Memorandum from the Department for Education
and Employment (WP 4)|
1. The work permit scheme is administered
by the Department for Education and Employment's Overseas Labour
Service (OLS) in accordance with the Immigration Act 1971 and
the Immigration Rules. The Home Office is responsible for all
immigration matters. The OLS administers the work permit scheme.
This covers employers based in England, Scotland and Wales. Work
permits for Northern Ireland, the Isle of Man, Jersey and the
Channel Islands are handled by separate departments in each of
2. The following people do not need work
(a) European Economic Area (EEA) nationalsmember
countries are: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany,
Greece, Holland, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg,
Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom (free movement
of workers within the EEA is derived from Article 39 of the consolidated
version of the Treaty on European Union);
(b) Those born in Gibraltar;
(c) Commonwealth citizens who are allowed
to enter or to remain in the UK on the basis that a grandparent
was born here;
(d) Husbands, wives and dependent children
under 18 of people who hold a current work permit as long as the
endorsement in their passport places no restriction on their employment
(e) Those who do not have any conditions
attached to their stay in the UK.
3. Additionally, permits are not required
where the Home Office agree that the person is either;
(i) An entertainer or sportsperson participating
in a benefit match or charity event for which there is no fee,
or taking part in international competitions.
(ii) An entertainer or sportsperson attending
a trial or audition which does not involve a performance to a
fee-paying audience. (Paid rehearsals do require a permit).
4. A person who is not in one of the groups
described above will normally need a work permit. The Home Office,
Immigration and Nationality Directorate are responsible for issuing
advice on whether or not a work permit is required (The DfEE do
not decide whether a person needs permission to work in this country).
Advice is also available from UK Government representatives overseas:
the British Embassy, Consulate or High Commission.
5. A footballer who is not from a country
listed in (2a) above will require a work permit to play in the
UK unless one of the listed exemption categories applies. If an
application is successful and immigration requirements are satisfied
the individual will be granted permission to enter the country
to play professional football.
6. It should also be noted that some South
American and African players are able to enter the UK and play
for a club without a work permit because they also hold a passport
of one of the EEA countries.
7. A football club, or their representative,
based in the UK who wishes to submit a work permit application
in respect of a non-EEA professional footballer completes a WP3
application form (see Annex A)
The form and associated Guidance Notes (see Annex B)
are available to the clubs from a publicised forms distribution
unit or by downloading from the DfEE Internet site (www.dfee.gov.uk/ols).
There is no cost attached to either.
8. The Guidance Notes provide general information
for employers on the criteria for applications in respect of entertainers
and sportspeople. They also provide advice on how and when to
apply for a work permit and details of the service standards to
which OLS operates. More specific criteria that apply to footballers
(see below) are distributed annually to the Premier League and
Football League representatives in England and Scotland who are
asked to make all their respective member clubs aware of the arrangements.
9. A club applying for a work permit sends
the completed application form to the Sports and Entertainments
Team at the OLS in Sheffield who acknowledge receipt of it within
five working days. The OLS consider the application according
to the work permit criteria and aim to make a decision on it by
the date requested. It is easier to do this if the club has included
in the application all the relevant information required to reach
a decision. OLS aims to reach a decision on all cases within four
weeks of receipt of the work permit application.
10. The Guidance Notes also inform clubs
that applications for people already in the UK may take longer.
The immigration Rules require a person needing a work permit to
have the document before entering the country. At the port of
entry an immigration officer is required to stamp the passport
of the individual who presents the work permit. This stamp shows
the time limit and restrictions on the employment.
If the person is already in the UK the OLS will
forward details of their decision on the work permit application
to the Home Office, Immigration and Nationality Directorate. The
Home Office will then consider whether the person can change their
immigration status to that of a work permit holder and will write
to both the employer and the Overseas national with their decision.
11. The current criteria for non-EEA footballers
were announced in a joint statement (see Annex C) on 2 July 1999
by Margaret Hodge, the Minister responsible for work permit arrangements
and Tony Banks, the then Minister for Sport.
12. Work permits are issued to football
clubs in respect of players of the highest calibre who are able
to make a significant contribution to the development of the British
game at its highest level. The highest level of the British game
is deemed to be those clubs competing in the Premier and Football
Leagues in England and Scotland.
