Guidance on sporting restrictions

Individuals who are on a visa to be in the UK are not able to be employed to provide services as a professional sportsperson including a sports coach unless they are on a specific visa to do so. This is considered a 'condition of the visa' and does include students on study visas (Tier 4 and Short Term Study) as well as those on other visas including Tier 1, Tier 2 and Tier 5. It may also be the case for individuals on other immigration categories such as Limited Leave to Remain.

Students are able to take part in BUCS (British Universities & Colleges Sport) or University sporting events as the UK Home Office (UKVI) consider these as amateur sporting activities.

For example, if you are a student at the University on a Tier 4 student visa you are able to play and actively participate in University Sports Club or Society. This is because within the UK Immigration Rules an amateur is someone, 'who engages in a sport or creative activity solely for personal enjoyment and who is not seeking to derive a living from the activity.'

Yes - BUCS is an amateur competition and therefore there is no restriction on Tier 4 visa holders competing in BUCS, provided you are playing on a wholly amateur basis.

Yes - If you hold a Tier 4 visa as officials are not included under the definition of a professional sportsperson.

As BUCS sport is classed as an amateur sport you are able (assuming that you are elected/selected) to undertake committee and coach roles as long as you are doing so on a wholly amateur basis and do not make or intend to make a living from it.

As long as the sport is classed as wholly amateur, and you are playing on a wholly amateur basis then you should be permitted to play within that competition framework.

No, this is because the UKVI see this as an intention for you to make a living from being a sporting professional.

No, individuals with work restrictions such as Tier 4 cannot be employed (which includes both paid, unpaid or payment in kind work) as a professional sportsperson. In this situation, if you are playing semi/professional sport you would be in breach of the conditions of your Visa (leave) to be in the UK.

In January 2019 the UK Home Office (UKVI) expanded the examples of what they would consider as an individual carrying out a role as a professional sportsperson from the original 2011 guidance. This UKVI clarification was not intended to affect students partaking in sports at Universities but could be interpreted as such. The University along with the Students Union, BUCS and other sector organisations pointed out this potential issue and has had subsequent clarification in April 2019 that this expansion was not intended to negatively impact on a students experience.

The current UK Home Office documentation states that they consider someone to be a professional sports person including a sports coach as someone who is employed (paid, unpaid or payment in kind) or providing a service who:

  • is a sportsperson playing or coaching in any capacity at a professional, semi-professional or any level of sport unless they are an amateur in a charity event;
  • is currently or has in the past 4 years received payment as a sportsperson or coach to cover all or, the majority of their living or travel costs in the UK;
  • is registered or has been in the past 4 years, with a professional or semi-professional sports team including academy and development team age groups;
  • has previously represented their nation or state, or their national/regional/ state team within the past 2 years (including youth and development age groups from under 17’s upwards);
  • has an established international reputation in their field or sport;
  • takes part in a trail for a professional or semi-professional sports team;
  • engages, or has done so in the past 12 months a representative (agent) with the aim of finding opportunities as a sportsperson, including developing a current or future career;
  • undertaking the role of a sporting official such as a referee or judge unless they are undertaking this role on a wholly amateur basis.

If you have any questions, concerns or you think you may be affected by this please contact  International Student Support or Immigration Compliance.