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Until recently, USCIS was resistant to the idea that a professional video gamer could be an “athlete.” It would appear that this is no longer the case.
Earlier this year, USCIS began issuing P-1A visas to professional video gamers participating in the League Championship Series, essentially qualifying the league as a professional sports league on par with the NBA, MLB and NFL.
Danny & quot; Shiphtur & quot; Le, a Canadian professional gamer, reportedly became one of the first eSports players to be granted a P-1A visa. He was coming to the U.S. to participate in the League Championship Series. Then, more recently, Kim “viOLet” Dong Hwan, a Korean professional gamer, was also reportedly granted a 5-year P-1A Visa to enable him come to the U.S. to participate in events and competitions related to eSports or professional video gaming. Significantly, he was not coming to the U.S. to participate in the League Championship. These cases are most certainly indicated that the USCIS can be open-minded towards what’s considered a “sport” if the case is well-made.
So, what is a P-1A visa? Who is eligible for it?
The P-1A Visa for Internationally Recognized Athletes.
The P-1A visa is available to internationally recognized athletes or athletic teams on the U.S. to participate in an event of international standing. If coming to the U.S. to join a U.S. athletic team, the applicant must have achieved significant international recognition.
Generally, in order to be granted a P-1A visa, the athlete must be recognized internationally in the sport, and must be coming to the U.S. to perform services that require such recognition.
P-1A Visa Requirements:
In order to seek a P-1 visa to come and perform in the U.S., a U.S. P-1 petition from USCIS.
For the P-1A visa petition to be successful, evidence of having legally contracted with a major U.S. sports league must be submitted. A written consultation from an appropriate labor organization is also required. In addition, evidence must be presented demonstrating that the athlete meets at least the following criteria:
1. Significant participation in U.S. major sports league in prior seasons.
2. Participation in international competitions with a national team.
3. Significant participation in a prior U.S. college / university season in inter-collegiate competitions.
4. Written statement from a major U.S. sports league or official of the sport’s governing body.
5. Written statement from the sports media or a recognized expert.
6. International ranking provided by internationally recognized sports’ organizations.
7. Significant honors / awards in the sport.
After the P-1A visa petition is approved by the USCIS the foreign national athlete must apply for a P-1A visa at a U.S. consulate outside the U.S. Upon successfully claiming the P-1A visa in the United States.
If the athlete was in the U.S. in another valid nonimmigrant status, the P-1A visa petition may be filed as a Change of Status and a P-1A visa from a U.S. Consulate is not required until.
To find out more about the P-1A visa requirements and P-1A visa procedures, please click here.
Benefits of a P-1A Visa:
Period of Stay in U.S.: Foreign national athletes are allowed to stay in the U.S. for up to five years on a single P-1A visa, with extensions not to exceed a total stay of ten years.
Visa for Dependents: Spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21 of a P-1A visa holder, may obtain P-4 status to come and live in the U.S. While they may attend school or college, they are not able to take up employment in the U.S. while in P-4 status.
Visa for Support Personnel: Essential Support Personnel, namely those who are an integral part of the performance of a P-1A athlete and who perform support services which can not be executed performed by a U.S. worker, are also eligible for P-1A classification as Essential Support Personnel. Such persons could include coaches, scouts, trainers and other team officials and referees.
Recent developments have expanded the growing number of eligible “athletes” who are able to seek a P-1A visa to come to the U.S. and compete freely in U.S. tournaments and join U.S. teams. It is important to remember, however, that the P-1A visa classification applies only to professional athletes who are internationally recognized in their sport.
1. Recent USCIS decisions confirm that eSports or professional video gaming is recognized as an athletic sport and that eSport professionals are “athletes” making them eligible to seek P-1A visas.