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Requirements of P-1A Visa Application for Athlete,
and P-1B Visa Application for Members of Entertainment Groups

1. The P-1 Visa and Definitions

P-1 visas are available to athletes or athletic teams that have been internationally recognized as outstanding for a long and continuous period of time. Entertainment companies that have been nationally recognized as outstanding for a long time also qualify. P-1 visas can be issued based on the expertise of a group. 

In the case of an entertainment company, each performer who wishes to qualify for a P-1 visa must have been an integral part of the group for at least one year, although up to 25% of them can be excused from this one-year requirement, if need be. This requirement may also be waived in exceptional situations, where due to illness or other unanticipated circumstances, a critical performer is unable to travel. The one-year requirement is for performers only. It does not apply to support personnel. It also does not apply to anyone at all who works for a circus, including performers. 

Definition of an "Athlete": The P-1 visa is available to athletes or athletic teams that have been internationally recognized as outstanding for a long time. For internationally recognized athlete, it is also called P-1A visa.

To qualify as a P-1A athlete visa, the person or team must have an internationally recognized reputation in the sport. Applicants will need to demonstrate this to the immigration authorities by showing a contract with a major U.S. sports league, team, or international sporting event, and at least two of the following:

  • proof of the applicant's or team's previous significant participation with a major U.S. sports league;

  • proof of participation in an international competition with a national team;

  • proof of previous significant participation with a U.S. college in intercollegiate competition;

  • a written statement from an official of a major U.S. sports league or the governing body of the sport, explaining exactly how the person or team is internationally recognized;

  • a written statement from the sports media or a recognized expert regarding the person's or team's international recognition;

  • evidence that the person or team is internationally ranked, or

  • proof that the person or team has received a significant honor or award in the sport.

Definition of an "Entertainer":  The P-1 visa is also available to performers of entertainment group or company that have been nationally recognized as outstanding for a long time. For a member of an internationally recognized entertainment group, it is called P-1B visa.

P-1B visas are not available to individual entertainers, but only to members of groups that have an international reputation. The group must have been performing regularly for at least one year, and 75% of its members must have been performing with that group for at least a year. 

When the U.S. employer files a petition on the applicant's behalf with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the employer will have to supply proof of the group's sustained international recognition, as shown by either its nomination for, or receipt of, significant international awards or prizes, or at least three of the following:

  • proof that the group has or will star or take a leading role in productions or events with distinguished reputations;

  • reviews or other published material showing that the group has achieved international recognition and acclaim for outstanding achievement in the field;

  • proof that the group has and will star or take a leading role in productions or events for organizations with distinguished reputations;

  • proof of large box office receipts or ratings showing the group has a record of major commercial or critically acclaimed successes;

  • proof that the group has received significant recognition for achievements from organizations, critics, government agencies, or other recognized experts, or

  • proof that the group commands a high salary or other substantial remuneration.

2. The P-1A Visa for Internationally Recognized Athlete

P-1A visa alien seeking classification as an athlete in an individual capacity must be coming to the U.S. to perform services in a competition or event which require an internationally recognized athlete. Members of an athletic team must be coming to the U.S. to perform services in an event, performance or competition, which require an internationally recognized athletic team. Regarding athletes and athletic teams, the USCIS rules state that a petition for an athletic team must be accompanied by evidence that the team as an unit has achieved international recognition in the sport. Petitions for an athlete who will compete individually, and not as part of a team, must be accompanied by evidence that the athlete has achieved international recognition in the sport based on his or her reputation.

As an alien, the P-1 classification applies to you if you are coming to the U.S. temporarily to perform at a specific athletic competition as an athlete individually, or as part of a group or team, at an internationally recognized level of performance.

1) The Individual Athletes Eligibility Criteria: You must be coming to the United States to participate in individual event, competition or performance in which you are internationally recognized with 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.

2) Athletic Teams Eligibility Criteria: You must be coming to the United States to participate in team events and must have achieved significant international recognition in the sport. The event in which your team is participating must be distinguished and require the participation of athletic teams of international recognition.

To come to the United States, your U.S. employer must file a Form I-129, Petition for Non-Immigrant Worker, accompanied by the appropriate fee and supporting documentation. A petitioner who will be filing as an agent for multiple employers must establish that it is duly authorized to act as an agent. The U.S. employer must submit a consultation from an appropriate labor organization. The consultation must describe the work or services to be performed in the United States and your qualifications for such work. If no appropriate labor organization exists, this requirement is excused.

The "international recognition" means 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. 

3. The Required Documents for P-1A Visa Application

A P-1A visa application must include the following:

1) a written consultation with an appropriate labor organization in the alien's field; 

2) a copy of the contract with a major sports league or team or contract in an individual sport commensurate with national or international recognition in the sport, if such contracts are normally utilized in the sport; and

3) evidence of at least two of the following: 

  • substantial participation in a prior season with a major U.S. sports league;

  • participation in international competition with a national team;

  • substantial participation in a prior season for a U.S. university or college in intercollegiate competition;

  • a written statement from an official of a major U.S. sports league or official of the governing body for a sport that details how the alien or team is internationally recognized;

  • the individual or team is ranked if the sport has international rankings;

  • the alien or team has received a significant honor or award in the sport.

