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Non-Immigrant Work Visas for Athletes

Usually, when one speaks about working in the United States on a temporary basis, they do envision, that they have to go through the relatively arduous process of obtaining an H visa. However, there are several other categories of temporary non-immigrant work visas available to foreign nationals, including O visas for people with extraordinary abilities and L visas for intracompany transferees. In addition to these broader categories, there are a number of visa categories available to foreign nationals in specific professions. One such visa category is the P-1A visa, which is designed specifically for individual athletes or teams. The P-1A visa is a temporary non-immigrant work visa that allows athletes to compete and earn prize money or salary in the United States.

The P-1A visa is available to athletes that perform individually and are internationally recognized, or as a part of a team that is internationally recognized. In addition to international recognition, the athlete (or team) has to show that they are coming to the US to participate and compete in an athletic competition with a distinguished reputation, and that the competition requires participants to be athletes or teams with international reputation.

More specifically, in order to obtain a P-1A visa, a US agent, sponsor, or employer has to file a petition, which has to include a contract between the petitioner and the athlete/team, as well as a written consultation from the appropriate labor organization, if such exists. In addition, in order to meet the requirement of international recognition, the petition has to be supported by at least 2 of the following:

  • Significant participation in a prior season with a major United States sports league;
  • Participation in international competition with a national team;
  • Significant participation in a prior season for a U.S. college or university in intercollegiate competition;
  • Written statement by an official of the governing body of the sport, which explains why you or your team should be considered internationally recognized;
  • Written statement from a recognized expert or a member of the sports media regarding your or your team’s international recognition;
  • Proof of your individual or your team’s international ranking; or
  • Proof that you as an individual athlete or your team has received a significant honor or award in the sport.

In addition to internationally recognized individual athletes and teams, the P-1A visa is available to professional athletes coming to the US to be employed as an athlete by either:

  • A member-team of an association of six or more professional sports teams with a combined revenue exceeding $10 million per year, with the association being in charge and governing the conduct of its members; OR
  • Any minor league team that is affiliated with such an association.

Moreover, you can apply for and qualify for a P-1A visa, if you are coming to the United States to participate in a particular theatrical ice-skating production or ice skating tour. For that, you will have to demonstrate that your participation is based on your qualification as a professional or amateur athlete who performs individually or as part of a group.

There are a couple of benefits for considering a P-1A visa. First, while this visa requires “international recognition”, this is a much lower bar than the “extraordinary ability” required for an O visa. Moreover, P-1A visas are relatively quick to process and obtain, and individual athletes can be admitted for up to 5 years, with the possibility of an extension for up to 5 more years. A P-1A visa holder is allowed to either stay continuously for the duration of the visa, or travel in and out of the US. In addition, a P-1A visa holder is allowed to bring his or her spouse and dependent children on a P-4 non-immigrant status, and while they are not allowed to work in the United States, they are allowed to attend school or college. Finally, a P-1A holder is potentially eligible to bring in supporting personnel, like coaches, trainers, and others, that are essential to the athlete’s or team’s performance and provide support services that cannot be readily performed by US workers.

Hiring a California Immigration Attorney

For a more detailed information or questions about the P-1A visa, or if you are an individual athlete wanting to discuss all possible options, including whether an O visa could be a better or a viable option, please contact The Justice Firm locally at 310-914-2444 or our Toll-Free number at 866-695-6714, or visit us on our website.

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