P-1 Visa for Athletes

Table of Contents

1. What is the P-1 Visa for Athletes?

If an applicant cannot meet the alien with extraordinary ability requirement, they can apply for the P-1 visa, which is granted solely for the purpose of allowing athletes to participate in athletic performances, events or even competitions. Beneficiaries for this athlete visa should be an individual athlete or a team member who holds an internationally recognized performance level, a professional athlete, or an athlete or coach whose team is located in the US and should be a member of a foreign league.

2. Who is Eligible?

To be eligible for the P-1 visa, beneficiaries should meet the following criteria:

  • An individual athlete at an internationally recognized level of performance;
  • Part of a group or team at an internationally recognized level of performance;
  • A professional athlete; or
  • An athlete or coach, as part of a team or franchise that is located in the United States and a member of a foreign league or association.

3. Eligibility Criteria

  • Internationally Recognized Individual Athletes.
    • You must be coming to the United States to participate in a specific athletic competition in a sport in which you are internationally recognized. You are internationally recognized if you have a high level of achievement in a sport, demonstrated by a degree of skill and recognition substantially above that ordinarily encountered. Your achievement must be renowned, leading, or well-known in more than one country. The competition(s) you wish to participate in must have a distinguished reputation and be at an internationally recognized level of performance such that it requires the participation of an internationally recognized athlete.
  • Internationally Recognized Athletic Teams.
    • You must be coming to the United States to participate in an athletic competition with a team that, as a unit, has achieved international recognition in the sport. The competition in which your team is participating must have a distinguished reputation and be at an internationally recognized level of performance such that it requires the participation of an internationally recognized athletic team.
  • Professional Athletes.
    • You must be coming to the United States to be employed as an athlete by a team that is a member of an association of six or more professional sports teams whose total combined revenues exceed $10 million per year. The association must govern the conduct of its members and regulate the contests and exhibitions in which its member teams regularly engage; or any minor league team that is affiliated with such an association
  • Amateur Athletes or Coaches.
    • You must be coming to the United States to perform as an athlete or coach as part of a team or franchise that is located in the United States and a member of a foreign league or association. The foreign league or association must meet the following requirements:
      • The league or association must consist of 15 or more amateur sports teams.
      • Participation in the league must make players temporarily or permanently ineligible under National Collegiate Athletic Association rules to earn a scholarship in the sport at a U.S. college or university; or participate in the sport at a U.S. college or university.
      • The league or association must be the highest level of amateur performance of that sport in the relevant foreign country; and
      • A significant number of the individuals who play in the league or association are drafted by a major sports league or a minor league affiliate.
  • Theatrical Ice Skaters.
    • You must be coming to the United States to participate in a specific theatrical ice skating production or tour as a professional or amateur athlete who performs individually or as part of a group.

4. Other Criteria

If an athlete files for the P-1 visa, their US employer, agent, or sponsor must file Form I-129 (Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker). Their employer or agent should also submit supporting documentation and pay the appropriate fees. For athletes who want to extend their stay or change their status to P-1A classification, their employer, agent, or sponsor should also file the Form I-129.

5. Essential Support Personnel

For athletes under the P-1A visa status who have essential support personnel, their personnel are eligible for P-1S classification, provided that must file a separate Form I-129. This should include supporting documentation that must have the following:

  • A consultation letter from the appropriate labor organization that’s established as an expert in the essential support person’s field or skill
  • A statement that outlines the essential support person’s role, critical skills, and experience with the P-1 athlete
  • A copy of a written contract between the employer and the personnel or a summary of terms for oral agreements stating the conditions under which the personnel will be employed

6. Timeline and Duration of Stay

Once the Form I-129 is approved by the USCIS, the applicants can then apply for the P-1 visa at the consulate. In general, once athletes (individuals or athletic groups) and their essential support personnel have been approved for the P-1A visa, the initial duration of stay is usually within the period of time needed to complete their purpose of coming to the United States, whether it’s for an event, competition, or performance. However, the length of the initial period of stay varies.

  • For individual athletes. The initial period of stay should not exceed five years. They may apply for an extension in increments of up to five years, with the total stay being limited to ten years.
  • For athletic groups and their essential support personnel. Their initial period of should not exceed one year. Both athletic groups and their essential support personnel may apply for an extension of stay in increments of up to one year.

7. Family of Athletes

For athletes petitioning for the P-1 visa who have family, their spouse and unmarried children may apply a P-4 nonimmigrant status. While this doesn’t authorize them to work in the country, they may be able to attend school. In the event that the family members are already in the United States but are looking to change their status to or want to extend their stay under the P-4 classification, they may apply as a group with the Form I-539. Note that said application comes with a fee. 

8. Additional Resources

When applying for an athlete visa, knowing the type of visa you need to apply for and what documents to submit can be a tough challenge. To ensure that you can properly file your visa application, it’s always best to work with an athlete visa lawyer who is knowledgeable in US immigration requirements and laws specifically for athletes.

At Ramchand & Raval, our immigration lawyers can provide you with exceptional legal services to help you navigate the complex world of nonimmigrant visas for athletes. We leverage our over fifteen years of experience in the field to help you properly comply with statutes as well as file and monitor your application. 

Apply for an athlete visa with confidence and peace of mind with the help of our team and get ready to open doors that will advance your athletic career. Take advantage of our firm’s services. Schedule your consultation today.

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