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Sports are hugely important to Australian culture, and we have been lucky enough to work with some of the most exciting names in sports in recent years.  International athletes consistently travel to Australia to compete in MMA, boxing, supercross, padel tennis, and many more.

In our experience, one issue keeps arising: athletes need to arrive with the proper documentation and visa (work authorisation) to compete, but often don’t realise that this is generally required on entry.  Many believe that a visitor visa is suitable for competing at high levels in Australia, but unfortunately, that’s simply not the case from an Australian immigration law perspective.

Naturally, athletes, particularly those at the world-class level, live and breathe their sport — it’s innate to their being.  It can often seem strange to think of needing a visa to enter a country to compete because it does not feel like what they do is work.

As such, it can be challenging to gather documents and advise athletes on the compliance risks when entering Australia.  This is compounded by the fact that many events and competitions occur during a packed calendar, and the time and resources to put essential immigration-specific documents together can be left by the wayside.

Fortunately, athletes who want to work or participate in an event in Australia may be eligible for the subclass 408 visa — a visa with a specific sporting activities stream that’s suitable for most competitive events.  It allows applicants and their families to stay in Australia for up to two years.

Let’s dive into this visa, its benefits, and how it fits into sports.

What is the Subclass 408 visa and how does it help athletes compete in Australia?

This multi-entry visa allows individuals to enter Australia to perform specific types of work on a short-term, temporary basis, and if the individual needs to stay over three months, the visit must be sponsored by an approved organisation.  However, the processing time for a subclass 408 visa can be relatively quick, taking between just three to thirty-seven days for most applications.

There are several streams within the subclass 408 visa program, each with its own requirements and conditions.  For all streams, the applicant has to demonstrate they have the skills to undertake the activity to be carried out in Australia and have been sponsored by an approved organisation or individual.

Streams within the Subclass 408 visa program, include:

  • Special Program Stream
  • Religious Work Stream
  • Research Activities Stream
  • Invited Social & Cultural Activity Stream
  • Entertainment Activities Stream
  • Sporting Activities Stream
  • Pandemic Stream – further below!

Each stream allows for a wide range of activities, including undertaking business investment activities, participating in creative arts events, working in the entertainment industry, attending religious conferences, and undertaking short-term academic research.

The type of subclass 408 applications we’ve been processing in increasing numbers have been for those participating in competitive events as part of the Sporting Activities Stream.  International athletes competing in famous Australian events such as the Australian Open, world title fights or the Australian Formula 1 Grand Prix regularly apply for subclass 408 visas.

In general, it’s important to note that the applicant can only participate in the approved sporting activity while on this visa and must be supported or sponsored by an Australian organisation or government agency (or a foreign government agency lawfully operating in Australia) that administers or promotes sport or sporting events.

But aside from the athlete, who else is eligible to receive the Subclass 408 visa?

Athlete, support staff, and family eligibility for the Subclass 408 visa

The subclass 408 stream encompasses a diverse range of roles within sports – yes, it’s not just for the athletes themselves! Coaches, instructors, and adjudicators for an Australian team can also apply, or those performing high-level sports training with an Australian sporting organisation.

Sportspersons applying for a subclass 408 visa can also include family members in their application form — they will just need to provide proof of dependency for each accompanying family member. This can include a marriage certificate (or de facto relationship evidence), birth certificates for children, or other evidence of dependency.  Family members can also apply to travel to Australia at a later date if the Subclass 408 visa is granted to the primary applicant.

The Sporting Activities stream also includes people travelling to Australia to compete in local competitions, as opposed to major national or international events, but with the caveat that they will be expected to depart Australia after the event.  Typically the subclass 408 visa can be granted for up to three months or two years.

The busy schedules of those working in the sports industry can make complying with local immigration laws even more of a challenge.  Working with immigration lawyers who understand these complexities can make the process significantly easier.

Just in the last month, we have lodged a few dozen applications for the WSX Supercross Australian GP which requires highly skilled motorbike riders to travel to Australia to compete.  Many of these applications have been processed within a few days as we have created a streamlined process for the riders, administrative bodies and team members to efficiently supply the necessary information for us to apply with the Department of Home Affairs.

But whether it’s motocross, boxing, or another sport, the consistent theme is that it’s critically important to always have your essential documents on-hand such as passports, licenses, and competition contracts when traveling.  That’s what we help our clients with so that they can focus on training, competing and winning.

Important note about the pandemic stream!

The immigration department introduced the Australian Government-endorsed events (COVID-19 Pandemic event) stream to assist foreign nationals with regularising their stay during the pandemic.

Significant resources have now been put into place to finalise the processing of the backlog in these applications and we are now seeing some applications come through in a few weeks.  That said, given the current knowledge around COVID-19, it would appear logical that the immigration department is likely to shut down this stream shortly.

Gilton Valeo can help athletes legally compete in Australia

If you’re an athlete, coach, team, or league and are curious about sports-related immigration to Australia, Gilton Valeo — as experts in Australian immigration — can guide you in identifying the best immigration pathways to bring people over.

Factors such as licenses, commission rules and local sporting body support can be challenging to coordinate, and that’s precisely where we come in. Through our contacts and expertise, we can escalate the processing of applications to ensure that all sportspeople can enter Australia comfortably and without issue, in time for their competitions and events.

With a personal passion for sports, we’re dedicated to making the process as smooth as possible whatever your speciality.  If you have any questions about the above, contact one of our offices or connect with us via Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, or Twitter!