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Last week, Nigeria junior international Isaac Success joined Watford from Granada as their club record signing.

It is a move that has been celebrated here in his home country. But one key question has been asked. How will he qualify for a work permit as he has yet to make a senior appearance for Nigeria.

Under the old rules, he would not qualify because he has not played for Nigeria's senior team at all. The rules require that he should have made at least 75% of appearances for Nigeria's senior team over the last two years.
But wait, Mikel Obi was in the same boat some 10 years ago and got a work permit. That's because there was a plan B: was an appeals process where the club would have to show that the player was an exceptional talent.

Those regulations have now changed. It is still a two-step process of either 1) automatic eligibility or 2) appeals, but is a bit more straightforward, especially in part two and harder to qualify

PART 1: AUTOMATIC ELIGIBILITY
Automatic eligibility will now be determined according to a national team’s ranking, as set out in the table below:

Official FIFA Ranking Required % of international matches over previous 24 months
FIFA 1-10                 30% and above
FIFA 11-20         45% and above
FIFA 21-30         60% and above
FIFA 31-50         75% and above


Based on the table above, Algeria (ranked 32), CIV (ranked 36), Ghana (ranked 37), Senegal (ranked 41), Egypt (ranked 45), Tunisia (ranked 47) and Cape Verde (ranked 49) are the only African countries whose players would automatically qualify for a work permit by virtue of playing the required percentage (75) of international matches over the last 2 years.

With Nigeria ranked 61, players would need to go the appeals route.

PART 2: APPEAL

If a player fails to meet the automatic criteria stated above, the club can request that an appeals body (called the Exceptions Panel) considers the player’s experience and value to decide whether the player should nonetheless be allowed to join the club. 
This new system is a little different from the old, as it is now a points-based system under which the panel will award points depending on the circumstances of the transfer.

Four points is the minimum threshold a player must meet for the panel to recommend approval for the application. Nonetheless, the panel can still reject the application even if four or more points are scored.

The table below shows how the scores are tallied 


If the player fails to meet the above points-based system review, there is a secondary system  under which if the player scores 5 points or more, the panel may recommend that an application is granted. 

Points can be scored if, for example, the player has played in the final qualification rounds of the Champions League, Europa League or the Copa Libertadores within the last 12 months and the player has played in 30% or more of the available domestic league minutes. 

There are also points for a player's country reaching the semifinal of the African Nations Cup or Asian Cup, for example.

The review at this stage is more flexible meaning that the panel can take into account the circumstances if no transfer fee is payable (perhaps because the player has reached the end of his contract) or if the player satisfies some but not all of the automatic criteria.

If the player fails to score 5 points or more, there is one final review stage during which further arguments can be made if there are extenuating circumstances that are beyond the control of the player or national association (for example, a long term injury or suspension that has prevented the player from appearing in the last year).


These changes to the FA's rules on non-EEA (European Economic Area) players playing in the UK was done in consultation with the Premier League, Football League, League Managers Association, Professional Footballers Association and Home Association.

Isaac would therefore qualify for a work permit by virtue of his transfer fee, wages and previously playing for a club in a top league.
The same would apply for Ahmed Musa if and when he joins Leicester City, as Nigeria's low FIFA ranking means Super Eagles players do not automatically qualify.

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