Athletes (P-1 Visas)

Professional athletes may choose to apply for a P-1 visa or an O-1 visa for their work in the United States. If they are not paid in the U.S., they may consider a B-1 tourist visa. For advice and experienced representation concerning P-1 or O-1 visas, contact the law firm of Lisa E. Battan, P.C.

Types of Visas for Athletes

P-1 Visas

P-1 visas may be used by individual athletes who participate in international competitions. P-1 visas may also be used by team athletes who perform in a league with six or more teams that have combined revenues in excess of $10,000,000 (USD) or a minor league team affiliated with such association.

An athlete who wishes to apply for a P-1 visa must show that:

  • The athlete or the team is internationally recognized
  • The athletic competition has a distinguished reputation
  • Competition requires participation of athlete or team with international reputation

When submitting documents to USCIS, we must provide any tendered contract with the U.S. sports league or team or one commensurate with international recognition; and any two of the following:

  • Significant participation in a prior season in the major leagues
  • International competition with national team
  • Significant participation in a prior season for U.S. college, university or intercollegiate competition
  • A written statement from a U.S. official in the sport about the person's or team's international recognition
  • A written statement from expert of sport's media as to international recognition
  • Team of individual ranking
  • Significant honor or award in sport

O-1 Visas

An athlete may choose to apply for an O-1 visa if they are one of the very best in their field (an athlete of extraordinary ability.) O-1 visas allow foreign nationals to work for pay in the United States pursuant to the terms of the USCIS application.

The visa or status may be given for the period of time for which the beneficiary has work in the United States. The maximum amount of time for which the visa may be issued the first time is three years.

To apply for the O-1 visa or status, a U.S. organization must file an immigration petition on the beneficiary's behalf. The U.S. organization can be an employer or an agent.

The USCIS requires certain evidence of the athlete's extraordinary ability, including three kinds of evidence from the following list:

  • Receipt of nationally or internationally recognized prizes or awards for excellence in the field and/or evidence of high placement in national or international competitions
  • Membership in associations which require outstanding achievements of their members as judged by experts in your field
  • Published materials in professional or major trade publications or major media
  • Evidence of your participation as a judge of work of others in your field
  • Evidence of original scientific, scholarly or business-related contributions of major significance in the field
  • Evidence that you have been employed in a critical or essential capacity for organizations and establishments that have a distinguished reputation
  • Evidence that you have commanded or now commands a high salary or other substantial remuneration for services in relation to others in the field (as evidenced by contracts or other reliable evidence)
  • Other comparable evidence -this could be several very strong letters from others notable individuals in your field - showing that you are one of the very best in your field

B-1 Tourist Visas

Some professional athletes may be able to compete in the U.S. on B-1 or B-2 tourist visas. Professional athletes who receive no salary or payment other than prize money may participate in a sporting event in the U.S. in B-1 status as long as:

1: The foreign athlete and the foreign sports team have their principal place of business or activity in a foreign country

2: The income of the foreign team and the salary of its players are principally accrued in a foreign country

3: The foreign based sports team is a member of an international sports league or the sporting activities involved have an international dimension.

Contact Us

Please remember that the above information is general and is not complete. If you are considering applying for a visa, you should contact Colorado immigration attorney Lisa E. Battan to discuss your particular situation. Through a personal consultation, we can identify the process which best suites your needs.

We represent clients throughout Colorado and the U.S., as well as those from around the world, including Argentina, Nepal, Canada, the European Union, Mexico, Philippines, Tibet, India, China and elsewhere.