SPEEDREAD: This article looks at the visitor visa rules with reference to some of the Wimbledon tennis players, and touches on some of the business activities visitors can do including whether they can be paid.
In the month of July, the UK has played host to a number of sports tournaments such as: The Championships/ Wimbledon; the Cricket World Cup; the Netball World Cup; and The Open. Whilst this has rallied a lot of excitement and support, you may be wondering how sports tournaments have any connection with UK immigration? Not all players were British, EEA or Swiss citizens and therefore may require a visitor visa to enter the UK to compete in their sport.
There used to be specific types of visitor visas depending on the purpose of the visit e.g. Business Visitor visa, Sports Visitor visa, Family Visitor visa but these have mostly been replaced by the Standard Visitor visa. Individuals who plan to visit the UK from a country on the “visa national list” must apply for and be issued with a visa before they come to the UK. On the other hand, “non-visa nationals” can simply “apply” at the UK border for permission to enter the UK for up to 6 months as a visitor.
Let’s look at some of the Wimbledon players and some of the immigration options which might have been available to them before looking at business activities in general.
Disclaimer: this article breaks the golden rule by making assumptions about the players’ nationalities (having not seen their documents) based on a quick search on the internet and presumes that they do not have longer term UK visas/ other options open to them.
Cori ‘Coco’ Gauff
At just 15 years old and making her debut at Wimbledon this summer, she may not have won the competition, but she definitely won the hearts of many. US citizens are considered to be “non-visa” nationals, so she would have been entitled to “apply” for permission at the UK border to enter as “Standard Visitor” which could have been for a number of reasons including for business, but most probably for sport.
Cori would have needed to satisfy the Immigration Officer that she had a genuine intention to visit i.e.:
- will leave the UK at the end of her visit (i.e. stay in the UK for up to a maximum of 6 months); and
- will not live in the UK for extended periods through frequent or successive visits, or make the UK her main home; and
- is genuinely seeking entry for a purpose that is permitted by the visitor routes; and
- will not undertake any prohibited activities; and
- must have sufficient funds to cover all reasonable costs in relation to her visit without working or accessing public funds. This includes the cost of the return or onward journey, any costs relating to dependants, and the cost of planned activities such as private medical treatment.
Although she played in the French Open and might therefore have had a “Schengen visa”, this would not have facilitated her entry into the UK. However, it might’ve have helped to show that she is capable of adhering to visa conditions.
Once in the UK, as a sportsperson she was able to take part in Wimbledon without being in breach of the Immigration Rules.
Successfully defending his title, the Serbian as a “visa national” would have needed to have been issued a Standard Visitor visa or a Permitted Paid Engagement visa (a “sub-category” in the visitor visa rules to stay for up to 1 month, which Cori would not be eligible for as she is under 18).
If he applied for a Standard Visitor visa, then like Cori, he would have needed to demonstrate his genuine intention to visit and was likely to have submitted a lot of documents to support his application abroad. As a sportsperson on a Standard Visitor visa, he is able to:
- take part in a sports tournament or sports event as an individual or part of a team;
- make personal appearances and take part in promotional activities;
- take part in trials provided they are not in front of a paying audience;
- take part in short periods of training provided they are not being paid by a UK sporting body;
- join an amateur team or club (if he decided tennis was no longer for him) to gain experience in a particular sport if they are an amateur in that sport.
It’s possible that he might have had a valid 2, 5 or 10-year Standard Visitor visa so he might not have needed to apply this time round. However, simply holding a valid UK visa is not a guarantee that an Immigration Officer will permit entry to the UK. An Immigration Officer can still refuse entry to the UK, if they believe entry is being sought for a reason not permitted under that visa.
If he applied for a Permitted Paid Engagement visa, he would have needed to have met all the Standard Visitor visa requirements but must also have been invited to the UK as an expert in his profession/ professional athlete. Evidence of this might have included paperwork from the organisers of Wimbledon.
He was able to accept payment in the UK in the form of his prize money of £2,350,000 for winning the men’s single under the Standard Visitor rules, or as an invited professional under the Permitted Paid Engagement rules.
There is no denying that the 37-year old Swiss runner-up has continued to impress many people around the world, especially because of the closely fought and gruelling 4 hours and 57-minute final against the younger Novak. It must have been particularly bruising as he had two championship points but his prize money £1,175,000 might’ve have been of some comfort.
Unlike Cori or Novak, as a Swiss citizen, he is able to come to the UK without a visa, just like British citizens can go to Switzerland or the EEA (EU, Iceland, Lichtenstein and Norway) to live and work, or simply to visit. This right continues whilst Brexit has not taken place. He could be entitled to and may wish to make an application under the EU Settlement Scheme to preserve his immigration status in the UK.
What can a business visitor do in the UK?
Once an individual has been granted entry into the UK as a (non) visa national under the Standard Visitor or Permitted Paid Engagement rules, they are permitted to do a number of things such as visit friends/ family and undertake incidental volunteering with a UK registered charity.
They CANNOT work but will be able to:
- attend meetings, conferences, seminars, interviews;
- give a one-off or short series of talks and speeches provided these are not organised as commercial events and will not make a profit for the organiser;
- negotiate and sign deals and contracts;
- attend trade fairs, for promotional work only, provided the visitor is not directly selling;
- carry out site visits and inspections;
- gather information for their employment overseas;
- be briefed on the requirements of a UK based customer, provided any work for the customer is done outside of the UK.
An employee of an overseas based company may:
- advise and consult;
- provide training;
- share skills and knowledge; on a specific internal project with UK employees of the same corporate group, provided no work is carried out directly with clients.
There are also other sector specific business activities which can be carried out including those in:
- Science, research and academia
Business visitors CANNOT receive payment from a UK source for any activities undertaken in the UK, except for
- reasonable expenses to cover the cost of their travel and subsistence, including fees for directors attending board-level meetings; or
- prize money; or
- billing a UK client for their time in the UK, where the individual’s overseas employer is contracted to provide services to a UK company, and the majority of the contract work is carried out overseas. Payment must be lower than the amount of the individual’s salary; or
- multi-national companies who, for administrative reasons, handle payment of their employees’ salaries from the UK; or
- where the applicant is engaged in designated Permitted Paid Engagements (PPE), provided the applicant individual holds a visa or granted entry to the UK as a PPE visitor; or
- paid performances at a designated permit free festival
The above is just a flavour (unfortunately not quite strawberries and cream) of some of the complexities of the visitor visa routes alone.
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