Serge Aurier: UK Immigration & Criminality


Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) defender, Serge Aurier, was today denied entry to the UK and will now miss his Champions League match against Arsenal. 

A visa had been granted for Aurier back in October but this was revoked on 16 November, following Aurier's two month suspended prison sentence, in September, for assaulting a police officer. After numerous arguments, PSG were finally told today that Aurier would not be granted a visa.

It has been reported by news outlets that Aurier had applied for a Tier 2 Sportsperson visa which is granted to internationally established sportspersons and allows them to remain within the UK for a period of three years. It is one of the most common work permits for sportspersons entering the UK and can also lead to indefinite leave to remain, for those who wish to reside permanently.

Applying for a Tier 2 visa, however, appears slightly odd, in this scenario, as it would require the sportsperson to be entering the UK to be sponsored by and play for a UK club. The most common visa that should be applied for in Aurier's situation (Champions League, Europa League or Internationals) would be a standard visit visa but made under the specific sport sector. 

The Home Office, however, exercises strict rules that state that non-EU nationals (Aurier is from the Ivory Coast) who have received a custodial sentence for less than 12 months within the last five years, will be refused entry to the UK on criminality grounds. It was for that reason, that Aurier's application was refused. 

Other grounds that a visa can be refused include: 

(1) admitting an offence for which the applicant has received a non-custodial sentence or other out-
     of-court disposal that is recorded on their criminal record, in the last 12 months; 
(2) the applicant's offending has caused serious harm in the opinion of the Secretary of State or 
(3) the applicant is a consistent offender who shows a particular disregard for the law.

Unfortunately, there are no grounds to appeal against a visa refusal and PSG will have to do without Aurier, tomorrow night.

Aurier is appealing against the criminal conviction and PSG has cited this as a reason why he should have been granted entry, referring to the presumption of innocence. That position has also been supported by UEFA.

PSG's full statement is as follows:

"After an initial application on 18 October, complete with all the necessary documents, the British authorities had originally granted Paris Saint-Germain's Ivory Coast international an entry visa to the UK on 21 October. However, on November 16 his visa was finally revoked by the British Ministry of the Interior, who justified their about-face by citing Aurier's conviction on 30 September, 2016. Paris Saint-Germain had, in all transparency, informed the British authorities of this conviction, as well as Aurier's appeal against this decision (and the legal suspension of the ruling) from the outset.
The club has argued several times that since the player has launched a legal appeal against the criminal ruling, he is therefore entitled to the presumption of innocence, as any other person exercising their right to appeal.
Paris Saint-Germain strongly regrets that the presumption of innocence has not influenced Britain's decision. On several occasions, UEFA has also transmitted its total support of Paris Saint-Germain to the British authorities regarding this case, in order to preserve the integrity of its competitions.
The club also deplores that the final decision of the British authorities was only communicated at 14:00 CET on Tuesday, despite the club working for the last six days to find a solution to enable our player to travel with his teammates to London. Paris Saint-Germain considers this extremely tardive response as a flagrant lack of respect for the club, given that its player could have been training with the team just hours later at Emirates Stadium.
In the face of this decision, albeit difficult to understand in respect to European law, Paris Saint-Germain, who had planned to travel to London with its strongest possible squad, invites its fans to be more united than ever, in support of their club."
This case not only highlights Home Office rules concerning immigration & criminality but it also shows that there are no special exceptions for elite sportspersons when considering visas and criminal convictions. It also highlights the importance of conduct both on and off the field-of-play.

Big thank you to Stephen O'Flaherty from Lewis Silkin LLP who assisted with this discussion on immigration visas.

IMPORTANT: This post is not intended to be a legal briefing, it is not intended to be a statement of the law and no action should be taken in reliance on it without specific legal advice.

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