What are the current visa options available for Esports players?

24 Nov 2023, 28 mins ago

Navigating immigration policies is a crucial aspect of an Esport professional’s career when looking to participate in tournaments or join UK-based teams. Unlike traditional sports, where athletes often fall into specific visa categories, Esports does not always neatly fit into existing immigration frameworks.

Esports players do not usually fit into the conventional definition of a “sportsperson”, which has led to challenges for players, coaches and other support staff seeking entry into the UK for competing in Esports.

Many countries have already developed Esports visas, including the United States and Germany. The UK has no such visa, but the activity’s increasing popularity (London hosted several large Esports competitions last summer) means that it is possible that the country may look into exploring this option soon. As it stands, Esports players do not even qualify for the International Sportsperson visa. In most cases, foreign Esports competitors travel to the UK to participate in events and will not remain in the country after the event has finished. It is therefore suggested that the most suitable immigration option is seeking entry to the UK as a visitor.

If you are an Esports player looking to enter the UK for a one-off event, you should plan to enter as a Standard Visitor and/or as a Permitted Paid Engagement Visitor.

Standard Visitor

If you are entering the UK on a Standard Visitor route, you are permitted to stay in the UK for 6 months. There are several permitted activities covered by this route, and some are especially relevant to Esports players. As “entertainers,” you may give individual or group performances, participate in competitions, or take part in promotional activities and cultural events specifically permitted by the Home Office. It is important to note that as a Standard Visitor, you cannot work outside these permitted activities and you can only be paid in the form of prize money, reimbursement of expenses, or money paid for participation at an authorised cultural event, etc. If you are a visa free national, you may be permitted to visit the UK as a Standard Visitor without even applying for a visa. It is essential that you conduct relevant checks and seek legal advice where needed before planning your trip to the UK to compete in Esports.

Permitted Paid Engagement Visitors

As a Permitted Paid Engagement Visitor, you can visit the UK for up to 1 month if you are invited and paid by a UK-based client or organisation. You must perform paid work relating to your profession in your home country, which means that this visa is only applicable to you if you are a full-time Esports player outside the UK. In order to be eligible for this visa, a UK-based entertainment organisation, agent or broadcaster will have to issue you with a letter that should be submitted along with your application. It is important to understand whether or not this category applies to you and the purpose of your visit to the UK before planning your trip.  

Limitations

Unfortunately, neither of the routes mentioned above allow professional Esports players to play for an extended period of time in the UK, which means that if you wish to join a British team and play regularly in British tournaments, these routes will not be feasible. It is possible that someday the UK will amend the International Sportsperson route to include Esports, or even create a visa route dedicated to Esporting – only time will tell. You may, however, be eligible for other visa categories, such as work permits, depending on various elements. It is advisable to seek legal advice to explore the most suitable option applicable to you.

How Gherson can assist

Gherson’s Immigration Team are highly experienced in advising on UK visa matters. If you have any questions arising from this blog, please do not hesitate to contact us for advice, send us an e-mail, or, alternatively, follow us on TwitterFacebookInstagram, or LinkedIn to stay-up-to-date.

The information in this blog is for general information purposes only and does not purport to be comprehensive or to provide legal advice. Whilst every effort is made to ensure the information and law is current as of the date of publication it should be stressed that, due to the passage of time, this does not necessarily reflect the present legal position. Gherson accepts no responsibility for loss which may arise from accessing or reliance on information contained in this blog. For formal advice on the current law please do not hesitate to contact Gherson. Legal advice is only provided pursuant to a written agreement, identified as such, and signed by the client and by or on behalf of Gherson.

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