MANCHESTER, EnglandMANCHESTER, England (Reuters) - The United States and other countries hoping to host the 2026 World Cup should provide government guarantees on visa-free travel plus work permit and tax exemptions for their bids to be accepted, according to documents published by FIFA on Tuesday.
The U.S wants to host the 2026 tournament in a joint bid with Canada and Mexico, who would also have to commit to the government guarantees for their proposal to be accepted by soccer's world governing body.
Morocco is currently the only other country to have indicated they will bid for the finals, which will be the first to feature an expanded 48-team field.
FIFA wants a visa-free environment, or at least non-discriminatory visa procedures, while the work permit exemptions apply to anyone involved with the World Cup and tax exemptions relate to the soccer governing body and its subsidiaries.
While FIFA has asked for - and received - similar exemptions in the past, their inclusion in a revamped World Cup bid process will mean the current U.S. administration of President Donald Trump will need to sign off on the exemptions.
Sunil Gulati, chairman of the joint U.S, Mexican and Canadian 'United Bid Committee' has previously stated that Trump supports the attempt to bring the World Cup to the United States, which hosted the 1994 finals.
FIFA produced new bidding criteria after the organization was heavily criticized over the selection process for the 2018 and 2022 World Cup finals, won by Russia and Qatar respectively.
Formal submission of the completed bids has to be made by March 16, 2018 and FIFA will decide whether to select one of the candidate bids at their congress in June next year, or re-open the process if none of the bids are accepted.
Regarding immigration and travel guarantees, the FIFA overview document on government guarantees states:
"In order to cover the needs of the respective groups of individuals, the Government is requested to generally establish a visa-free environment or facilitate existing visa procedures for them.
"Regardless, any visa procedures must be applied in a non-discriminatory manner."
As a presidential candidate, Trump called for a total ban on Muslims entering the U.S. as a counter-terrorism measure.
The courts have blocked his latest executive action barring entry into the United States for people from several Muslim-majority countries.
The FIFA document adds however that: "It is understood that such ease of access to the Host Country/Host Countries must by no means adversely affect the national immigration and security standards in the Host Country/Host Countries".
The document also says a bidding nation's government "is requested to guarantee the issuance of valid work permits unconditionally and without any restriction or discrimination of any kind" to people involved in the preparation, organization and hosting of the tournament.
It adds that the government "must grant a general tax exemption for FIFA, the 2026 FWC (FIFA World Cup) Entity, the 2026 FWC Subsidiaries (if applicable) and any other FIFA subsidiary limited to the period of preparation, delivery and wrap-up of the Competition, commencing on the date of appointment of the Host Country/Host Countries and ending on 31 December 2028".
FIFA's 'enhanced' bidding guidelines are part of a series of reforms enacted after a corruption crisis in 2015 engulfed the organization. They include ethics, human rights and transparency commitments plus demands on stadium size and infrastructure.
(Reporting by Simon Evans; editing by Ken Ferris)