P Visa

The P-1 visa category is the visa of choice for athletes and entertainers who do not meet the "extraordinary ability" standard required for an O visa. In practice, P visas are most often used for athletes and entertainers who perform as part of a team or entertainment group for trips of limited duration, such as a concert tour or a sports season.

Since the P-1 visa is employer-specific, P-1 athletes and entertainers who are members of a team or group may not perform work or services separate and apart from the team or entertainment group during their P-1 time. There are two ways for an athletic team or entertainment group to obtain P-1 status for its members. First, P-1 visas may be granted to an athletic team or entertainment group based on its own international reputation. When the visa is granted to the team or group, as a whole, each member of the team or group is given P-1 classification based on the reputation of the team or group. Second, a team or group may seek P-1 visas for individual members of the team or group based on their individual, international reputations.

It is important to note that an athletic team or entertainment group that employs a P-1 foreign national must be "internationally recognized," which the USCIS defines as "having a high level of achievement in a field evidenced by a degree of skill and recognition substantially above that ordinarily encountered, to the extent that such achievement is renowned, leading or well-known in more than one country."

The P-1 category encompasses all athletes who perform at an internationally recognized level of performance and who fall into one of four subcategories: 1) individual athletes; 2) athletes who are members of certain professional leagues; 3) athletes and coaches who participate in certain amateur leagues; or 4) athletes who participate in theatrical ice skating productions.

A P-1 athlete must be coming to the U.S. to participate in an athletic competition that has a distinguished reputation and that requires participation of an athlete or athletic team that has an international reputation. An individual athlete may obtain P-1 classification if he or she is an internationally recognized athlete based on his or her own reputation and achievements as an individual or if he or she is as member of a foreign team that is internationally recognized. The foreign national must be coming to the U.S. to perform services that require an internationally recognized athlete.

Although the visa category requirements are fairly specific, most athletes who play for major and minor sports leagues may qualify. The P-1 visa also has benefits for team administrators, because there is no limit on the number of athletes for whom a team may petition, and there is no national cap on the number of nonimmigrants who may enter the U.S. on a P-1 visa as there is with the H-2B visa category that most minor league teams used previously. This flexibility will allow teams to more easily add players mid-season, assuming they encounter no difficulties from the USCIS or relevant consulate during the actual petition process.

The P-1 visa category is also utilized for entertainers who are part of an entertainment group to come to the U.S. to perform as an integral part of that group's performance. Dance troupes, acting companies, orchestras and vocal groups are examples of the type of groups that use the P-1 visa for their members. This visa category is usually reserved only for those entertainers who are part of a group. Individual performers cannot obtain a P-1 visa unless they are coming to the U.S. to join a foreign entertainment group.

A P-1 foreign national may be admitted for as much time as is approved for the subject competition, event or performance. If a foreign national is admitted on a P-1 as an individual athlete, the period of initial status may be any length of time not more than five years, and that period of time may be extended for a period of up to five years.

To schedule an initial consultation with a Memphis Immigration attorney, call (901) 692-5732 or with a New York City Immigration Attorney, call (646) 380-0474 or contact Witty Law Group, PLLC.