I am an athlete who is willing to take part in competitions in the USA. What type of visa do I require?
There are several visa options available for athletes who wish to compete or train in the United States. Depending on your specific situation and level of expertise, you may be eligible for a P-1A, B-1, B-2, O-1, or H-2B visa.
Each visa type comes with its own set of requirements and benefits, so it’s essential to thoroughly understand your options before applying. Consulting with an experienced immigration attorney can help ensure you choose the right visa for your unique athletic journey and navigate the application process successfully.
In this article, we will briefly discuss the available visa options for athletes pursuing opportunities in the United States.
The P-1A visa is an excellent option for athletes competing at an internationally recognized level, whether individually or as part of a team. This visa category covers a wide range of athletic pursuits, from professional sports to amateur theatrical ice skating. P-1A visas offer varying periods of admission, with potential extensions depending on the situation. Additionally, this visa type provides a pathway to permanent residency in the United States through the EB-1 or EB-2 employment-based green card categories for those who meet the necessary criteria.
The B-1 visa is suitable for professional athletes who don’t receive a salary, other than prize money, while participating in US competitions or events. It permits athletes to engage in business activities, such as contract negotiations, short-term training, and attending professional conferences or conventions. With a maximum stay of six months, B-1 visa holders may not participate in productive labor or employment within the United States.
There are three classes of foreign national athletes eligible for the B-1 visa—individual professional athletes, athletes or team members who are part of a foreign-based team, and amateur hockey players. These athletes can enter the US on a B-1 visa to participate in sporting events, provided certain conditions are met. Athletes from Visa Waiver Program eligible countries may not need to petition for a B-1 visa and can enter the US as business visitors instead.
Amateur athletes can take advantage of the B-2 visa to participate in non-professional athletic events. This visa allows a stay of up to six months for pleasure, including visiting friends and family or exploring the country. However, B-2 visa holders may not engage in productive labor or employment within the United States.
Amateur athletes can enter the US on a B-2 visa to participate in competitions or social and charitable events, as long as they don’t receive remuneration other than an allotment for expenses. It’s important to note that professional athletes aren’t eligible for the B-2 visa, even if they aren’t being compensated in the US.
Reserved for athletes with exceptional skills, the O-1 visa requires applicants to demonstrate a high level of expertise and consistent acclaim within their field, both nationally and internationally. The visa is valid for up to three years, with the possibility of extensions in increments. O-2 visas are available for essential companions, such as coaches or managers, who possess critical skills to support the athlete during their time in the US.
The H-2B visa allows athletes to work temporarily in the United States, typically for a season, with a maximum duration of one year. Obtaining an H-2B visa requires a sponsoring team and a labor certification from the Department of Labor. Athletes playing under a minor league contract are usually issued an H-2B visa.
A petition for an H-2B athlete must be accompanied by a tendered contract and a labor certification issued by the United States Department of Labor. Professional leagues must adhere to the total number of H-2B positions granted to them by the Department of Labor. Injured players and players who voluntarily terminate their employment with a league may be replaced on existing petitions provided the injured or terminated employee returns to their native country. Such replacement will generally require the filing of a new petition. If an H-2B player is traded to another team, the player’s H-2B labor certification slot remains with the trading team, and the receiving team must have an available slot to receive the player. If a team does not use all its designated H-2B labor certification slots on an initial petition, any subsequent signings to fill designated slots will require a new petition.
H-2B visa athletes and employers in the athletic arena can benefit greatly from the assistance of an experienced immigration attorney, especially when it comes to filing a successful Labor Certification that complies with the Department of Labor standards and meeting the H-2B numerical limit deadlines.
Why do I need a sports visa lawyer?
Applying for an athlete visa can be a complex process, and knowing which type of visa to apply for and what documents to submit can be challenging. To ensure that you can properly file your visa application, it’s always best to work with an immigration lawyer who is knowledgeable in US immigration requirements and laws.
At Arvian Law Firm, our immigration lawyers can provide you with exceptional legal services. Apply for an athlete visa with confidence and peace of mind with the help of our team. Take advantage of our firm’s services and begin your journey to compete, train, or join a team in the United States.