USA Immigration Work Permits and Visas
US Immigration for Athletes - the P-1 Visa
Generally, the P-1 visa is suitable for individual or team athletes that are internationally recognised. This means a high level of achievement, evidenced by a degree of skill and recognition substantially above that ordinarily encountered so that the achievement is renowned or well known in more than one country. The athlete must enter to US to participate in a competition, event or performance. This includes promotional appearances and can also include an entire season.
How long can the P-1 Athlete remain in the US?
Individual athletes may be admitted for up to 5 years initially. One extension of up to 5 years is allowed. Group athletes may be admitted for the time needed to complete the competition, event or performance, not to exceed one year. Extensions may be given in one-year increments.
How to obtain a P-1 Visa
Each P-1 case must be well documented with supporting evidence proving that all legal requirements are met.
The first step is to obtain a written advisory opinion from a labor union regarding the nature of the work to be done and the candidates’ qualifications unless it can be demonstrated that no appropriate labor organisation exists. Thereafter, a US employer, US sponsor, US agent or a foreign employer through a US agent must file a petition with the Citizenship and Immigration Services at one of the four regional Service Centers. The P-1 athlete cannot self-petition. The petition must include evidence of the athlete’s international recognition, such as:
- International ranking
- Significant honours/awards in the sport
- Written statement from the sports media or a recognised expert
- Written statement from a major US sports league or official of the sport’s governing body
- Participation in international competition with a national team
- Significant participation in a prior US major league season
- Significant participation in a prior US college/university season in intercollegiate competition
The final step is normally to obtain the P-1 visa from the applicable US Consulate or Embassy. Dependents of the P-1 holder (spouses and children) may normally obtain P-4 visas.
Separate P classifications exist for essential support personnel such as coaches, scouts, trainers and other team officials as well as for group entertainers and artists and entertainers participating in an exchange program or culturally unique program.