13. The two main elements of the criteria
A player must have played for his
country in at least 75 per cent of its competitive "A"
team matches for which he was available for selection during the
two years preceding the date of the work permit application; and
The FIFA ranking of the player's
country must be at or above 70th place in the official rankings
list when averaged over the two years preceding the date of the
14. The new criteria for the 1999-2000 season
are set out in Annex D. Copies were sent to all the UK football
governing bodies, namely the Football Associations, Premier Leagues,
Football Leagues and professional Football Associations in England
and Scotland (and the FA in Wales) on the 16 July 1999.
15. The criteria are designed to assist
clubs by introducing a more consistent, open, straightforward,
and transparent system ensuring a fast and fair application process.
16. Other key changes to the work permit
work permits will be issued in line
with the length of a player's contract;
salary information is no longer used
as one of the indicators of a player's standing;
review panels (to include representatives
from the football governing bodies and up to three independent
experts) have been introduced to consider appeals and applications
from clubs which do not meet all the criteria but where evidence
is provided to support their view that the player concerned is
of the highest calibre; and
consultation with the football governing
bodies on individual applications will no longer take place.
17. Where a work permit is granted to a
club for a footballer it will be valid for the duration of the
player's contract with that club (normally up to a maximum of
18. If the work permit expires and the club
wishes to retain the services of the player they must submit a
new application to the OLS. If the work permit criteria are satisfied
ie the 75 per cent international appearances and the FIFA ranking
placing, at that stage a further permit will be issued again,
in the line with the duration of his contract. In such cases,
after successfully obtaining a work permit for a further period,
a player may wish to enquire of the Home Office whether he can
be granted Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) in the UK. The Home
Office normally consider such cases where an individual has worked
in this country for a continuous period of four years or more.
If ILR was granted the player would no longer require a work permit.
19. A club wishing to sign a player who
already has a work permit from another UK club must submit an
application to the OLS. If the application is approved a permit
would be issued in line with the new contract (normally up to
a maximum of three years). Depending on the amount of time spent
by the player in the UK with different clubs it may also be possible
for him to apply to the Home Office for ILR.
20. The announcement of new work permit
criteria for footballers for the 1999-2000 season followed discussions
with the football governing bodies in England and Scotland. Representatives
of the respective football associations, professional leagues
and players associations have all regularly contributed to the
annual consultation exercise. Since 1992 the OLS have called upon
the expertise of the bodies to assist them in reviewing existing
criteria and drawing up appropriate arrangements prior to the
commencement of each new season.
21. A longer and wider ranging consultative
exercise was undertaken in 1999. In addition to the normal annual
meeting of the OLS and the football governing bodies held in May
officials from the OLS undertook a consultation exercise in March
which involved them meeting representatives from the Football
Association, Premier League, Football League, Professional Footballers
Association and the Institute of Professional Sport to establish
their views on the current work permit arrangements for football
and related issues.
22. This consultative exercise, also involved
meetings between Ministers and the Professional Football Association,
Premier League, Football League and Football Association of England.
23. Ministers recognised that it was an
extremely difficult task to produce work permit arrangements which
reconciled two apparently opposing view points in football, ie
free access to the best overseas players wanted by British clubs;
and concerns expressed by others about the potenetial barrier
this could create to the development of home grown talent and
the future success of the national teams. Ministers were also
concerned that the salary criteria were inappropriate, as they
would unnecessarily increase costs to clubs and hence charges
to supporters. There were further concerns that the previous arrangements
were not open and led to inconsistent decisions which could not
be understood by the public at large.
24. The European Court of Justice's (ECJ)
Bosman judgement in December 1995 abolished transfer fees
for EEA players who had reached the end of their contracts and
also outlawed the previously applied limitation that clubs could
only play a maximum of three EEA players at any one time.
25. It is understood that the Football League
in England have now rescinded this rule but the Premier League
in England still apply it. The Premier League and Football League
in England retained a restriction on non-EEA players (limiting
clubs to playing a maximum of three non-EEA players in a game).
26. In Scotland a voluntary quota arrangement
had been agreed between member clubs to limit the number of work
permit players who could compete in the Scottish leagues at any
one time. This limit was set at 20 in total across the Leagues
with a maximum of two per club (previously three). As far as the
Department is aware this arrangement still exists.
27. Although not a restriction, it is also
worth noting that FIFA (the world governing body of football)
annouced on 1 April this year that all non-EEA players within
the EEA will at the end of their contracts become, like their
EEA counterparts, free agents. They are therefore able to sign
for other clubs without a transfer fee being required.
