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P-1 Visa for Performing Artists and Athletes


Certain artists, entertainers, and athletes may come to the United States temporarily to perform services for an employer or a sponsor under the P nonimmigrant visa category. The foreign national must have a residence in a foreign country which he or she has no intention of abandoning.

The P-1 Visa

A foreign national who is coming to the United States to perform as an internationally recognized athlete or member of an internationally recognized athlete or a member of an internationally recognized entertainment group may qualify under the P-1 category.

Who Is Eligible?

To qualify for a P-1 visa, the foreign national must be coming temporarily either to perform at specific athletic competition, individually or as part of a team, at an internationally recognized level of performance, or to perform with an entertainment group that has been recognized internationally as being outstanding in their discipline. He or she must be an integral and essential part of the performance and have had a sustained and substantial relationship with the group for at least one year. An exception to this rule may be made in the case where a foreign national augments a group by performing in a critical role, or where a foreign national because of illness of unanticipated circumstances, replaces a member of a P-1 group.

How To Apply

A P-1 petition may be filed by a U.S. or foreign employer on Form I-129, “Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker”, with the USCIS Service Center having jurisdiction in the area where the foreign national will work. Consultation with a labor organization that has expertise in the area of the foreign national’s sport or entertainment field is required. The advisory opinion must evaluate and/or describe the foreign national’s or group’s ability and achievements in the field of endeavor, comment on whether the foreign national or group is internationally recognized for achievements, and state whether the services the foreign national or group is coming to perform are appropriate for an internationally recognized athlete or entertainment group.

Athletes

In the case of an athlete, the athlete must have an internationally recognized reputation as an international athlete, or must be a member of a foreign team that is itself internationally recognized. The athlete or team must be coming to the U.S. to participate in an athletic competition which has a distinguished reputation, and which requires participation of an athlete or athletic team that has an international reputation. The petition must be accompanied by the following documentation:

  1. A tendered contract with a major U.S. sports league or team, or a contract in an individual sport commensurate with international recognition; and
  2. At least two of the following:
    • Evidence of having participated to a significant extent in a prior season with a major U.S. sports league;
    • Evidence of having participated in international competition with a national team;
    • Evidence of having participated to a significant extent in a prior season for a U.S. college or university in intercollegiate competition;
    • A written statement from an official of a major U.S. sports league or an official of the governing body of sports which details how the foreign national is internationally recognized;
    • A written statement from a member of the sports media or a recognized expert in the sport which details how the foreign national or team is internationally recognized;
    • Evidence that the individual or team is ranked if the sport has internationally rankings; or
    • Evidence that the foreign national or team has received a significant honor or award in the sport.

Entertainment Groups

In the case of an entertainment group, it must be established that the group has been internationally recognized as outstanding for a sustained and substantial period of time. Seventy five percent of the members of the group must have had a sustained and substantial relationship with the group for at least one year, and must provide functions integral to the group’s performance. The petitions must be accompanied by the following documentation:

  1. Evidence that the group, under the name shown on the petition, has been established and performing regularly for at least one year;
  2. A statement from the petitioner listing each member of the group and the exact dates for which each member has been employed on a regular basis by the group; and
  3. Evidence that the group has been internationally recognized in the discipline. This may be demonstrated by evidence of the group’s nomination or receipt of significant international awards or prizes for outstanding achievement in its field, or by three of the following:
    • Evidence that the group has performed and will perform as a starring or leading entertainment group in productions or events that have a distinguished reputation as evidenced by critical reviews, advertisements, publicity released, publications, contracts, or endorsements;
    • Evidence that the group has achieved international recognition and acclaim for outstanding achievements as evidenced by reviews in major newspapers, trade journals, magazines, or other published materials;
    • Evidence that the group has performed and will perform services as a leading or starring group for organizations and establishments that have a distinguished reputation evidenced by articles in newspapers, trader journal, publications, or testimonials;
    • Evidence that the group has a record of major commercial or critically acclaimed successes as evidenced by such indicators as ratings, standing in the field, box office receipts, record, cassette, or video sales, and other achievements in the field as reported in trade journals, major newspaper, or other publications;
    • Evidence that the group has received significant recognition for achievements from organizations, critics, government agencies, or other recognized experts in the field. Such testimonials must be in a form which clearly indicated the author’s authority, expertise, and knowledge of the foreign national’s achievements; or
    • Evidence that the group has 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.

Duration of the Visa

A P-1 petition for an individual athlete may initially be valid for up to five years. Extensions of stay may granted thereafter; however, the total period of stay may not exceed ten years. An approved petition for an athletic team or entertainment group may be valid for the period of time necessary to complete the competition or event, but may not initially exceed one year. Extensions of stay may thereafter be authorized by USCIS in one-year increments.

Status of Spouse and Minor Children

The spouse and unmarried minor children of P-1 visa holders are eligible for P-4 visas. They are subject to the same period of admission as the principal foreign national. The spouse and children may not accept employment on a P-4 visa.

The P-2 Visa

For those applicants who intend on coming to the United States to perform as an artist or entertainer, individually or as part of a group, under a reciprocal exchange program between an organization in the United States and an organization in another country, fall in the P-2 Visa category.

Wolfsdorf Rosenthal LLP

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