P-1A Visa

What is the P-1A Visa?

The P-1A visa is a nonimmigrant visa that allows athletes from foreign countries to temporarily come to the United States solely for the purpose of performing at a specific athletic competition. This includes athletes coming to the United States to perform with a professional sports team as a professional athlete.

What are the eligibility requirements for the P-1A visa?

In order to qualify for the P-1A visa, the applicant(s) must be coming to the United States to participate in a specific athletic competition. The P-1A visa is available for individual athletes, or team competitors. The specific eligibility requirements for certain types of athletes and their competitions are described below:

Professional Athletes

In order for a professional athlete to qualify for the P-1A visa, he or she must be coming to the United States to compete as a player on a sports team that is a member of an association (i.e. league) of six or more professional sports teams that together receive a combined total revenue of $10 million per year. The professional sports team may also be a minor league sports team that is affiliated with such a league. The association or league must also be the regulating body that governs the conduct of its member teams and players, as well as the contests and exhibitions in which member teams participate.

Amateur Athletes or Coaches

In order for amateur athletes or coaches to qualify for the P-1A visa, they must be coming to the United States to perform as an athlete or coach for a team or franchise that is located in the United States and is a member of a foreign association or league that itself meets certain requirements:

  • The league or association must have 15 or more amateur sports teams and must be the highest level of amateur performance of that sport in the relevant foreign country;
  • Participation in the league or association must lead to being drafted by a major sports league or minor league affiliate for a significant number of athletes who compete in the league;
  • Participation in the league or association must require that players are temporarily or permanently ineligible to participate in the sport, or earn a scholarship in the sport, at a U.S. college or university under National Collegiate Athletic Association rules.

Internationally Recognized Athletic Teams

In order for an athlete to qualify for the P-1A visa as a member of an internationally recognized athletic team, the athlete must be coming to the United States to participate in an athletic competition as a member of the team. An athletic team is internationally recognized if it has achieved a high level of achievement in its specific sport, as demonstrated by a degree of skill and recognition that is substantially higher than that which is ordinarily encountered. The competition that the internationally recognized team is coming to the United States to participate in must have a distinguished reputation and be internationally recognized for its level of performance.

Internationally Recognized Individual Athletes

In order for an athlete to qualify for the P-1A visa as an individual athlete, the athlete must be coming to the United States to participate in a specific athletic competition in a sport in which the athlete is internationally recognized and has gained a high level of achievement. An athlete is internationally recognized if their achievement is renowned, leading, or well-known in more than one country. The competition in which the athlete will compete must have a distinguished reputation and internationally recognized level of performance.

Theatrical Ice Skaters

In order for theatrical ice skaters to qualify for the P-1A visa, they must be coming to the United States to participate as a professional or amateur athlete who performs individually or as part of a group in a specific theatrical ice skating production or tour.

What is the process for obtaining a P-1A visa?

The process to apply for the P-1A visa requires both the athlete, and his or her employer, to submit documentation to the United States government. The steps below outline the application process:

Step One: File Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker

The first step to apply for the P-1A visa requires the applicant’s agent, potential employer, or sponsor file Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker and written consultation from an applicable labor organization appropriate for the P-1A visa. Both of these items must be filed with the United States Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS).

Specific Evidence to be Submitted with Form I-129

When submitting Form I-129, certain evidence must be included that proves the applicant’s athletic ability, as well as the contract, events, or activities that cause them to seek entry into the United States. The evidentiary requirements can vary significantly based on the P-1A visa applicant’s specific purpose of entry into the U.S. under his or her visa.

Labor Certification

The P-1A applicant must have a written consultation from an appropriate labor organization that identifies the work or services to be performed by the P-1A applicant(s) while in the United States, as well as their qualifications for the work. If no labor organization exists that is appropriate to provide the written consultation, this requirement may be excused. The labor organization may also submit a letter stating they do not object to the petition being approved.

Along with the written consultation, copies of written or oral contracts evidencing the terms of employment must be submitted, as well as an explanation of the nature of the events, competitions, or activities, including an itinerary with the beginning and end dates for the events.

Professional Athletes

When submitting Form I-129, professional athletes must submit evidence that shows they will be working for a team located in the United States that is a member of a qualifying league or association, including that the association has six or more professional sports team, earns over $10 million per year, and governs the conduct of its teams and players.

Amateur Athletes or Coaches

The employer, agent, or sponsor who files Form I-129 on behalf of an amateur athlete or coach must provide evidence that the franchise or team located in the United States meets the eligibility requirements for a P-1A athlete or coach.