28. In order for the OLS to determine whether
the work permit criteria for a footballer are satisfied when an
application from a club is received, the evidence set out below
29. Establishing whether an individual has
played in at least 75 per cent of his country's international
matches during the two years preceding the date of the work permit
application. Clubs are asked to seek written confirmation of the
player's international appearance record from the Football Association
and submit this with their application. The criteria define the
"competitive" matches which are taken into consideration
in determining whether the "75 per cent ruling" is satisfied.
For example, "friendly" internationals are not counted
but World Cup games and recognised confederation tournament games
(ie The Copa America) are taken into account. A player must have
played (taken to the field of play) in a minimum of 75 per cent
of the games rather than be a non-playing substitute or simply
a member of the squad for international matches.
THE FIFA RANKINGS
30. This seeks to confirm that it seeks
confirmation that over the same two year period the country that
the player has been representing has been successfully competing
in international matches at a high level on a regular basis. The
OLS uses the official FIFA rankings (normally published each month)
to determine the average placing for the country in question over
the two year period. This information will be available to clubs
on the Department's OLS Internet web site from September 1999
(until then clubs are able to approach the OLS for details of
rankings). There are currently 202 countries in the FIFA rankings.
All those teams who have regularly earned an average placing of
70th or higher are regarded, for work permit consideration, as
nations who have players of the highest standard in their team
who have contributed consistently to the achievement of that world
31. Work Permits for Footballers (1994-99)
(1 June to 31 May)
* Figures for 1994-95 include new and renewal applications.
32. Year (1 June to 31 May).
33. Work permits for Footballers (Current Holders)
(to date for 1999-2000 season)
|Renewal applications received (to date for 1999-2000 season)
34. The DfEE do not hold information on the numbers of
players from other EEA countries (see paragraph 2a) who are currently
playing for British clubs as these players do not need
a work permit. However, statistics provided by the Premier League
and Football League in England show that there are 279 players
from EEA countries (including those who qualify for an EEA passport),
excluding Britain, competing for clubs in those leagues in season
35. The following statistical information assists in
relating the number of applications received for footballers to
the total number of all work permit applications (covering every
occupation/type of work) received by the OLS from or on behalf
of UK based employers during the same periods:
36. All Work Permit Applications Received by OLS.
(1 June to 31 May)
|Total Number of all|
|Football Applications Received|
as % of Grand Total
37. Where an application to renew an existing work permit
for a player does not meet the criteria the club is informed in
writing by the OLS. The club have the right to appeal against
38. The consequences of a refusal to grant the issue
of work permit in such circumstances are that the UK club will
no longer be able to employ the overseas national as a player
after the termination date shown on his last work permit. Should
another UK club express an interest in signing the player in question
at that stage they would need to submit a new work permit application
to the OLS who would make a decision using the same criteria.
39. Any application from a club in respect of the player
at a later date would be considered against the relevant criteria
for footballers at that time.
40. In cases where a work permit cannot be issued or
renewed in the UK, the player might be expected to consider seeking
a move to a club in another country (including his own country
41. The work permit arrangements that applied to the
football season prior to the 1999 review are attached at Annex
42. Some similarities to the new arrangements for 1999-2000
will be noted including the retention of the 75 per cent international
appearance criteria as a key qualitative measure of a player's
international standing in the game and also the definition of
a competitive international match.
43. The level of a player's salary as an indicator in
deciding whether an individual meets the required standard has
now been removed. Evidence revealed that footballer's salaries
varied significantly in many cases and it was not thought appropriate
for the Government to stipulate conditions, which might be a contributory
factor to wage inflation within the sport, or to impose a requirement
which might favour richer clubs.
44. Annual post-entry checks have also been dropped for
those players whose club sought an extension to the existing work
permit after the end of a season. The checks required the player
to have competed in at least 75 per cent of his club's first team
games during the past season before his permit could be renewed
for the following season. The new pre-entry criteria is now deemed
robust enough to ensure that only players of the highest quality
will obtain a work permit and as such allows the club that has
made the commitment to purchase him the opportunity to retain
the player, if they so wish, in line with the duration of his
45. The requirement for the OLS to consult the football
governing bodies on all applications has also been removed. As
the new arrangements are clearer, open and more transparent, there
are likely to be fewer queries that need answering by the football
bodies. The whole decision making process will be speeded up.
