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.

Potential professional football players from within the European Union (EU), and are nationals of the European Economic Area (EEA), are free to move between Member States to pursue their footballing career.  See our blog post about the impact of the UK’s departure from the EU for information about the restrictions to freedom of movement.

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. This also applies to the Tier 5 (Youth Mobility Scheme) visa.

Pursuing a footballing career

For those from outside of the EEA, wishing to pursue their footballing career in the UK, the first step is to go to the website of the football club that you wish to play for.

Most football clubs in the UK have a global football scouting system, where they attend matches overseas in order to identify top talent. If an individual is identified as a potential elite or first team player, the club will help the person to arrange a football visa. Therefore, playing for your local football club is a good place to hone in on your craft and be spotted.

A large number of football clubs do not accept football CV s and speculative emails, though a few do. Some clubs post dates of upcoming trials on their website and may expect interested individuals to already have status in the UK or an appropriate visa in place.

The Professional Football Scouts Association (PFSA) represent Football Scouts all over the world and provide details on their site about upcoming trials  as well as information about how to get scouted.

But be careful! The FA issued a warning about individuals, who may be falsely presenting themselves as licenced agents or football club employees, while claiming to be in a position to arrange all manner of football trials.

Please do not part with money, or arrange the transfer of funds to someone promising, by email or letter, that they can arrange a football trial. Please do your research and make background checks.

If you have any doubts about the promises made or doubts about the correspondence received, which claim to come from a club or agent/intermediary, the FA advise that you  should contact The FA Financial Regulation team directly for advice.

Good luck!


First published on 24 February 2017. Updated on 24 April 2020 with guidance relating to pursuing a career in football in the UK.

Written by Carla Thomas – Managing Director at Thomas Chase immigration.

If you have questions or concerns or you would like straightforward immigration advice, or assistance with your application to enter or remain in the UK, feel free to contact us.

Contact us at [email protected], and visit  https://www.thomaschaseimmigration.com/contact-us to arrange a consultation. Or learn more about from our blogs.

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

  1. Hi Im Arshia,
    I used to play football professionally in my country. I came to the UK as a student last October and I search a lot to find a team but I haven’t. I will be so happy if you help me.

  2. My name is samad,I dream of playing football in UK pls accept me,that is how ronaldo started,I think I could be like them,pls I’d be honour,and I don’t just love football am born to do it,it may seem unlikely to you,but the impossible is possible. pls consider me 😭😭😭😰

  3. I am from Nigeria and plans to move to uk to stay with my friend there in uk for a long time and probably go for uk football trials and clubs trials and become a professional footballer there,what visa can I use to get there and what should I do when I get there?

    1. Hello Roy,

      We have updated the blog post above. The visa type will depend on your personal circumstances, something that we cannot advise on in this forum.

      If you have any specific questions, you may wish to contact the football club, that is of interest to you, directly.

      All the best.

  4. Can I be a professional footballer in UK if I’m studying (holding a student visa) in a uni there? Or can I change my student visa to resident visa when I get there? What if a professional team really wants me, can they take me in even though I’ve got a non EU passport?

    1. Hello Wahid,

      We cannot answer specific questions in this forum.

      We suggest that you seek immigration advice prior to making any changes to your visa status, or seek support via the football club that wishes to sponsor you.

      All the best and stay safe!

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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,
    Andrew

    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,
      Carla

    1. Hi Brendon,

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

      Carla

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