LAWYER DISAGREES WITH VISA ‘ISSUE’
A sports lawyer has questioned the need for non-european drivers to apply for a visa that covers professional sport.
The sport’s UK governing body, the Motor Sports Association, recently wrote to teams advising them that drivers competing in categories such as BRDC British F3 ( above) and British F4 could be deemed as professional sports people according to a Home Office definition and therefore non-eea drivers may need a visa to race.
One of these teams has since sought a legal opinion on the issue and lawyer Dan Chapman has called into question the need for a visa.
“The key issue here is that fundamentally visas are about work,” he said. “The first point to consider is whether or not a driver even needs a work permit. A driver could come into the country from, say, Brazil on a visitor visa. Can that visitor then get into a car and race or is that work? The MSA aren’t considering this question. Assuming it is work, and there are arguments both ways, you then need to look at work permits and determine what the definition of a professional sports person is.
“The MSA have quoted the part of the definition that says a professional may be paid or unpaid but they do not go on to address the part which excludes the person who is acting ‘as an amateur’.
“I would say that in many cases – and it will be specific to each individual – an amateur is someone pursuing a hobby, which may or may not lead to professional activity in the future and funding it themselves. In many cases, there are compelling legal arguments that someone who is paying for a drive is an amateur and therefore will not need the work permit.
“It has yet to go before an immigration judge but a judge might raise eyebrows at the suggestion that someone who has to pay a six-figure sum for just a few hours of racing in a season is a professional.”
The MSA said it had relayed a Home Office concern and had stated from the outset that teams should “seek advice from an OISC (Offices of the Immigration Services Commissioner) immigration advisor, or someone who is otherwise exempt from such a registration requirement, for example a qualified solicitor”.