USA and the UK
- What is the P-1A visa?
- What are the requirements for the P1-A Visa?
- Internationally Recognized Individual Athletes
- Internationally Recognized Athletic Teams
- Professional Athletes
- Amateur Athletes or Coaches
- Theatrical Ice Skaters
- P1-A Application Process
- Documents Needed for the P1-A Visa
- Evidence for National or International Recognition
- What is the cost of a P1-A visa?
- Essential Support Personnel
- Frequently Asked Questions
What is the P-1A visa?
The P-1A nonimmigrant visa is part of the P1 visa category and allows for internationally recognized professional or amateur athletes to temporarily come to the United States to perform in a specific athletic competition or event. The P-1A (Athlete) Visa is open to the following individuals:
- Athletes and groups or teams of athletes who are internationally recognized for their level of performance
- Professional athletes
- Athletes or coaches who are a part of a team or franchise located in the United States who are also members of a foreign league or association
- Athletes who are performing in a specific theatrical ice-skating production or tour (as an individual or as part of a group)
Athletes who are granted P-1A visas can also bring their immediate family members (spouses and dependent children) with them to the United States under the P4 visa.
What are the requirements for the P1-A Visa?
Athletes who would like to apply for a P1-A visa will need to meet a certain set of eligibility criteria to obtain a visa. The requirements may be specific to each category or class of athlete which are as follows:
- Individual Athletes with International Recognition
- Athletic Teams with International Recognition
- Professional Athletes
- Amateur Athletes or Coaches
- Theatrical Ice Skaters
Internationally Recognized Individual Athletes
Internationally recognized individual athletes who are entering the United States to participate in an athletic competition of their respective field must be able to meet the following requirements:
- The athlete is internationally recognized as having a high level of degree of skill compared to other athletes
- The athlete’s achievement is renowned, leading, or well-known in more than one country
- The athletic competition being competed in has a distinguished reputation that requires the participation of internationally recognized athletes
Internationally Recognized Athletic Teams
Internationally recognized athletic teams who are entering the United States to participate in an athletic competition of their respective sport must be able to meet the following requirements:
- The athletic competition being competed in has a distinguished reputation that requires the participation of an internationally recognized athletic team
Anyone looking to enter the United States to work as a professional athlete must be able to meet the following requirements:
- Be a member of a team that is a part of an association of six or more professional sports teams who have total combine revenue of at least $10 million per year. Furthermore, this association must govern the conduct of its members and regulate the athletic activities which the member teams regularly engage
- Be a member of a minor league team affiliated with a professional association
Amateur Athletes or Coaches
Amateur athletes or coaches who are entering the United States for athletic performance must be part of a team or franchise that is located in the U.S. and is a member of either a foreign league or association. This foreign league or association must meet the following eligibility criteria:
- The league or association consists of at least 15 amateur sports teams
- The league or association consists of the highest level of amateur athletes in that specific sport
- The league or association has a significant number of athletes in it that are later drafted by a major sports league or minor league affiliate
It should be noted that participation in that specific league or association will make players temporarily or permanently ineligible to earn a scholarship in that field of sport at a U.S. college or university or participate in that sport at a U.S. college or university according to the National Collegiate Athletic Association rules.
Theatrical Ice Skaters
Athletes who specialize in ice-skating can come to the United States to participate in a specific theatrical ice-skating production or tour. Athletes can either be professional or amateur skaters who perform individually or as part of a group.
P1-A Application Process
To acquire a P1-A visa, athletes must be sponsored by a U.S. employer, agent, or sponsor to come to the United States to participate in athletic performance. Therefore, the P1-A application will start with a petition and then proceed as follows:
- Sponsor petitions the athlete by filing Form I-129 (Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker) to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)
- The sponsor pays the application fee
- Sponsor submits supporting documentation for the P1-A visa application
- If the petition is approved, the process will then transfer to the National Visa Center (NVC) who will ask the athlete to complete and submit Form DS-160 (Online Nonimmigrant Visa)
- Athlete pays P1-A application fee
- Athlete schedules and attend a visa interview at the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate
- After the interview, the athlete will receive a decision on their visa application
Sponsors who are petitioning for a team can file a group petition instead of filing individual petitions for each athlete.
Form DS-160 (Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application) is a form for nonimmigrant visa applicants to complete and submit online. This form will request information regarding the athlete’s personal information, background, and reasons for entering the United States. After it is submitted, the applicant will be shown a confirmation page complete with a confirmation number. It is very important that the applicant prints this confirmation page out and save it for later as it will need to be submitted with other supporting documentation later in the visa application process.
Documents Needed for the P1-A Visa
In addition to the Form I-129 petition, sponsors of athletes will need to submit additional evidence to support the P1-A visa application. These documents may include the following:
- A written consultation from an appropriate labor organization (if labor organization exists) that describes the work or services that the athlete is expected to perform along with their specific qualifications for such activity.
- A letter of no objection to the visa petition from an appropriate labor organization
- Copies of contracts with U.S. based teams or leagues
- An itinerary of events or activities with starting and ending dates along with estimated duration time
- Evidence that the individual athlete or the team is nationally or internationally recognized
Evidence for National or International Recognition
Athletes will need to submit additional evidence specific to their P1-A category that demonstrates national or international recognition in their respective sports fields.
