Temporary Visa for Internationally Recognized Athletes: the P-1A Visa
P-1A non-immigrant visas provide for temporary admission of internationally recognized athletes to temporarily perform at a specific athletic competition in the United States, individually or as part of a group or team, at an internationally recognized level of performance.
Primary Requirements and Considerations for the P-1A Visa
- If an individual, the foreign national must come to the United States to participate as an athlete in an individual event, competition, or performance, in which the foreign national is internationally recognized with a high level of achievement, evidenced by a degree of skill and recognition substantially above that ordinarily encountered.
- If an athletic team (two or more persons), the foreign national must come to the United States to participate in team events and must have achieved international recognition in the sport. The event in which the team is participating must be distinguished and require the participation of athletic teams of international recognition.
- Eligible foreign nationals also include certain minor leaguers, amateurs, or professionals, including (1) an athlete, whether or not professional, who performs at an internationally recognized level of performance; (2) an amateur athlete or coach of sports teams in the United States who are members of a foreign league or association if (i) the foreign league or association is the highest level of amateur performance of that sport in that country; (ii) participation renders the athlete ineligible for U.S. scholarship under NCAA rules; and (iii) a significant number of the players in the league are drafted into major league teams or minor teams affiliated with them; or (3) a professional or amateur ice skater who performs individually or as part of a group theatrical production.
- Internationally recognized means “a high level of achievement, 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.”
- Essential support personnel can qualify for P-1 support status if the foreign national is an integral part of the performance of the P-1A, because he or she performs support services that cannot be readily performed by a U.S. worker and that are essential to the successful performance of services. Essential support personnel – such as coaches, trainers, scouts, and other team officials, as well as referees and linesmen – must have appropriate qualifications to perform the services, critical knowledge of the specific services, and experience in providing such support. Multiple support personnel may be included on one petition if it involves the same period of time and the same services. Note that coaches or other officials of teams comprised entirely of U.S. citizens do not qualify. To obtain P-1 status as essential support personnel, there must be a principal P-1A visa holder, and the petitioner must submit a consultation with a labor organization, a statement regarding the person’s prior essentiality, critical skills, and experience with the principal petitioner, and a copy of the contract or summary of oral contract.
- Qualifying petitioners are U.S. employers, sponsoring organizations, agents, and foreign employers through U.S. agents.
- The petitioning U.S. employer must submit a consultation from an appropriate labor organization with the P-1A visa petition. The consultation must describe the work or services to be performed in the United States, the foreign worker’s or group’s qualifications for such work, and the international recognition involved. If no appropriate labor organization exists, this requirement is excused.
- Multiple employers and multiple worksites are permitted under certain circumstances. Multiple employer petitions may be filed by a person or company in the business as an agent if (1) the supporting documentation includes a complete itinerary of the services or engagements; (2) the itinerary specifies the dates of each service or engagement, the names and addresses of the actual employers, and the names and addresses of performance venues; (3) the contracts between each employer and the beneficiary are submitted; and (4) the agent explains the terms and conditions of the employment and provides any required documentation.
- Petitions must be accompanied by written contracts or summaries of oral contracts; affidavits, awards, or similar documentation regarding achievements; and expert opinions. Specifically, supporting documents must show that (1) the athlete or team is internationally recognized; (2) the athletic competition has a distinguished reputation; and (3) the competition requires participation of an athlete or team with international reputation.
- Petitions must include tendered contracts with major U.S. sports league or team or one commensurate with international recognition and any two of the following six: (i) significant participation in a prior season in majors; (ii) international competition with a national team; (iii) significant participation in a prior season for U.S. college or university or intercollegiate competition; (iv) written statement from a U.S. official in sport about the person or team’s international recognition; (v) written statement from expert or sports media as to international recognition; (vi) team or individual ranking; (vi) significant honor or award in sport; or athlete must perform as a professional athlete employed by either a professional sports team in association with 6 or more teams that have combined revenues in excess of $10,000,000 or a minor league team affiliated with such an association.
- In case a P-1A athlete is traded, the employment authorization remains valid for 30 days with the new team, which, during that time period, must submit a new non-immigrant petition on behalf of the athlete. Authorized employment continues until that petition is decided.
- P-1A visa holders must maintain a foreign residence that they do not intend to abandon, although regulations permit dual intent.
P-1A Visa Application Process
The petition for P-1A visa status is submitted to U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services within the one-year period prior to services in the United States. Multiple beneficiaries may be included on the petition, if they are members of a group seeking classification based on the group’s reputation or if they provide essential support.
Period of Stay for P-1A Visa Holders
P-1A individual athletes may be admitted for the time needed to complete the event, competition, or performance, for up to 5 years, with an extension of stay for up to 5 years. Upon completion of the 10 years, the P-1 may file a new petition, depart the United States, and obtain a new grant of 5 years. Petitions for P-1 support personnel for an individual P-1A athlete are granted for up to one year, with extensions in five-year increments and not subject to the 10-year maximum period. P-1A athletic team admission may not exceed one year, with extensions being granted in one-year increments.
Family Members of P-1A Visa Holders
Spouses and unmarried children under the age of 21 of P-1A visa holders are eligible to apply for P-4 visa status and can accompany or follow to join the P-1A visa holder. P-4 visa holders are subject to the same time limits as the principal P-1A visa holder. P-4 visa holders are not permitted to work in the United States, but may attend school or college.
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