The football bodies will continue to be consulted about the effectiveness
of the arrangements on an annual basis as before. They will also
be called upon, as necessary, when clubs wish their case to be
heard by the review panel when the criteria are not met.
46. As with football all other UK based sports clubs
or organisations wishing to engage the services of a professional
non-EEA sportsperson who needs a work permit have to complete
a WP3 application form.
47. In addition, again like football, work permit criteria
for each sport are drawn up (and reviewed annually in most cases)
in consultation with the relevant governing bodies. The main aim
is to ensure that work permits are issued only to people who are
internationally established at the top end of their sport and
whose employment will make a significant contribution to the development
of that particular sport in this country at the highest level.
The stage of development of each sport in the UK, and the level
it is played at, are factors that are taken into consideration
by the Department in agreeing the criteria.
48. The following examples of current work permit criteria
cover a wide range of those sports from which the OLS receive
differing volumes of applications during the course of a year.
The sports include those which, like football, are well established
in this country and others which are at different levels of development.
49. Of all the sports work permit applications received
by the OLS during the course of a year those from UK based cricket
clubs normally represent the highest percentage (over one quarter
of all sports applications dealt with). Around 300 permits have
been issued for professional cricketers to play for clubs in the
UK in 1999. Annex F provides details of the criteria for overseas
cricket players in respect of the 1999 season.
50. Both codes of rugby are also well established in
sports in this country. Of the two rugby league has been established
professionally for much longer and work permits issued for players
for the 1999 season numbered around 120. Rugby union turned professional
in the UK much more recently and the OLS issued 50 permits for
players to compete in the 1998-99 season. The current work permit
arrangements for both codes of the sport are attached at Annex
G and Annex H. (The Rugby Union criteria for 1999-2000 season
has not yet been finalised with the Rugby Union Governing Bodies).
51. A sport which has grown in popularity in the UK over
the past few years is basketball. The work permit criteria for
basketball players attempts to mirror the developing nature and
profile of the sport in this country. There were approximately
75 work permits issued to basketball clubs for players in the
1998-99 season. See Annex I for details of the current criteria.
52. Another sport which appears to fall into a similar
category as far as popularity and development is concerned in
the UK in recent years is ice hockey. Once again the criteria
are reviewed annually with the governing bodies in an attempt
to ensure these reflect the needs of the sport, the clubs, and
the players. The OLS issued just over 50 permits to ice hockey
clubs for overseas players competing in the 1998-99 season. Annex
J provides details of the current work permit criteria for the
53. The sport of speedway is well established in the
UK but does not appear to be as popular as it was some years ago.
Recent work permit criteria meetings with the governing body of
speedway have indicated that efforts are being made to seek ways
of re-developing the sport in this country and making it more
atttractive to prospective new riders. 24 permits were issued
for speedway riders competing for British clubs during the 1999
season. See Annex K for the current criteria.
54. The Employment sub-committee have asked a question
about how the criteria which apply to footballers and other sports
people, compare with the criteria which apply where employees
might have unique individual talents, for example, entertainers.
The Department's work permit arrangements recognise that in some
circumstances an individual (or group) is employed/engaged to
perform or do work which only they can do, for example an entertainer
performing his/her act or starring in his/her own show.
55. In such cases it is still a requirement of the work
permit regulations that the applicant must provide evidence that
the aritist(s) in question have performed at the highest level
overseas and established an international reputation in their
profession. Provided all the necessary information is included
in the application the OLS are normally able to authorise these
kind of applications quickly and a work permit is issued to the
employer in respect of an individual or group.
56. The period of employment in the UK for many overseas
artists is often a short one, either a one-off performance or
a contractual engagement lasting for a few weeks at a time. Work
permits are generally only issued on a short term basis (normally
up to a maximum of 12 months) for entertainers who have maintained
an international reputation. It is not intended that permits issued
to entertainers should allow individuals to base themselves in
the UK for a prolonged period of time in order to develop their
57. Where the OLS are able to accept the individual or
group as engaging in work which only they can do, there is no
requirement for officials to check the availability of suitably
qualified "resident workers", ie a person who is an
EEA national or has settled status under the Immigration Act 1971
to carry our the work described in the application.
Department for Education and Employment
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