Exclusive: Super League clubs face race against time to ensure Papua New Guinean players can travel to France

Aaron Bower
Stade Gilbert Brutus, Catalans Dragons

A general view of the Stade Gilbert Brutus, the home of Catalans Dragons - Alamy

The RFL have written to Super League clubs reminding them of the extra visa requirements players from countries such as Papua New Guinea will need to enter France to face Catalans Dragons, with some clubs already in a race against time to secure the necessary paperwork, Love Rugby League can reveal.

Love Rugby League has learned that while all overseas signings coming to the United Kingdom require a standard working visa to be employed in this country, visits to France for work-related purposes for individuals from select countries require an additional visa, a Schengen visa.

Those countries include Papua New Guinea, meaning a number of clubs are having to apply for additional visas and go through more paperwork to ensure their players can travel.

A Schengen visa is a permit that allows you to enter and travel freely within the Schengen Area, which comprises 27 European countries including France, for short stays up to 90 days within a 180-day period, primarily for tourism or business purposes.

PNG internationals who have an Australian passport, however, do not need a Schengen visa to enter France due to Australia’s relationship with France: but there are a number of clubs in Super League with players who will need to go through the process.

Exclusive: Super League clubs face race against time to ensure Papua New Guinean players can travel to France

Some of those – Castleford Tigers and Warrington Wolves being two of them – travel to Perpignan in the early stages of the new Super League season and are already pushing through the process as quickly as possible to make sure the likes of new Castleford arrival Nixon Putt and Warrington’s new recruit Rodrick Tai can travel.

Warrington, it is understood, are relaxed about Tai’s application and are not concerned he could miss their opener for visa reasons.

Love Rugby League has been told that clubs were contacted by the RFL this week, but several teams with PNG internationals are already aware of the lengthy process required to secure a Schengen visa and have started to wonder if they will secure the visas in time.

The issue was magnified last year when one club were unable to take one of their leading players, a Papua New Guinea international, to Catalans after failing to secure the necessary paperwork in time, and that has alerted other clubs to act quickly.

Schengen visa requirements proving tricky for many Super League clubs as PNG stars could be ruled out of Catalans Dragons trip

The visas can be applied for up to three months before the necessary travel date, but Love Rugby League has been told the entire process can take up to ten weeks from start to finish.

Anyone needing a Schengen visa has to travel to London for an appointment, which are routinely in high demand.

Any applying clubs also have to provide a mountain of paperwork in support. That includes payslips, a letter from the French club – in this case Catalans Dragons – inviting the player to France, a letter from the RFL confirming the fixture, travel details and travel insurance.

Schengen visas have been an additional requirement for Papua New Guinean players since the United Kingdom left the European Union.

Love Rugby League has been told the plight of one club last year has sharpened the minds of many clubs who will have to go through the process this year, but clubs who travel to France in the early stages of the new season are already pressing hard to ensure they do not encounter the same fate.

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