Internationally Recognized Individuals or Teams
Individuals or teams who have received international recognition for their athletic skills must submit a copy of a contract with either a major U.S. sports league/team or with an internationally recognized event distinguished in their particular sport. In addition, individuals or teams will also need to submit at least 2 of the following:
- Evidence of past significant participation of an individual or team in a prior season with a major United States sports league
- Evidence of past participation of an individual or team in an international competition with a national team
- Evidence of past significant participation of an individual or team in a prior season for a U.S. college or university in an intercollegiate competition
- A written statement detailing how the individual or the team is internationally recognized. This must be from an official of a major U.S. sports league or team.
- A written statement from an expert of the respective sport of sports media official on how the individual or the team is internationally recognized
- Evidence of the individual or team’s sports ranking (if the sport has international rankings)
- Evidence that the individual or team has been awarded a significant honor or award in their respective sports field
Amateur Athletes or Coaches
Sponsors of amateur athletes or coaches who are coming to the United States as part of a team or franchise of a U.S.-based foreign league or association must submit evidence legitimizing the level of performance of the league or association. This can include the following:
- Reviews, articles, and reports from established sports media outlets
- Contracts, copies of rules and by-laws, and other documentation detailing the level of performance of the member teams
For Professional Athletes
Professional athletes must submit the following evidence for a P1-A visa:
- Any evidence that establishes that the individual or team will be working for a team or league that is U.S. based and is a member of an associated comprised of six or more professional sports teams (list of approved participating teams, contracts, letters from the associate of league, articles or review from sports media outlets, marketing or promotional material from the association or league, etc)
- Any evidence that establishes that the combined total revenue of the association’s team exceeds $10 million per year (tax documents, financial audits, articles or reports from sports media outlets that specifically reference revenues, etc)
- Any evidence that establishes that the association governs the conduct of its members and regulates the athletic activities which the member teams regularly engage (associate or league rules, articles or reports from sports media outlets, statements by officials from the association or league, etc)
- Those who will be working for a minor league team affiliated with an association must demonstrate that the minor league team has a qualifying association (contracts or agreements, statements by officials from the associate or league confirming affiliation, marketing or promotional materials confirming affiliation, articles or reviews from sports media outlets, etc)
Theatrical Ice Skaters
Theatrical ice skaters must produce evidence that they will be performing either individually or as part of a group in a theatrical production. Evidence can include the following:
- Reviews, critiques, and descriptions of the productions from established media outlets
- An itinerary or schedule of the performances
- Evidence of the skater’s past accomplishments and awards
What is the cost of a P1-A visa?
The P1-A visa incurs the following fees:
- Form I-129 filing fee: $460
- DS-160 Application form fee: $190
- Visa Issuance fee: costs will vary depending on the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where the visa was issued
- Premium processing time fee (if needed): $2,500
It should be noted that additional costs will be incurred if the principal P1-A visa holder would like to sponsor essential support personnel for P-1S visas.
Essential Support Personnel
Essential support personnel who can prove that they are an integral part of the performance of the athlete and whose duties can not be performed by a U.S. worker may be eligible to join the athlete in the United States under the P-1S classification. For support staff to obtain P1 visa status, the petitioner must file a separate Form I-129 for the essential personnel. In addition to the I-129 petition, the sponsor will also need to include the following:
- A written consultation from an appropriate labor organization (if applicable) that has expertise in the area of the essential support person’s skill
- A written statement describing the essential support person’s prior and current essential duties, critical skills, and experience with the athlete or team (unless coming to work in a Major League Sport)
- A copy of the contract between the employer and the essential support personnel
Examples of essential support staff may include coaches, trainers, scouts, referees, interpreters, or other team officials who can prove themselves to be invaluable to the athlete or team.
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Form I-129 will usually be processed by USCIS within 2-8 weeks. After the petition is approved, the athlete can then submit the DS-160 Form and attend their visa interview soon after. Overall, the P1-A processing time in total may take between 3-6 months.
Athletes who are in a hurry for a visa can pay for premium processing by filing Form I-907 (Request for Premium Processing Service) and paying the $2,500 fee. Visa applicants who choose to have their application premium processed will receive a decision on the visa within 15 working days.
For individual athletes, the P1-A visa is valid for the time needed to complete the athletic event or performance. This period of time cannot exceed 5 years. Visas can be renewed for an additional 5 years. However, the total amount of time spent in the U.S. on the P1-A visa may not exceed 10 years in total.
For athletic groups, the P1-A visa is valid for the time needed to complete the athletic event or performance. This period of time can not exceed 1 year. Visas can be renewed for an additional year as needed.
Athletes who are traded from one organization to another will need to have their new sponsor file a new Form I-129 for P1 visa sponsorship within 30 days. While waiting for the new Form I-129 to be approved, the athlete will still have valid P1 visa status for a grace period of 30 days.
Spouses and dependent children (unmarried children under 21 years old) of the P1-A visa holders may be eligible to apply for P-4 nonimmigrant status.
P-4 visa holders are not authorized to work in the United States but are eligible to attend school.