US Visas For Athletes:
The B-1 Visa For Athletes
The B-1 Business Visitor Visa allows for “business-related” travel to the U.S. Generally, an individual is permitted to enter the US as a B-1 Business Visitor if their visit will include business activities that are professional or commercial purposes. Examples include contract negotiations, participation in scientific, educational, professional or business conventions, conferences or seminars or participating in short-term training. A visitor on the B-1 visa is generally permitted to stay in the U.S. for up to six months and may not engage in productive labor or employment in the United States.
There are 3 classes of foreign national athletes that can enter the U.S. using the B-1Visa for athletes—individual professional athletes, athletes or team members who are a part of a foreign based team and amateur hockey player.
1. Individual Professional Athletes who will not receive any salary, except prize money, can come to the US on the B-1 Visa to participate in a sporting event or competition.
2. Athletes or team members of a foreign-based team can come to the US on the B-1 visa provided:
a. The athlete and the team are principally based in a foreign country;
b. The foreign team and players’ income and salaries are principally earned in the foreign country; and;
c. The foreign-based sports team is part of an international league or the actual sporting events are international in nature.
3. Amateur Hockey Players may come to the U.S. on the B-1 visa if they are coming to the U.S. for try-outs during the professional season or during playoffs. The hockey player needs to be able to present a “memorandum of agreement” between himself and the National Hockey League. The US team can only play for round-trip airfare, room, board and transportation.
The B-2 Visa For Athletes
The B-2 Visitor Visa allows for travel to the U.S. for “pleasure”. Generally, an individual is permitted to enter the US as a B-2 Visitor if their trip will include visiting family, relatives, friends, or acquaintances, or for traveling throughout the United States. A visitor on the B-2 visa is generally permitted to stay in the U.S. for up to six months and may not engage in productive labor or employment in the United States.
Amateur athletes are permitted to enter the U.S. on a B-2 visa if they are coming to the U.S. to participate in a competition or for a social or charitable event. Amateur athletes are by definition not members of any of the professions associated with that activity and normally perform without remuneration (other than an allotment for expenses).
Professional athletes cannot come to the U.S. as a B-2 visitor even if they are not being compensated in the U.S. as they are not “amateur” athletes, by definition.
The P-1 Visa For Athletes
The P-1 visa category allows athletes who are Internationally Recognized to the come to the U.S. to participate in athletic events, competitions or performances. The P-1 visa is open to both individual athletes as well as sports teams:
Individual athletes must be Internationally recognized, i.e. they need to possess 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.”
Sports teams must also be in internationally recognized and the event the team is participating in must also require that the participating or competing teams be internationally recognized.
The P-1S visa category is available to Essential Support Personnel who are accompanying the P-1 athlete or team and who are an “integral” part of the athlete’s or team’s event(s) or performance. Coaches, managers, referees, and trainers may be eligible for the P-1S if they can show that they have skills that are critical and essential to the P-1 athlete or team.
Period of Admission
The periods of validity for approved P petitions are as follows:
P-1 individual athlete – up to five years.
P-1 athletic team – period of time to be determined by USCIS to be necessary to complete the competition or event, not to exceed one year;
Essential support personnel to P-1 aliens – period of time to complete the event, activity, or performance for which the P-1 alien is admitted, not to exceed one year.