What do Norwich City need to do to get Sebastian Soto playing in England?
- Credit: Archant
Understanding the complexities of gaining work permits for footballers is difficult, but it’s something that Norwich City need to complete if they wish to get Sebastian Soto into a yellow and green shirt.
The American striker joined from Hannover on a free transfer in the summer, but issues with his work permit saw him complete his move to Carrow Road being loaned out to SC Telstar in the Eerste Divisie.
Soto’s performances in the Netherlands have caught the eye of Canaries’ supporters, with the striker scoring five goals in his opening seven appearances for the club.
But what will it take for Soto to return to Norfolk and start playing for Daniel Farke and the first-team?
Most are under the illusion that being selected for the US National Team, something that Soto has achieved for the first time for upcoming fixtures against Wales and Panama, changes the situation drastically.
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The reality is much more complex than that.
Whilst having an international cap to his name does help advance the situation slightly, it won’t be enough on its own to secure a work permit at present.
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As a non-EU player, Soto falls outside of the freedom of movement between EU based players that means there isn’t a need for a work permit or a visa.
As an American-born citizen, Soto’s route into England specifically is more difficult and involves a series of stages before he can legally be allowed to work in the country.
There are two main stages, City have to receive a ‘grant endorsement’ from the FA, which is based on multiple factors before they can go to the Home Office to claim for a work permit.
There is truth that international appearances are factored in. But it hinges on how much football Soto plays for his country over a year long period and the current standing of the USA in the Fifa rankings.
At present, Soto needs to play 60% of matches for his country - which is considered an elite level - for a year long period (because he is under-21, otherwise it would be two years) before he can be considered for a work permit.
The USA’s current ranking (22nd) means he has to play more games. The higher up the rankings you go, the less game time he has to get. For example, if Soto was getting capped for a top 10 country, then he would only need to play in 30% of matches over a year long period.
So, because Soto doesn’t currently fall into that category, City have been forced to loan him out to a European country that has less stringent measures in terms of immigration laws.
Once the player is on loan, it is hoped he will develop into a national player thus satisfying the criterion of the traditional route.
Based on that, one cap wouldn’t be enough to gift Soto a work permit but that doesn’t necessarily mean he will need to wait until he’s reached the 60% threshold in order to get one.
The UK’s departure from the EU will see laws around non-EU based players drastically alter come January 1. The expectation is that Brexit will make it easier to sign non-EU based players.
This means there can no longer be any different treatment between a player based in the EU or elsewhere, because they will all fall under the same category in terms of registration rules.
City could be hoping that, come January, gaining a work permit for Soto will be considerably easier. Of course, those players currently in the squad who arrived from the EU will be granted work permits and permitted to continue working in the country.
If strict rules were applied after this period, then it would be incredibly difficult for EFL clubs to sign players from abroad. The expectation amongst clubs is that it becomes easier to sign players from non-EU countries.
What about Soto himself? What is the grand plan?
City loan manager Neil Adams revealed last month that if Soto continues to impress at Telstar, then the Canaries will review the loan in January and possibly look to move him to a higher ranking club.
However, he doesn’t need to do this to be considered for the Canaries first-team in the future. Farke is willing to take a look at any loan exports who arrive back at the club should Adams or Webber indicate they could be ready.
City do have a break clause in January, but history shows this isn’t an option they seek to activate regularly.
A lot of Soto’s future is predicated on ‘what if’, but there is a viable route into City’s first-team. They just need to jump through the relevant hoops in order to get him there.