Football visa options: Travelling to the UK to play football

Pursuing a footballing career in the United Kingdom (UK) is a dream for many.  And a difficult one. After all, football requires commitment, dedication and ability. There is the competition from peers. And yet, harder still is securing a football visa to travel to the UK to pursue a football career.

Football players from within the European Union (EU) are free to move between Member States to pursue their footballing career.

For those outside of the EU, it is imperative to find a football club willing to sponsor a Tier 5 (Temporary Worker – Creative and sporting) visa or Tier 2 (Sportsperson) visa.

Tier 2 (Sportsperson) visas are issued for the length of the applicant’s contract or up to three years, whichever is the shorter period. There is the possibility of extending the visa up to a total of 5 years. Whereas the Tier 5 visa is issued for the length of the applicant’s contract or up to 12 months, whichever is the shorter.

The sponsoring club will be responsible for securing a Governing Body Endorsement and issuing a Certificate of Sponsorship.

Determining the correct visa option will depend on the applicant’s skills, experience and nature of their sporting career, as the immigration rules dictate that, a person wishing to play football in the UK must be internationally established at the highest level, and their employment must make a significant contribution to the development of their sport at the highest level.

This strict requirement was introduced in response to the Football Association’s concerns about the high percentage of overseas nationals, participating in the Premier League at the expense of homegrown talent. See: Dyke: Work permit changes will benefit English football.

Some feel that the threshold is now too onerous. There have been a high number of Tier 2 (sportsperson) visa refusals, leading some overseas footballers and coaches to look to the Tier 1 (Investor) visa or Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) visa categories. And yet, the Tier 1 visas specifically prevent applicants from working as a professional sportsperson or sports coach. Same applies to the Tier 5 (Youth Mobility Scheme) visa.

The best advice is speak with an immigration adviser who will be best placed to advise on the most appropriate football visa option



Written by Carla Thomas – Managing Director at Thomas Chase immigration. Thomas Chase Immigration offer immigration solutions to businesses, individuals and families by looking at the bigger picture.

Call to Action: Contact Thomas Chase Immigration for a consultation or assistance with an immigration matter. Or learn more about immigration from our blogs

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29 Replies to “Football visa options: Travelling to the UK to play football”

  1. I have got a tier 5 youth mobility visa from Australia, will I be eligible to sign for a non league football team in England.

  2. Good day, please is there a visa that can permit one to attend football trials in the UK if you’re coming to the UK for the first time?

    1. Hi Lusanda,

      A dependants of Tier 2 visa holder may not take up employment as a professional sportsperson, including a professional footballer or as a sports coach.

  3. Hi Can I get a support to play in U.K my first two salary will be award to the supporting staff who will sponsor me. Because here in Nigeria I don’t get what I want and all I need is a sponsor and my first two salary will be there.

        1. Hi Kur,

          Many football clubs are always on the lookout for talent.

          One of the best ways to secure sponsorship is to contact the individual football club that you would like to play for, with your sporting CV and cover letter.

          All the best!

      1. Hello Thomas,
        how can one write the sponsors? I tried going through the link but then I could not contact them, can you kindly please help me with a direct contact to Aberdeen Tier 2( Sports)
        Best Regards

  4. Hi, I have a brother who is a British Citizen. I plan to travel to UK to play football professionally. What are my options as per visa type and eligibility to play in UK? Thanks

    1. Hi there. It’s best to contact individual football clubs, that are of interest to you, and request sponsorship.

      All the best.

    1. Hi – Much will depend on if you are visiting the UK for trials or seeking to play professionally and if you are a visa national.

  5. Can I play for a amateur sports club if I enter UK with a short term study visa coz I will be there to complete a short term course.

    1. Hi – That’s correct.

      You can play for an amateur sports club while you study in the UK. You will need to seek an alternative visa if you are offered work as a sports person or professional player.

      Hope that helps!

        1. Hi – Family members of a Tier 2 highly skilled worker are generally prevented from taking up employment as a professional sportsperson (including a sports coach).

    1. Hi Abadi,

      You may travel to the UK to meet with a football club and discuss and enter into a contract, as part of your visit. You cannot work in the UK under a visit visa or switch visa categories.
      Instead, you will need to return to your country of residence or origin and apply to return to the UK under a Tier 2 or Tier 5 visa.

      Hope that helps.

  6. Hi Carla,
    Does that mean a person with an ancestry visa is allowed to play professional football under the FA rules, or is that person just allowed to work in the UK but not under the FA regulations?

    Thank you,

    1. Hi Andy,

      A person in possession of an ancestry visa may take up employment and play professional football under the FA regulations.

      As the Ancestry visa is effectively a work permit, there is no need for the individual to secure a Certificate of Sponsorship or meet additional footballing requirements seen with other visa types.

      Hope that helps,

    1. Hi Brendon,

      Yes – A person with ancestral links to the UK and in possession of an Ancestry visa may work in the UK.


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