Visas for Professional Athletes and Entertainers
Professional athletes who want to live in the U.S., or earn an income, other than prize money, generally must qualify for either the P-1 visa for athletes who have achieved international recognition or the O-1 visa for aliens with extraordinary ability. In either case, the professional athletes visa application must be sponsored by an employer or agent.
The P-1 visa category is the visa of choice for athletes and entertainers who do not meet the “extraordinary ability” standard required for an O visa. In practice, P visas are most often used for athletes and entertainers who perform as part of a team or entertainment group for trips of limited duration, such as a concert tour or a sports season. Because the P-1 visa is employer-specific, P-1 athletes and entertainers who are members of a team or group may not perform work or services separate and apart from the team or entertainment group during their P-1 time.
There are two ways for an athletic team or entertainment group to obtain P-1 status for its members. First, P-1 visas may be granted to an athletic team or entertainment group based on its own international reputation. When the visa is granted to the team or group, as a whole, each member of the team or group is given P-1 classification based on the reputation of the team or group. Second, a team or group may seek P-1 visas for individual members of the team or group based on their individual, international reputations.
It is important to note that an athletic team or entertainment group that employs a P-1 alien must be “internationally recognized,” which the USCIS defines as “having a high level of achievement in a field evidenced by a degree of skill and recognition substantially above that ordinarily encountered, to the extent that such achievement is renowned, leading, or well-known in more than one country.”
The P-1 visa is usually easier for a professional athlete to qualify for than for an O-1 visa. It will be issued for the length of the season or contract up to five years. The visa is renewable. The O-1 visa for aliens with extraordinary ability is more difficult to obtain than a P-1 visa for athletes with international recognition, but the requirements for the O-1 are similar to a green card. The O-1 visa is usually issued for the length of a season or a contract up to three years.
Bocancea Law Firm has extensive experience with these types of cases. Ruslan Bocancea is licensed in Minnesota, and authorized to represent clients before all immigration authorities, including courts, USCIS, ICE, CBP and U.S. Embassies.