UK work permit change hits international footballers

18 Jan 2013 | Posted by Carl Thomas

A change in the UK work permit scheme brought in in December has forced a number of planned transfer window deals in the football world to be abandoned.

The rules of the Football Association (FA) mean that a non-EU player must have played in 75 per cent of their country's matches in the two years ahead of a move the UK. Furthermore, the home nation must have a world ranking of 70 or more if the player wishes to access that skilled or exceptional work permit categories.

These regulations were designed to limit the number of players eligible for the British leagues, ensuring that standards remained high. However, some players had been exploiting a loophole in the immigration regulations, using the investor visa route to gain access by investing £1 million or more in the UK.

A stop was put to this by the FA when it passed its concerns to the Sports & Recreation Alliance (SRA), the governing bodies' umbrella organisation, which in turn wrote to the UK Border Agency (UKBA).

The UKBA acknowledged the issue and changed the rules in response so that professional sports men and women and coaches will no longer be able to use the investor visas method.

A Premier League board meeting has also discussed the meeting and there is a general agreement that the rules on foreign players were in need of review.

Rabiu Ibrahim is among the latest players to enter the UK work permit application system to make a transfer. Ibrahim, a Nigerian mid-fielder, has now been granted an endorsement from the Scottish Football Association which will go towards his work permit application for a move to Kilmarnock.

He was required to seek the backing of the Scottish FA for his application because he did not meet the stipulation to have played in a minimum of 75 per cent of Nigeria's competitive games in the past two years.