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Sports Immigration: Visas for Athletes, Coaches, and Teams

Sports Immigration and U.S. Visa Laws

Every year, amateur and professional athletes and athletic teams from around the world come to the United States to compete. Some come for a single event or competition, others for a season or longer.

The immigration attorneys of May Law Group advise individual athletes, teams and their coaches on how to reach their specific immigration-related goals. We understand that professional sports organizations often fill their rosters from a worldwide pool of talent and may need to make quick, mid-season changes. We know the challenges athletic organizations face when hosting international competitions. We will assess your specific situation, advise you of your options under U.S. visa laws, and work to achieve your goals.

P-1A Visa for Athletes

The P-1A visa is often the appropriate choice for athletes and athletic teams of exceptional ability who are coming to the U.S. temporarily, for a specific competition. It is limited to individuals or teams who compete at an internationally recognized level of performance.

The P-1A visa requires that your U.S. employer file a Form I-129 Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker along with a fee and documentation supporting the petition. The employer must also submit a consultation form from the appropriate labor organization, when applicable.

Individual athletes may remain in the U.S. on a P visa for up to five years. Athletic teams may remain for a period of six months. Derivative visas are available for family members of the athletes.

O Visas for Those of Extraordinary Ability or Achievement

The O visa is a temporary (nonimmigrant) visa reserved for those of extraordinary ability in the sciences, education, business, arts, or athletics. It is issued to athletes who are coming to the U.S. solely for the purpose of participating in their athletic sport.

To be eligible for an O visa, athletes must be uniquely qualified for the position. They must have a residence abroad that they do not plan to give up. The initial issuance of an O visa allows an athlete to remain in the U.S. for three years. After that, you may apply for an unlimited number of one-year extensions.

Derivatives of the P and O visas are available for family members of the athletes. Employment authorization is granted to the spouse or child of a P-1 internationally recognized athlete or member of an internationally recognized entertainment group and essential support; a P-2 artist or entertainer in a reciprocal exchange program and essential support; or a P-3 artist or entertainer in a culturally unique program and essential support. Employment authorization is granted only as approved by the INS for the spouse or child of an O-1 person with extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics; or an O-2 person accompanying in the artistic or athletic performance by an O-1 visa holder.

For answers to your questions about sports immigration and U.S. visa laws, please contact a sports immigration lawyer at May Law Group. We offer a free initial consultation. From offices in New York City, and Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, we represent clients from throughout the U.S. and around the world.

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