A P-1 Visa is a nonimmigrant visa that allows certain athletes, entertainment groups, and certain related support personnel to enter the United States to perform in relation to those groups.
Professional athletes can acquire a P-1 Visa as an individual or as part of a team.
In either case, the individual or the team must be “internationally recognized” and the athlete or his team must be entering the U.S. to perform at a specific competition at an internationally recognized level of performance.
Members of Internationally recognized entertainment groups can obtain a P-1 Visa to come to the United States 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.
How to Acquire a P-1 Visa
To acquire a P-1 Visa, regardless of whether you are an athlete, team, or entertainment group, you must:
- Have a foreign residence which the alien has no intention of abandoning;
- Be internationally recognized as a professional athlete, athletic team, or entertainment group; and
- Seek to enter the U.S. temporarily and solely for the purpose of performing in your capacity as an entertainer.
Additionally, you will have to meet the specific eligibility criteria outlined below for your categorization as an athlete, team member, or entertainment group.
If you are eligible, then you must have your U.S. employer or sponsor file a petition with USCIS for a review of the services to be performed and for a determination of your eligibility for P-1 classification.
After this petition is approved, then you may apply for a visa or seek admission to the United States.
How do I File for a P-1 Visa?
First, a P-1 petition for an athlete or entertainment group should be filed by a United States employer, a United States sponsoring organization, a United States agent, or a foreign employer through a United States agent.
The petition should include the following evidence:
- The evidence specified in the relevant sections below;
- Copies of any written contracts between you and your petitioning employer or sponsor or, if there is no written contract, a summary of the terms of the oral agreement under which you will be employed;
- An explanation of the nature of the events or activities, the beginning and ending dates for the events or activities, and a copy of any itinerary for the events or activities; and
- A written consultation from a labor organization.
The petition should also contain:
- Affidavits, contracts, awards, and similar documentation that reflect the nature of your achievement and be executed by an officer or responsible person employed by the institution, establishment, or organization where the work was performed.
- Affidavits written by present or former employers or recognized experts certifying to the recognition and extraordinary ability, or, in the case of a motion picture or television production, your extraordinary achievement, which shall specifically describe your recognition and ability or achievement in factual terms. The affidavit must also set forth the expertise of the affiant and the manner in which the affiant acquired such information.
In addition to the requirements mentioned above, to be eligible for a P-1 Visa as an athlete or team, you must be internationally recognized as an international athlete, or you must be a member of a foreign team that is internationally recognized.
- Internationally recognized means 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.
- Team means two or more persons organized to perform together as a competitive unit in a competitive event.
Also, you must be coming to the United States 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.
A petition for an athletic team must be accompanied by evidence that the team as a unit has achieved international recognition in the sport. Each member of the team is accorded P-1 classification based on the international reputation of the team.
A petition for an athlete who will compete individually or as a member of a U.S. team must be accompanied by evidence that the athlete has achieved international recognition in the sport based on his or her reputation.
What to Include:
You should include several things in your application.
For example, one necessary element is a tendered contract with a major United States sports league or team.
You can also include a contract with an individual sport commensurate with international recognition if such contracts are normally executed in that sport.
Additionally, you should include at least two of the following:
- Evidence of having participated to a significant extent in a prior season with a major United States 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 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 you or your team is internationally recognized;
- Evidence that the individual or team is ranked if the sport has international rankings; or
- Evidence that you or your team has received a significant honor or award in the sport.
P-1 Classification as an Entertainment Group:
If you are an entertainment groups, you’ll have to meet a few different requirements.
In addition to the requirements set forth above, an internationally recognized entertainment group performing as a unit can receive P-1 classification if:
- The petition is for the group and not for individual entertainers to perform separate and apart from a group;
- the group is internationally recognized as outstanding in the discipline for a sustained and substantial period of time; and
- 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 can be eligible for a waiver of the international recognition requirement. For example, an entertainment group may be eligible for a waiver if they 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.
- that seventy-five percent of the members of the group must have had a sustained and substantial relationship with the group for at least 1 year and must provide functions integral to the group‘s performance.
- The 1-year relationship requirement can be waived 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.
Special Rule for Circus Groups: The requirements under 2 and 3 above are not applicable to 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 circus personnel are coming to join a circus that is recognized nationally as outstanding for a sustained and substantial period of time or as part of such a circus.
