The Home Office has updated the Tier 4 Policy Guidance document. This contains the information which international students are advised to follow when applying for permission to enter or remain in the UK under Tier 4.
As always, the new guidance contains a table listing the changes that have been made and these can be found on pages 7-9. Most of the changes relate to the structure of the document itself, correcting previous errors and confirming where rules relate to Tier 4 (Child) applicants also.
There is some new information for Tier 4 students about their status and what they may do after their course completes, but before their leave to remain ends. The Home Office has also confirmed that Tier 4 students must not enter the UK earlier than the start date on their vignette – and we’ve covered this in more detail here.
The Home Office does not support professional sportspersons coming into the UK via the Tier 4 route. Their position is that such persons should enter under the specific provisions for sportspersons that are contained in Tier 2 or Tier 5.
In the last year, the Home Office has amended the definition of a professional sportsperson and this has caused significant concern amongst many international students and their sponsors. We covered the changes here and listed the specific wording contained in the definition of a professional sportsperson as set out in the Immigration Rules.
Whilst the Immigration Rules currently remain the same, the new guidance contains more information about what the prohibition means for Tier 4 students and states:
‘If one or more of the indicators applies to you, this will mean you are considered to be a ‘professional sportsperson’ and participating in non-amateur sport is strictly prohibited whilst studying in the UK. However, you are permitted to play, participate or coach in grassroots/amateur sport, for instance at and for local and community teams, as well as at your Tier 4 sponsor, and in amateur competitions and leagues, such as those organised through British Universities and Colleges Sport (BUCS), providing you are doing so on a wholly amateur basis.’
In relation to courses that include a sports-related work placement, the guidance states:
‘If you are permitted to undertake a work placement as part of your course and wish to undertake a sport-related placement, this would be permissible as long as it does not involve you filling a permanent vacancy or providing professional sporting services. You would not be permitted to take up a professional coaching role or a role which requires you to play or coach with a professional sports club as part of a work placement.’
The guidance also refers to sports scholarships and states:
‘If you are required to play or coach sport in exchange for receiving the scholarship, this activity is only permitted if you are studying a course at degree level or above, at a Higher Education Institution with Tier 4 sponsor status and the scholarship has been awarded for playing or coaching sport at an amateur level for your Tier 4 Sponsor or British Universities and Colleges Sport (BUCS).This will not be considered a breach of the ‘professional sportsperson’ restrictions which prohibits receiving payment, including payment in kind, for playing or coaching sport.
If your sports scholarship requires you to play or coach with a professional or semi-professional team, or where any of the other indicators of the definition apply to you, you will be considered to be employed as a professional sportsperson, as per the definition above and undertaking such activity will be a breach of the employment restrictions regarding work as a ‘professional sportsperson.’
Is this clear enough?
On the whole the clarifications should help international students and Tier 4 sponsors have a better understanding of the Home Office’s concerns and what are and aren’t permitted activities.
Whilst the clarity is welcome therefore, it is concerning that further information is not contained within the Immigration Rules. So far it is also only included in the Tier 4 Policy Guidance. It would also be helpful for those in other immigration routes to which the professional sportsperson prohibition applies to have more clarity so they can determine if they can or cannot undertake certain sporting activities.