As you know, in 2016 the Home Office suspended the HPA’s power to issue any visa endorsements for non-EEA grooms and players. However, the Home Office’s concession last season allowed the HPA to endorse:
1. non-EEA grooms to work in polo below 15-goals (low goal), but only for those sponsors who had previously employed non-EEA grooms (limited to a maximum of two)
2. non-EEA players with a handicap of 4-goals or higher to play polo 15 goal and up (medium and high goal) with the assistance of their non-EEA grooms during the 2017 season.
That concession was set to expire at the end of 2017, blocking any further HPA endorsements.
The HPA has now been informed that the Immigration Minister has agreed to extend this existing visa concession for a further twelve months, until the end of 2018. The HPA is awaiting formal notification by the Home Office of the decision. Until that time, the HPA will not be able to provide endorsements for the forthcoming 2018 season, but we have been informed that the Home Office decision will be communicated to the HPA shortly.
We realize members may have had to put their plans on hold, and we wanted to pass this good news onto you as soon as possible. The HPA will start to process visa endorsement requests as soon as we receive the Home Office’s decision and endorsement criteria for 2018. We will inform you of that decision and the 2018 endorsement criteria as soon as we can.
The extension has been achieved through extensive lobbying of, and negotiations with, the government by the HPA and the Federation of International Polo (FIP). We realize that there is much work to be done yet, and that will continue during 2018, in order to try and find a satisfactory permanent solution for both non-EEA grooms and players at all levels of our sport. These efforts will further be aided by the recently formed All-Party Parliamentary Group for Polo (APPG), consisting of Members of Parliament who are supportive of polo and willing to promote and advance the interests of our sport with the government.
In the meantime, it is hoped that once we have received the detail of the extension of the 2017 concession those members who wish to apply for endorsements will be able to start to get organized for 2018.