This page explains the work permit criteria for football players for the 2008/2009 season. These criteria were agreed following consultation with the football governing bodies. This criteria is supplementary guidance to the published employer guidance notes and both sets of guidance should be referred to when making an application.
Length of season
The playing season for this sport is from August to May. This may vary slightly from season to season depending on the arrangement of the first and last matches in the different leagues.
There are two transfer windows during the year. One is during the close season and the other is the mid-season window which opens at 0001 on the 1 of January and closes at midnight 31 January (see international transfer windows below for more details).
Work permits will be issued to international players of the highest calibre who are able to make a significant contribution in footballing terms to the development of the United Kingdom game at the highest level (i.e. clubs competing in the Premier Leagues and Football Leagues in England and Scotland, the Welsh Premier League and the Irish Premier League in Northern Ireland).
To be eligible for a work permit:
- a player must have played for his country in at least 75% of its competitive 'A' team matches he was available for selection, during the two years preceding the date of the application; and
- the player's country must be at or above 70th place in the official FIFA world rankings when averaged over the two years preceding the date of the application.
The definition of a competitive 'A' team international match is a:
- World Cup Finals game;
- World Cup Qualifying group game; and
- Football Association confederation tournament game, for example:
- The FIFA Confederations Cup;
- Tthe UEFA European Championships and Qualifiers;
- The African Cup of Nations and Qualifiers;
- The Asia Nations Cup and Qualifiers;
- The CONCACAF Gold Cup;
- The CONCACAF The Copa Caribe;
- The CONMEBOL Copa America;
- The OFC Nations Cup and
- The UNCAF Nations Cup
Prior to submitting an application, clubs should provide written confirmation of the player's international appearance record over the preceding two years highlighting the competitive 'A' matches. This should be obtained from the player's home association. The sports and entertainments team, UK Border Agency, will be unable to make a decision on the application until written evidence is provided. If any evidence submitted needs verifying, the sports and entertainments team, UK Border Agency, will liaise with other parties and verify all information through all available sources, if necessary.
Exclusion from selection for international matches due to injury or suspension will be taken into consideration when applying the criteria. Clubs should submit supporting evidence in such cases stipulating the games the player has missed.
It should be noted that where a player is listed as on the substitutes' bench, he will not be considered as injured when reaching a decision on a work permit application.
There are currently 204 international teams listed in the official FIFA world rankings. Those countries which have regularly achieved a 70th placing or higher over a period of two years are regarded as nations who have competed regularly at a highly competitive international level and have players of the highest standard who have contributed consistently to the achievement of that world ranking.
The sports and entertainments team, UK Border Agency, will produce the aggregated two-year rankings list on a monthly basis when the official FIFA world rankings are published and those countries ranked 70th or above meet the criterion. The aggregated rankings can be downloaded from this website. If clubs have any queries about the rankings they should contact the sports and entertainments team, UK Border Agency.
Length of issue
Work permits will be issued for the period of the player's contract, up to a maximum of five years.
- Where the permit approval is about to expire and the player meets the criteria outlined above for initial applications.
If a club wishes to retain the services of a player, they should submit a new application before the work permit expires. If the work permit criteria are satisfied, a permit will be issued for the period of a player's contract, up to a maximum of five years.
- Where the permit approval is about to expire and the player does not meet the criteria for initial applications
Where an application does not meet the criteria, then a club may request that it be considered by a panel.
Changes during the period of approval
Change of employment
A club wishing to sign a player from another United Kingdom club must submit an application to the sports and entertainments team, UK Border Agency. If the work permit criteria are satisfied, a permit will be issued for the period of a player's contract, up to a maximum of five years.
If a player is moving to another club on loan then the new club must make a fresh application before the player can play for them. If the player does not meet the criteria and the club have requested a panel, the panel will be arranged.
Contract changes or re-negotiation during the period of approval
Where a club wishes to re-negotiate a player's contract to improve his conditions and/or salary or length of contract part-way through their approval period, the club should submit a change of employment application (or extension application if the contract period changes).
If the criteria are met, the application will be processed.
If the criteria are not met:
- Where the player's initial contract was for 12 months or longer and the club have requested a panel, the UK Border Agency's sports and entertainments team will consult with the governing bodies by email. They will ask whether the application needs to be considered at a panel. If the governing bodies recommend unanimously they are satisfied that the changes do not need to be considered by a panel, then the case can be processed without one. If any of the governing bodies have concerns with a particular application, a panel will be arranged. See section below on panels.
- Where a player's initial contract was for less than 12 months and the club have requested a panel, it will be arranged as normal.
Clubs do not need to include details of a player's salary in the work permit application.
Work permits will not be issued to clubs for the purpose of having players to trial them. Clubs may wish to approach the Home Office Enquiry Bureau for further information should they wish to consider taking a non-European Economic Area (EEA) player on trial.
International transfer windows
Work permits may be applied for by clubs at any time and will be considered against the criteria as above. Clubs should take into consideration the fact that a work permit, once issued, must be used within six months otherwise it becomes invalid.
The sports and entertainments team, UK Border Agency, will not normally consult with the football governing bodies on individual applications unless a panel is required.
Where an application does not meet the published criteria, a club may request a panel to consider the player's skills and experience. In these cases the sports and entertainments team, UK Border Agency, will refer the club's evidence to an independent panel.
Where possible the club's supporting evidence will be sent to the governing bodies in advance for their consideration in order to allow an informed decision.
The panel will normally consist of representatives from the relevant football governing bodies together with up to three independent experts.
The panel's terms of reference are:
- To consider whether the player is of the highest calibre.
- To consider whether the player is able to contribute significantly to the development of the game at the top level in United Kingdom.
The panel will make a recommendation to the UK Border Agency whose decision will then be relayed to the club.
Full terms of reference and roles of the panel members and the club are available to attendees.
Clubs should note that, in respect of any application, there will only be one panel available (i.e. a panel and recommendation, followed by a decision). A club should therefore ensure that all evidence it wishes to present in support of its application is presented to the panel.
If the club has previously made an application that was unsuccessful at panel a further panel cannot be requested for the same player during the season. For these purposes a season is deemed to run from 1 June until 31 May.