4. The P-1B Visa Application Requirements for Members of Entertainment Groups

The P-1B visas can be issued based on the expertise of a group or company. For an entertainment group or company, the performer qualifying for a P-1B visa should have been working for the group or company for at least one year. The P-1B visa applies to an alien applicant if he or she is coming to U.S. temporarily to perform as a member of an entertainment group that has been recognized internationally as outstanding in the discipline for a sustained and substantial period of time.

The P-1B classification also applies to an alien coming temporarily to perform as a member of a foreign-based entertainment group that has been recognized internationally as outstanding in the discipline for a sustained and substantial period of time. This person also must have had a sustained and substantial relationship with the group (ordinarily for at least one year), and provide functions integral to the group's performance.

Regarding entertainment groups, the rule provides that P-1B classification can be accorded to an entertainment group to perform as a unit based on the international reputation of the group. With some exceptions, two principal requirements apply to entertainment groups:

1) The group must have been internationally recognized as outstanding in the discipline for a sustained and substantial period of time.

2) 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. 

One-Year Membership Requirement: Evidence must be submitted that seventy-five percent of the entertainment group and accompanying essential support personnel have been performing regularly with, or providing essential support services to the entertainment group for a period of one year; intermittent employment with the group cannot be counted towards the one-year membership requirement. Several exceptions, however, apply to this one-year membership requirement:

1)The one-year requirement can be waived because of illness or unanticipated and exigent circumstances affecting a group member, or when an alien augments the group by performing a critical role; and

2) The one-year requirement is inapplicable to circus performers and essential circus support personnel. 

To be eligible for P-1 status, the entertainment group must have been internationally recognized in the discipline for a sustained and substantial period of time. 

5. The Required Documents for P-1B Visa Application

To qualify for a P-1B visa, at least 75% of the members of the entertainment group must have had a substantial and sustained relationship with the group for at least one year. The entertainment group must be internationally recognized, having a high level of achievement in a field evidenced by a degree of skill and recognition substantially above that ordinarily encountered. The reputation of the group, not the individual achievements of its members or the acclaim of a particular production, is essential. An individual entertainer not performing as part of a group is not eligible for the P-1B visa application.

USCIS may waive the international recognition requirement for groups that have only outstanding national reputations, if special circumstances would make it difficult for the group to prove its international reputation. Such circumstances could include the group having only limited access to news media or problems based on geographical location. Therefore, some nationally known entertainment groups may have the internationally recognized requirement waived if they can establish they have been recognized nationally as outstanding in in the field for a sustained amount of time.

A P-1B visa application must include the following:

1) a written consultation from an appropriate labor organization in the alien's field; 

2) evidence that the alien or group is internationally recognized within the discipline, as demonstrated by the submission of evidence of the group's receipt or nomination for significant international awards or prizes for outstanding achievement; or 

3) evidence of at least three of the following: 

  • the alien or group has performed or will perform as a starring or leading group in productions or events with a distinguished reputation.

  • the alien or group has achieved international recognition and acclaim for outstanding achievement in the field. 

  • the alien or group has a record of major commercial or critically acclaimed success.

  • the alien or group has achieved significant recognition for achievement from critics, organizations, government agencies or other recognized experts in the field; or

  • the alien or group commands a high salary or other substantial remuneration for services, compared to others similarly situated in the field.

  • by filing a P-1 visa application for a group, the petitioner must certify that the group has been established and performing regularly for a period of at least one year and that at least 75% of the members of the group have been performing with the group for at least one year. The one-year requirement does not apply to circus groups coming to perform with nationally recognized circuses.

6. Special Provisions for Certain Entertainment Groups 

1) Alien circus personnel: The 1-year group membership requirement and the international recognition requirement are not applicable to alien circus personnel who perform as part of a circus or circus group, or who constitute an integral and essential part of the performance of such circus or circus group, provided that the alien or aliens are coming to join a circus that has been recognized nationally as outstanding for a sustained and substantial period of time or as part of such a circus. 

2) Certain nationally known entertainment groups: USCIS may waive the international recognition requirement in the case of an entertainment group which has been recognized nationally as being outstanding in its discipline for a sustained and substantial period of time in consideration of special circumstances. An example of a special circumstance would be when an entertainment group may find it difficult to demonstrate recognition in more than one country due to such factors as limited access to news media or consequences of geography.

