US Soccer Player’s Work Permit Woes Highlight Changing UK Immigration Laws
By John Bostwick, Managing Editor, Radius
Juan Agudelo is one of the United States’ most technically gifted and creative soccer players. Last August, while playing for the New England Revolution in Major League Soccer (MLS), Agudelo announced that he would move to the UK club Stoke City in January 2014.
Agudelo’s move, which was to occur following the conclusion of his New England contract, would come on the heels of similar MLS defections by US nationals to the prestigious Barclay’s Premier League. In 2012, for instance, Geoff Cameron transferred to Stoke City from the Houston Dynamo. The move paid off for Cameron, who saw regular playing time at Stoke and was chosen to represent the US in the 2014 World Cup.
Agudelo never suited up for Stoke City. After a brief loan stint playing in the relatively modest Dutch league earlier this year, Agudelo has been looking for work. In October, the English side Wolverhampton Wanderers—which plays in a tier below Stoke City—opted not to offer Agudelo a contract following a training spell with the team. The club stated that it was concerned with Agudelo’s match fitness, as he hasn’t played in a significant number of games since last winter. Given this concern and Agudelo’s continued unemployment, you could make a strong case that the player’s career has suffered considerably as a result of UK authorities’ decision to reject his work permit application and subsequent appeals.
Agudelo’s case is not simply a cautionary tale for US soccer players considering a move to Barclay’s Premier League. The case highlights wider changes in UK immigration laws that affect all non-EU citizens hoping to work in the UK. A February 2014 nature.com article (about how changing immigration laws may be dissuading foreign scientists from working in the UK) notes: “in recent months the government has been taking a harder line on immigration. It now wants to reduce net migration to the United Kingdom from 182,000 people in 2012 to tens of thousands per year by 2015.”
The message should be clear: UK immigration laws are changing, and the trend is towards tightening restrictions. So if you’re applying for a UK visa or work permit, you should know that the process is far from perfunctory, and it could present you with significant challenges.