Internationally Recognized Individuals or Athletic Teams

A copy of the tendered contract, as normally utilized in the sport, must be submitted as evidence, along with at least two of the following pieces of evidence:

  • Proof that the athlete participated to a significant extent in a prior season with a major United States sports league;
  • Proof that the athlete participated in international competition with a national team;
  • Proof that the athlete 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 the governing body of the sport which details how you or your team is internationally recognized;
  • A written statement from a member of the sports media or a recognized expert in the sport which details how the athlete or team is internationally recognized;
  • Proof that the athlete or team is ranked, if the sport has international rankings; or
  • Proof that the athlete or team has received a significant honor or award in the sport.

Theatrical Ice Skaters

Individual or a group of theatrical ice skaters must provide evidence that they are slated to perform in the United States individually or as part of a group with a theatrical ice skating production.

Step Two: USCIS Process Form I-129

Once the USCIS receives Form I-129, the employer, agent, or sponsor will receive the following in return:

  • A receipt notice confirming the petition was received;
  • A notice to appear for an interview, if required;
  • A biometric services notice, if applicable; and
  • A notice of decision, Form I-797, Notice of Action.

    Step Three: P-1A Visa Applicant Submits Form DS-160

The P-1A visa applicant must complete Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application, Form DS-160 and pay the fee. This involves uploading a photo of the applicant that conforms to the U.S. Department of State photograph requirements. Once Form DS-160 is submitted, the employee must download and print the confirmation page showing Form DS-160 was completed and the filing fee paid. The confirmation page will need to be brought to the visa interview at a U.S. Consulate or Embassy.

Step Four: Interview Requirement

After submitting the form DS-160, the P-1A visa applicant will receive form I-797 and may be required to attend an interview at a U.S. embassy or consulate where an official will evaluate an applicant’s application and ask questions pertaining to the applicant’s qualifications for the P-1A visa.

At the interview, the P-1A visa applicant must bring the following documentation:

  • Receipt notice Form I-797, confirming petition Form I-129 was received;
  • Form DS-160 confirmation page;
  • Copies of labor certification documentation;
  • Evidence of the athlete’s status as amateur, professional, or other classification of athlete;
  • Evidence of the contract or events the athlete seeks to travel to the U.S. to fulfill;
  • Valid passport;
  • Photo that meets photograph requirements;
  • Visa application fee receipt;
  • Visa interview confirmation letter;
  • Receipts showing the applicant paid all fees;
  • The interview confirmation letter.

Can P-1A visa holders apply for a green card?

Generally, the P-1A visa requires that the visa holder maintain permanent residency in their home country or abroad elsewhere that they do not intend to abandon and intend to return to upon the completion of the activities or events in the United States. This is because the P-1A visa is a nonimmigrant temporary visa.

Despite this, a P-1A visa holder may seek to become a permanent resident without facing denial of a P-1A visa petition, change of status, or extension application if their circumstances change while they are in the U.S., such as by marrying a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident or changing status to an H-1B visa before applying. Athletes with extraordinary or exceptional abilities can apply for a EB-1 or EB-2 immigrant visa.

How much does it cost to apply for a P-1A visa?

  • DS-160 fee is $160
  • Potential biometrics fee is $85
  • Form I-129 is $460
  • Medical exam costs vary.

For how long is the P-1A visa valid?

P-1A visa holders may stay in the United States for as long as required to complete the event, competition, or performance. However, the initial stay period is capped at five years. Extensions may be obtained in increments of five years, though this is capped at 10 years.

Sweta Khandelwal

Sweta completed her Masters in Law from the University of California, Los Angeles and her JD from the Faculty of Law, Delhi University in India and has been practicing law for 15+ years getting visas, green cards, and citizenship for 1000+ clients, 100+ companies across 50+ nationalities.

Sweta has been recognized as a ” Super Lawyer, Rising Star,” and as amongst the ” Top 40 under 40″ immigration attorneys in California (American Society of Legal Advocates). She is also the recipient of the Advocacy Award by the American Immigration Lawyers Association.

Sweta is also a chartered accountant — the equivalent of a CPA. This makes her uniquely positioned to understand the immigration needs of her business clients in the broader context of their corporate objectives.

Sweta is actively involved with immigration issues and immigrant communities in various capacities. She has assumed key roles at the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), both at the local and national level. She has been a past chair at the Santa Clara Valley Chapter at AILA and has also been involved in various practice area committees at AILA National. Sweta has addressed multiple conferences/forums in the United States and worldwide on immigration and business issues.