P-1A Sports Visa
What is a P-1A sports visa?
The P-1A sports visa is designed for athletes looking to compete in the United States. This temporary visa admits a wide range of athletes from around the world to participate in sporting events, tournaments, and team sports. Coaches and support staff may also qualify for this status. Our sports visa lawyers will help guide you through each step of the application process.
Who is eligible for a sports visa?
The P-1A visa is available to individual athletes or members of teams whose level of performance is internationally recognized and who will be coming to the U.S. temporarily to perform in specific athletic competitions. Just as the individual or team must have a high degree of skill, the tournament or league that they will be participating in must also be at an esteemed level that requires the participation of internationally recognized athletes. P-1A visas may, for instance, be awarded to golfers who are traveling here to compete on the PGA Tour, surfers taking part in the U.S. Open of Surfing, or anglers seeking entry for the Bassmaster Opens. P-1A visas are also the best way for many foreign national players to gain entry to play in professional sports leagues like the National Hockey League or Major League Baseball as well as minor league affiliates and certain amateur leagues. Our sports visa lawyers can help determine your eligibility for a P-1A visa.
This requirement does not apply to support personnel, coaches, or circus troupes. Coaches and other essential support personnel, such as caddies assisting golfers on the PGA Tour, can apply for P-1S visas. The USCIS offers waivers for this requirement on a case-by-case basis.
The P-1A sports visa application process
The first step is for your U.S. employer, agent, or sponsor to file Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker on your behalf. The application must include a copy of the written employment contract or the terms of the oral agreement; an itinerary and explanation of the nature of the events; and a consultation from an appropriate labor organization (if one exists in your sport) describing your qualifications. Depending on the situation, various additional supporting documents may be required to demonstrate your level of recognition as well as that of the event or league. Evidence for individuals, for instance, can include international ranking, a significant sports honor or award, previous significant participation in a major U.S. sports league, on a U.S. college team, or in an international competition.
Athletes who are interested in remaining in the U.S. after their playing days should not wait to engage in immigration status strategic planning. An injury can end your career suddenly and unexpectantly, leading to loss of P-1A status. Consider meeting with an attorney sooner than later to weigh your options for adjusting your status if you wish to make the U.S. your permanent home.
Length of stay and limitations
Initially, athletes can apply for a P-1A visa for the time needed to complete the event or competition, up to five years. Their stay can be extended for another five years, allowing them to participate in their sport in the U.S. for a total of 10 years. Athletic groups, however, are limited to one year of stay initially, which can be extended in yearly increments in order to continue competing in the same event. As a P-1A visa holder, you can travel in and out of the country for as long as the visa period lasts, and you are allowed to study part-time. However, the visa does not permit you to work outside of the specific purpose and events that you are here for.
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