Joint statement on changes to Home Office definition of ‘professional sportsperson’

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The Sport and Recreation Alliance and British Universities and Colleges Sport (BUCS) are aware of recent changes made by the Home Office to the definition of ‘professional sportsperson’ set out in the immigration rules.

This definition is important as it is typically a condition of certain visas – notably Tier 4 student visas – that the visa holder is prohibited from engaging as a professional sportsperson. 

Both the Alliance and BUCS have held constructive discussions with the Home Office on the changes and are seeking further clarity on specific points where we can, although this may take some additional time. 

Based on these conversations, and to provide some reassurance to our members in the interim, our understanding is that the new definition does not mark a substantive policy shift. Relevant visa holders (including students) who are not providing services as a professional sportsperson – for example where they are participating in amateur/grassroots sport – should remain unaffected. 

The Home Office has more recently updated the definition of ‘professional sportsperson’ to clarify its application in certain circumstances. The most up-to-date definition can be found here (pages 5-6) along with an accompanying explanatory memorandum (see para 7.54). 

For the avoidance of doubt, this statement is intended to provide initial guidance based on conversations held to date. It does not constitute formal Home Office policy and it is not the role of the Alliance or BUCS to advise on individual visa issues.

Any decision on whether an individual is compliant with their visa conditions and related enforcement is for the Home Office and relevant agencies and will be dependent upon the individual circumstances of each case. Where visa holders have specific queries, they should take appropriate advice.