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In recent years there has been an increase in focus on grass roots football in England, the lack of success the national team has endured is generally believed to be down to the large influx of foreign players in to the Premier League. In response to this the FA in conjunction with the Home Office have tightened up the visa requirements a player must meet to be granted a work permit in the UK. Critics have said that this will make absolutely no difference to the number of foreign players coming in to the league because of the astronomical sums of money on offer to players, clubs, agents and in turn the UK government. Clubs will continue to pursue the world’s top players as it is in their interest commercially to be seen to have the best of the best.
Recently one of the most well publicised cases of a player having his work permit application rejected is that of Arsenal’s Costa Rican striker Joel Campbell. As he is from a country outside the EU he had to apply for a visa to live and work in the UK. Arsenal signed Campbell back in 2011 but 8 days after signing it was revealed that he had failed to obtain a work permit, leaving the club with no option but to loan him out. For the next 3 seasons he played at Lorient, Real Betis and Olympiacos. Joel Campbell’s application for a Tier 2 Sportsperson Visa was rejected on the basis that he didn’t meet the requirement of having played in at least 75% of his home country’s senior competitive matches where he was available for selection during the 2 years prior to signing. There are numerous other stipulations including the player’s national football association being ranked in FIFA’s top 70 and that the player must play within the English Football League, he can’t be loaned out to a lower division during this time. The league acts as the players ‘sponsor’ and endorses them for the duration of the player’s contract.
Should a player’s work permit be rejected, they can usually appeal the decision. Often the appeal is done on the basis of having a high net worth and being able to contribute significantly to the economy i.e. applying for a High-Value Migrant Tier 1 Visa. According to then chairman of the FA, Greg Dyke, around 30% of players signed in 2013 didn’t meet the Tier 2 Sportsperson visa requirements and won on appeal, entering on a Tier 1 Visa instead. In Joel Campbell’s case he has now been granted a visa for the 2014/2015 season following his appearances at the 2014 World Cup for Costa Rica, which have now secured his eligibility under the Tier 2 visa requirements.
Joel Campbell’s rejected visa case serves to illustrate two important immigration points, firstly that not even Premier League footballers are exempt from UK Visa laws, and secondly, that there is still hope in cases where visas are rejected upon initial application. Usually, there will be something that can be done to obtain your visa after an initial rejection depending upon individual circumstance, so it is always best to speak to an expert before giving up hope.