Visas For International Athletes Performing In The U.S.
Portions of the content on this page are available as public information on the USCIS website.
Criteria for Eligibility
The P-1A nonimmigrant visa category allows individual athletes, teams, and some essential support personnel to participate in competitions or events in the United States. This visa is available for amateur and professional athletes and may be petitioned for by an agent, employer, or sponsor. In order to obtain P-1A visa approval, applicants must demonstrate at least two (2) of the following (per 8 C.F.R. 214.2(p)(1)-(3)):
- Evidence of having participated to a significant extent in a prior season with a major United States sports league;
- Evidence of having participated in international competition with a national team;
- Evidence of having participated to a significant extent in a prior season for a U.S. college or university in intercollegiate competition;
- A written statement from an official of the governing body of the sport which details how you or your team is internationally recognized;
- A written statement from a member of the sports media or a recognized expert in the sport which details how you or your team is internationally recognized;
- Evidence that you or your team is ranked, if the sport has international rankings; or
- Evidence that you or your team has received a significant honor or award in the sport.
International teams seeking to arrive to participate in competitions in the United States must demonstrate they have achieved international recognition in the sport and have been recognized as outstanding by others in the field. They must also demonstrate they will be coming to the U.S. to participate in a competition that has a distinguished reputation and requires the participation of internationally recognized athletic teams.
Foreign nationals seeking a P-1A visa for designation as a Professional Athlete must provide evidence:
- Establishing employment as an athlete by a team located in the United States that is a member of an association of six or more professional sports teams;
- Establishing that the total combined revenues of the association’s teams exceeds $10 million per year; and
- Establish that the association governs the conduct of its members and regulates the contests and exhibitions in which its member teams regularly engage.
Amateur Athletes or Coaches seeking to come to the United States to perform as part of a foreign league or association must, in addition to the two of the criteria listed above, demonstrate the foreign league or association satisfies the following requirements:
- The league or associations consists of at least 15 amateur sports teams;
- Participation in the league must make players temporarily or permanently ineligible under National Collegiate Athletic Association rules to:
- Earn a scholarship in the sport at a U.S. college or university; or
- Participate in the sport at a U.S. college or university;
- The league or association must be the highest level of amateur performance of that sport in the relevant foreign country; and
- A significant number of the individuals who play in the league or association are drafted by a major sports league or a minor league affiliate.
Essential Support Personnel
Essential support personnel are eligible for P-1S classification if they can demonstrate their role as an integral part of the performance of a P-1A nonimmigrant and perform support services that cannot be readily performed by a U.S. worker. Typical support personnel positions include coaches, scouts, trainers, broadcasters, referees, linesmen, umpires, and interpreters. Foreign nationals seeking visas as essential support personnel for P-1A immigrants must provide:
- A consultation from an appropriate labor organization with expertise in the area of the essential support person’s skill;
- A statement describing the essential support person’s prior and current essentiality, critical skills, and experience with the P-1A athlete or team); and
- A written contract (or summary of oral agreement) between the employer and the essential support personnel.
After approval of a petitioning employer/agent/sponsor’s petition for a foreign national’s P-1A visa, USCIS will issue an I-797 Approval Notice. If the foreign national(s) are inside the United States in another nonimmigrant status, they can file their P-1A petition as a change of status petition. This means that upon approval of the P-1A petition, the foreign national(s) will automatically be in P-1A status.
Applying for a Visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate
If the foreign national(s) are outside of the United States, they will need to apply for a P-1A visa in their passport before they can enter the United States to work in P-1A status. To apply for the P-1A visa, the foreign national will need to complete the U.S. Department of State’s online visa application—DS-160, pay the visa fee, and schedule the visa appointment with a U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad. If the visa appointment is successful, the foreign national will receive the P-1A visa in their passport. They will be able to enter the United States using the P-1A visa in their passport and the I-797 Notice of Approval from USCIS.
|Eligibility Category||Initial Period||Extensions of Stay||Maximum Period of Stay|
|Individual Athlete||Time needed to complete event/competition (not to exceed five years)||Five-year increments to continue event/competition||10 years|
|Essential Support Personnel for Individual Athlete||Time needed to complete event/competition (not to exceed one year)||Five-year increments to continue event/competition||10 years|
|Athletic Group||Time needed to complete event/competition (not to exceed one year)||One-year increments to complete event/competition|
|Essential Support Personnel for Athletic Group||Time needed to complete event/competition (not to exceed one year)||One-year increments to complete event/competition|
Change of Sponsor
P-1A visa holders are able to change employers, agents, or sponsors and may begin working for the new employer after the petition is approved by USCIS.
Family of Visa Holder
Dependents of P-1A visa holders (spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21) may apply for the P-4 visa. P-4 visa status allows dependents to live in the United States and attend school but does not grant the ability to apply for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD).
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