of Sponsorship for Tier 5 – Creative and Sporting issued before they come to the UK they may use this to apply for leave to remain to continue with the Tier 5 work without leaving the United Kingdom.

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VAT17.14 Events not considered as a sports competition

Those coming to take part in competitions that do not fall within the definition of ‘sports’ for the sports visitor provision, (for example chess tournaments) may be regarded as general visitors provided they meet the general visitor/child visitor requirements of the Immigration Rules.  They should not receive any fee or sponsorship for their participation but may receive cash prizes, board, lodging and living expenses.

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VAT17.15  Olympic / Paralympic Games Visit visa

What type of people qualify?
Any potential Olympic or Paralympic Games Family Member (including athletes, coaches, officials, rights holding broadcasters and sponsors) who has been identified by the London Organising Committee for the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG) is eligible to apply for the Olympic / Paralympic Games Visit visa to enter the UK and take part in a specific Olympic or Paralympic Games related activity.

Examples include:

  • meetings with LOCOG;
  • to participate in UK based training camps as part of a national team;
  • to participate in individual sport Olympic / Paralympic test events.

The following are all accepted as Olympic or Paralympic sports. This is an exhaustive list, and any sport outside this list will not qualify the applicant to apply for the Olympic / Paralympic Games Visit visa.

Aquatics (Diving, Swimming, Synchronised Swimming and Water Polo), Archery, Athletics, Badminton, Basketball, Boxing, Canoe / Kayak (Sprint and Slalom) Cycling (BMX, Mountain Bike, Road and Track Cycling), Equestrian (Dressage, Eventing and Jumping), Fencing, Football, Gymnastics (Artistic, Rhythmic and Trampoline), Handball, Hockey, Judo, Modern Pentathlon, Rowing, Sailing, Shooting, Table Tennis, Taekwondo, Tennis, Triathlon, Volleyball (Beach and Indoor), Wrestling (Greco-Roman and Freestyle)

Archery, Athletics, Boccia, Cycling, Equestrian, Football ( 5 and 7 aside), Goalball, Judo, Powerlifting, Rowing, Sailing, Shooting, Swimming, Table Tennis, Volleyball, Wheelchair Basketball, Wheelchair Fencing, Wheelchair Rugby, Wheelchair Tennis.

Only those who have applied for and successfully received an official written invitation to visit the UK for and Olympic or Paralympic related purpose from LOCOG are able to apply for the Olympic / Paralympic Games Visit visa.

Applicants should not submit an application without a supporting invitation letter from LOCOG, if they do, the application may be refused.

Those whose application is not supported by an invitation letter from LOCOG are not eligible to apply for the Olympic / Paralympic Games Visit visa even if their activities in the UK are Olympic or Paralympic related.

How much does it cost?
The Olympic/ Paralympic Games Visit visa costs the same as a 6 month visit visa.

The Olympic / Paralympic Games Visit visa is only for Games Family Members whose applications are supported by LOCOG. Dependants of Games Family Members are not eligible to apply for the Olympic / Paralympic Games Visit visa.

Is Entry Clearance mandatory?
Entry Clearance is mandatory for visa nationals.

What is the maximum stay in the UK for an Olympic / Paralympic Games visitor?

The Olympic / Paralympic Games Visit visa will be valid from date of issue until 8 November 2012, irrespective of date of application. The maximum stay in the UK on any one visit is six months.

Entry Clearance Endorsement
Entry Clearance should be endorsed as follows:

C: Visit – Olympic/Paralympic Family LTE 6 months Code 3

Do Olympic / Paralympic Games visitors have full appeal rights?
The Olympic / Paralympic Games Visit visa carries the same conditions as the general visitor visa, therefore Olympic / Paralympic Games visitor only have limited appeals rights in line with general visitors.

It is not possible to switch from the Olympic / Paralympic Games Visit visa to another visa category.

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