A petition for P-1 classification for the members of an entertainment group should include:
- Evidence that the group has been established and performing regularly for a period of at least 1 year;
- 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
- Evidence that the group has been internationally recognized in the discipline for a sustained and substantial period of time. This may be demonstrated by the submission of evidence of the group’s nomination or receipt of significant international awards or prices for outstanding achievement in its field or by three of the following different types of documentation:
- Evidence that the group has performed, and will perform, as a starring or leading entertainment group in productions or events which have a distinguished reputation as evidenced by critical reviews, advertisements, publicity releases, publications, contracts, or endorsements;
- Evidence that the group has achieved international recognition and acclaim for outstanding achievement in its field as evidenced by reviews in major newspapers, trade journals, magazines, or other published material;
- 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, trade journals, 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 newspapers, or other publications;
- Evidence that the group has achieved significant recognition for achievements from organizations, critics, government agencies, or other recognized experts in the field. Such testimonials must be in a form that clearly indicates the author’s authority, expertise, and knowledge of the alien’s achievements; or
- Evidence that the group has either commanded a high salary or will command a high salary or other substantial remuneration for services comparable to other similarly situated in the field as evidenced by contracts or other reliable evidence.
P-1 for Essential Support Members Overview:
An essential support personnel (i.e. a highly skilled, essential person that is an integral part of the performance because he or she performs support services which cannot be readily performed by a United States worker and which are essential to the successful performance) may be granted P-1 classification based on a support relationship with an individual P-1 athlete, P-1 athletic team, or a P-1 entertainment group.
A petition for P-1 essential support personnel must be accompanied by:
- A consultation from a labor organization with expertise in the area of the alien’s skill;
- A statement describing the alien(s) prior essentiality, critical skills, and experience with the principal alien(s); and
- A copy of the written contract or a summary of the terms of the oral agreement between the alien(s) and the employer.
How long can you stay on a P-1 Visa?
|Initial Period of Stay||Extension of Stay|
|Individual Athlete – Time needed to complete the event, competition or performance, not to exceed 5 years||Increments of up to 5 years in order to continue or complete the event, competition or performance. Note: After 10 years of presence, you must leave the country and then reapply for another 5 year term.|
|Athletic Group – Time needed to complete the event, competition or performance, not to exceed 1 year||Increments of up to 1 year in order to continue or complete the event, competition or performance.|
|Entertainment Group – Time needed to complete the event, competition or performance, not to exceed 1 year||Increments of up to 1 year in order to continue or complete the event, competition or performance.|
|Essential Support Personnel – Time to complete the event, activity, or performance, may not exceed 1 year||Increments of up to 5 years in order to continue or complete the event, competition or performance. Note: After 10 years of presence, you must leave the country and then reapply for another 5 year term.|
This is just a broad overview of the P-1 Visa process.
There are many other rules and regulations associated with different aspects of P-1 status.
You will want to return to the code and regulations with other considerations like:
- How does being traded to another team affect my P-1 status?
- What are the additional requirements if you plan to tour the U.S.?
- How do you amend your original petition?
As you can see, there are a lot of moving parts to the P-1 Visa.
If you are having trouble navigating though the muck, then consider consulting with Tingen & Williams.
We would love to join your team–draft us today!
 USCIS Policy Memorandum: Clarifying Guidance on Definition of Internationally Recognized for the P-1 Classification (December 31, 2011) available at http://www.uscis.gov/sites/default/files/USCIS/Laws/Memoranda/Static_Files_Memoranda/P-1ClassificationPM123111.pdf
 See id.
 See 8 U.S.C. § 1101(a)(15)(P).
 See 8 C.F.R. § 214.2(p)(2)(i).
 See id.
 See 8 C.F.R. § 214.2(p)(2)(ii).
 See 8 C.F.R. § 214.2(p)(2)(iii).
 See 8 C.F.R. § 214.2(p)(4)(i).
 See 8 C.F.R. § 214.2(p)(3).
 See id.
 See 8 C.F.R. § 214.2(p)(4)(i).
 See 8 C.F.R. § 214.2(p)(4)(ii)(B).
 See id.
 See id.
 See 8 C.F.R. § 214.2(p)(4)(iii)(C)(2).
 See 8 C.F.R. § 214.2(p)(4)(iii)(A).
 See 8 C.F.R. § 214.2(p)(4)(iii)(C)(3).
 See 8 C.F.R. § 214.2(p)(4)(iii)(C)(1).
 See 8 C.F.R. § 214.2(p)(4)(iii)(B).
 See 8 C.F.R. § 214.2(p)(4)(iv)(A).
 See 8 C.F.R. § 214.2(p)(4)(iv)(B).
 Donald Neufeld, Procedures for Applying the Period of Authorized Stay for p-1 Nonimmigrant Individual Athletes, USCIS Interoffice Memorandum (March 6, 2009) available at http://www.uscis.gov/sites/default/files/USCIS/Laws/Memoranda/Static_Files_Memoranda/2009/p-1-individual-athletes-period-of-stay.pdf
 Donald Neufeld, Procedures for Applying the Period of Authorized Stay for P-1S Nonimmigrant Individual Athletes’ Essential Support Personnel, USCIS Interoffice Memorandum (March 6, 2009) available at http://www.uscis.gov/sites/default/files/USCIS/Laws/Memoranda/Static_Files_Memoranda/2009/p-1s_14jul09.pdf