Germany is to introduce a brand new dedicated visa for professional esports players and coaches. These are to offer eligible foreign applicants in the sector permanent residency without having to gain approval from the Federal Employment Agency.

The world of competitive video gaming is growing ever more popular around the world and governments have started to take note. Many are now beginning to create new incentives for professionals who travel frequently to their countries for major tournaments.

The US previously announced relaxed rules granting P1 visas for esports professionals. However, Germany is the first country to offer a dedicated visa program for the esports community. The Central European Federal Republic is also to be the first major EU 27 country to roll out such a scheme for professional gamers.

What Are the Benefits of the Proposed eSports Visa?

The biggest benefit of this new system is that it offers holders permanent residency in the country. Much of the red tape involved in this process is to be cut allowing applicants to gain residency visas without needing to be assessed by the Federal Employment Agency as is currently the case.

The President of the German Esports Federation (ESBD) Hans Jagnow, offered his praise of the new scheme claiming: "The German esports visa will be a big advantage for events hosted in Germany. We are the first country to establish a dedicated visa category for esports. There are more international esports events expected to take place in Germany."

At present some of the major esports tournaments that take place in Germany include:

  • League of Legends European Championship (LEC)
  • Dreamleague
  • Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds Europe League (PEL)
  • Dreamhack

Esports Immigration is coming ever more under the spotlight as countries rush to gain a greater share of this thriving market. Germany itself having proven especially keen to lure prospective talent to its borders, particularly in sectors where EU immigration alone isn’t enough to fill vacancies in skilled employment.

Who Can Apply for a German eSports Visa?

The esports visa is being introduced as part of the country’s program of attracting skilled foreign workers to the country. The system provides 3rd country nationals with a streamlined and incentified way of gaining travel authorization to visit and reside in Germany.

This will be granted to all eligible players from outside the EU in some of the biggest video game leagues. In order to be accepted for the scheme applicants will need to be:

  • Over 16 years of age
  • Employed by a German registered esports organization or team
  • Currently competing in national or international esports leagues with their team

It is likely that citizens of BRIC countries are best poised to benefit from these new rules. At present some of the nations with the biggest esports communities outside the EU include:

  • India
  • China
  • Vietnam
  • Brazil

When Will the Esports Visa Be Available?

The Skilled Workers Immigration Act that will permit the issuance of esports visas was approved last year by the German cabinet. However, it is still yet to fully come into effect. It currently scheduled to be fully formalized by March 2020, at which time professional video gamers will become eligible for the visa program.

What Other Ways Can Non-EU Citizens Travel to Germany?

ETIAS visa waivers will be available from 2021 for visitors traveling to Germany (and all other 25 Schengen members) for tourism or business trips of up to 90 days at a time. When it is launched prospective visitors traveling from non-EU countries will be required to fill in an online application form before arriving in Germany.

This can be completed 3 days prior to their departure date. Once approved it grants multiple entries to Germany and the rest of the EU over a period of 3 years making it much simpler to travel to and from Europe.

Visitors traveling to Germany for longer periods of time or to work full time will, however, need to apply for an appropriate Schengen visa. In this case, applicants will need to visit a German consulate or embassy in their country of citizenship and register for the most suitable immigration scheme.

The new esports visas offer a simpler and streamlined form of travel authorization for participants in this rapidly expanding sector. Once it is fully launched, German residency will be much more accessible to thousands of young people around the world.