What is the P-1A Visa?

The P-1 classification allows qualified athletes, individually or as a part of a team, to come to the United States temporarily to perform at an athletic competition.

Who Qualifies for a P-1A Visa?

According to USCIS, an individual athlete qualifies for a P-1A visa if he or she is “internationally recognized with a high level of achievement evidenced by a degree of skill and recognition substantially above that ordinarily encountered so that the achievement is renowned, leading or well known in more than one country.” In short, this requirement essentially means that the athlete needs to be elite- meaning that he or she is well known and highly skilled. For example, David Beckham likely qualified for a P-1A visa when coming to play for the LA Galaxy.

For entire teams seeking P-1A visas, USCIS requires that the team itself must have achieved significant international recognition in the sport AND the sporting event that the team is participating in must be distinguished and require the participation of athletic teams of international recognition. An example of this case might be the England Football Team traveling to the United States for a world cup qualifying game.

How to Demonstrate International Acclaim?

The single most important part of an application for a P-1A visa is thoroughly and sufficiently demonstrating that the athlete or team has the required international acclaim. While you don’t have to be the next Pele to qualify for a visa, it is important to understand what USCIS looks for in a successful application. The attorneys at ilexlaw, PLLC work with clients to gather the most persuasive evidence possible. This includes:

  • A written consultation from an appropriate labor organization (this is a letter from a major organization confirming that the athlete is indeed internationally acclaimed); and
  • A copy of the contract with a major U.S. sports league or team or a contract in an individual sport commensurate with international recognition in the sport, if such contracts are normally utilized in the sport; and
  • An explanation of the event and itinerary (i.e. when, what, and where the athlete and team will be playing); and

Documentation of at least two of the following:

  • vidence of having participated to a significant extent in a prior season with a major United States sports league
  • Evidence of having participated to a significant extent 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 a major U.S. sports league or 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 ranking
  • Evidence that you or your team has received a significant honor or award in the sport

Special Note onAmateur and Minor League Athletes. Certain minor league or amateur athletes that have not yet achieved international acclaim may still be eligible for P-1A visas if the sports league meets certain requirements. If you or your sports team are an amateur athlete or minor league team, please contact ilexlaw, PLLC to see if you qualify.

Who may accompany a P-1A visa holder?

Under the current law, P-1A visas are also available for an athlete’s or team’s “Essentual Support Personnel.” These persons must be an integral part of the performance of a P-1A athlete (team) and who perform support services which cannot be readily performed by a U.S. worker.

Essential Support Personnel includes coaches, scouts, trainers , other team officials, and referees. 
For example, Roy Hogsdon may accompany the England National Team to the U.S.

Like the underlying P-1A petition, an application for Essential Support Personnel must also include a consultation from an from an appropriate labor organization, a statement describing the support person’s prior and current essentiality, critical skills and experience with the P-1A athlete or team, and a copy of a written contract between the employer and the support person or a summary of the terms under which the support person will be employed.

In addition, A spouse and any unmarried children under the age of 21 may accompany a P-1A visa holder and receive P-4 status. The spouse and children will not receive work authorization, but may study in the U.S.

P-1A Visa Length

An individual athlete will typically be granted the time needed to complete the event, competition or performance, but not to exceed 5 years. Extensions may then be granted in increments of up to 5 years, in order to continue or complete the event, competition, or performance. Please note that the total stay may not to exceed 10 years. However, upon completion of the 10-year period, a P-1 holder may file a new petition, depart the U.S. and obtain a new 5-year period. This 10 year limit has led some athletes to seek O-1 visas, which do not have a time limit. Please visit our O-1 PAGE for more information.

For athletic groups, the initial stay may not exceed one year and extensions may be granted in one year increments to complete the event, competition, or performance. Essential support personnel are also subject to a one year initial stay but may seek up extensions in 5 year increments with a total stay limited to 10 years.

How can ilexlaw, PLLC help?

The experienced immigration attorneys at ilexlaw, PLLC will assist our P-1A clients through every step of the process. We know the complexities associated with these hard to gain visas and help our clients navigate immigration difficulties. If you or your team are interested in coming to the United States for athletic events, contact ilexlaw PLLC for your free consultation.

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