Individual Athletes

Individual athletes who are not participating as part of a team have many options to compete and perform in the United States.  Determining the appropriate visa category requires an analysis of the particular event, sport, and credentials of the athlete.  The most popular visa categories for athletes include:

  • P-1 Visa – Internationally recognized athletes may apply to perform or compete in sporting events in the United States.  Qualification for the visa requires a showing of a high level of achievement, evidenced by a degree of skill and recognition substantially above that ordinarily encountered so that the achievement is renowned, leading or well known in more than one country.  The visa may be issued for up to five years.
  • O-1 Visa – Athletes with extraordinary ability may apply to perform or compete in sporting events in the United States.  Qualification requires a showing of sustained national or international acclaim and recognition.  This visa is issued for up to three years.
  • EB-1 Immigrant Visa – Athletes with extraordinary ability may apply for lawful permanent residence based on their achievements.  Qualification requires a showing of recognition for being at the very top of their field and who are coming to the United States to continue work in that field.  The athlete must also show sustained national or international acclaim and recognition in their field through extensive documentation.
  • P-3 Visa – Athletes may apply for entry into the United States to perform under a program that is culturally unique.  Qualification requires a showing that the performance or presentation is culturally unique or traditional and will further the understanding or development of the art form.  The visa may be issued for up to one year.
  • Q-1 Visa – Athletes may apply for entry into the United States to provide practical training, and to share the history, culture, and traditions of their home country as part of an international cultural exchange program.  The visa may be issued for up to 15 months.

 

Coaches and Support Staff

Coaches and support staff have many options to ply their trades in the United States.  The most popular visa categories include:

  • O-1 Visa – A coach possessing extraordinary ability may apply for entry into the United States to coach an athlete or team.  Qualification requires a showing that the coach has received sustained national or international acclaim and recognition for achievement as a coach.  Generally, a showing of the same as an athlete will not qualify the athlete for entry as a coach.  The visa may be issued for up to three years.
  • O-2 Visa – A coach who will assist the athletic performance of an O-1 athlete may apply for entry into the United States to accompany the athlete.  Qualification requires a showing that the coaches O-2 assistance must be an “integral part” of the athlete’s activity.  Further, the coach must possess critical skills and experience with the O-1 that cannot be readily performed by a U.S. worker and which are essential to the successful performance of the O-1.  The visa may be issued for up to three years.
  • P-1 Visa – A coach may qualify for entry into the United States independently to assist athletes on a U.S. team.  Qualification requires a showing that the team is a member of a foreign league of at least 15 amateur sports teams; the foreign league is the highest level of amateur performance of that sport in the relevant foreign country; a significant number of the league’s players are drafted by a major sports league or minor league affiliate; and participation in the league makes players temporarily or permanently ineligible under NCAA rules.  The visa is issued for up to five years.
  • P-1S Visa – A coach who will provide essential support to a P-1 athlete may apply for entry into the United States to accompany the athlete.  The visa may be issued for up to one year.
  • P-3 Visa – Coaches may apply for entry into the United States to teach or coach under a program that is culturally unique.  Qualification requires a showing that the performance or presentation is culturally unique or traditional and will further the understanding or development of the art form.  The visa may be issued for up to one year.
  • Q-1 Visa – Coaches may apply for entry into the United States to provide practical training, and to share the history, culture, and traditions of their home country as part of an international cultural exchange program.  The visa may be issued for up to 15 months.
  • H-1B Visa – Coaches may apply for entry into the United States to work in a specialty occupation that typically requires a bachelor’s degree in a particular field.  Qualification requires a showing that the coach possesses a bachelor’s degree related to athletics and that the employer will pay a least the prevailing wage as established by the U.S. Department of Labor.  The visa is issued for up to three years.

 

 

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