3) Waiver of 1-year relationship in exigent circumstances: USCIS may waive the 1-year relationship requirement for an alien who, because of illness or unanticipated and exigent circumstances, replaces an essential member of a P-1 entertainment group or an alien who augments the group by performing a critical role. The Department of State is hereby delegated the authority to waive the 1-year relationship requirement in the case of consular substitutions involving P-1 entertainment groups. 
The alien circus performers and essential circus personnel are exempt the one-year requirement and the internationally recognized requirement. The alien must be coming to join a nationally recognized circus.

7. The Essential Support Personnel

Essential support personnel who are an integral part of the performance of a P-1 entertainer and who perform support services which cannot be readily performed by a U.S. worker, are eligible for P-1 classification. Support personnel include front office personnel, camera operators, lighting technicians and stage personnel.

The U.S. employer must file a separate Form I-129 for support personnel. The petition must include the following documents:

  • A consultation from an appropriate labor organization;

  • A statement describing the support person's prior and current essentially, critical skills and experience with the P-1 entertainer;

  • A copy of a written contract between the employer and the support person or a summary of the terms of the oral agreement under which the support person will be employed.

8. P-1 Visa Application Evidences

The P-1 visa is the good choice of visa application for athletes and entertainers who do not meet the “extraordinary ability” standard required for an O-1 visa. The P-1 visa is not available to an individual person or entertainer. The P-1 visa is only available to members of a group entertainers or athletes that have an international reputation. This group should perform regularly for at least 1-year, and the most of the members should perform with the group for at least one year.

U.S. employer should file the P-1 visa petition to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) with the proof of the group’s sustained international recognition, such as nomination or receipt of significant international awards/prizes, or at least 3 of the following evidences:

1) proof that the group has or will star or take a leading role in productions or events with distinguished reputations;

2) reviews or published material showing that the group has achieved international recognition and acclaim for outstanding achievement in the field;

3) proof that the group has and will star or take a leading role in productions or events for organizations with distinguished reputations;

4) proof of large box office receipts or ratings showing the group has a record of major commercial or critically acclaimed successes;

5) proof that the group has received significant recognition for achievements from organizations, critics, government agencies, or other recognized experts, or

6) proof that the group commands a high salary or other substantial remuneration.

For circus performers and essential personnel, they do not need to have been part of the group for at least 1-year to get a P-1 visa, if the circus has a nationally recognized outstanding reputation.

9. P-1 Visa for Athletes with Internationally Recognized Reputation

To qualify as a P-1 visa for an athlete, the alien athlete or sport team should have an internationally recognized reputation in the sport. The alien applicant should demonstrate the internationally recognized reputation to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), by showing a contract with a major U.S. sports league, team, or international sporting event, with at least two of the following evidence:

   • proof of the applicant's or team’s previous significant participation with a major U.S. sports league;

   • proof of participation in an international competition with a national team;

   • proof of previous significant participation with a U.S. college in intercollegiate competition;

   • evidence that the person or team is internationally ranked;

   • proof that the person or team has received a significant honor or award in the sport;

   • a written statement from an official of a major U.S. sports league or the governing body of the sport, explaining exactly how the person or team is internationally recognized;

   • a written statement from the sports media or a recognized expert regarding the person's or team's international recognition.

10. The O-1 Visa or P-1 Visa Application Options for Athletes

The athletes coming to the U.S. may qualify for O-1 visa or P-1 visa application. The O-1 visa category is limited to individual athlete, and is subject to high eligibility standard. The athlete must demonstrate extraordinary ability in the field, and intend to continue to work in the same area in the United States. When considering the O-1 visa application option for athletes, it is important to consider both the athlete's past accomplishments and the proposed activity in U.S. 

For example, if an athlete has achieved extraordinary ability before as a basketball player but he can no longer compete in the field, then he may not necessarily be eligible for the O-1 classification as a basketball coach. Because a person who possesses or previously possessed extraordinary athletic ability, and wishes to enter the U.S. as an O-1 to coach will need to demonstrate a record of extraordinary ability as a coach.

An alternative option to the O-1 visa classification for athletes is the P-1 visa, which is generally easier to obtain than the O-1 visa. The level of achievement required for P-1 visa classification is that of "renowned, leading, or well-known in more than one country," which is somewhat lower than the extraordinary ability required for O-1 visa. Also, the P-1 visa category can be used for both individual athletes and athletic teams, and can be used for participants in both professional and amateur sports.

11. How to Apply for a P-1 Visa at an American Consulate

To apply for the P-1 visa at an American Consulate, you should provide a copy of the Notice of Action, Form I-797, the approval notice forwarded to U.S. employer by USCIS when the petition is approved. The P-1 visa application must include the following documents:

a) DOS Form DS-160, Nonimmigrant Visa Application;

b) A copy of your passport which is valid for at least six months beyond the period of stay in the U.S. and with at least one blank page;

c) Passport style color photograph showing full face without head covering against a light background. You may wear a headdress if required by a religious order of which you are a member, This can be uploaded at the time you complete the DS-160;

d) A letter from your U.S. employer detailing your position and a statement that you possess skills essential to the performance of the job offered.



 


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