How Do I Prove I Am an Internationally Recognized Athlete?

You’ve got the athletic skills to compete at an international level, but proving it to the U.S. government involves providing documentation and paperwork.

How Do I Prove I Am an Internationally Recognized Athlete?

The P-1 visa allows athletes who perform “at an internationally recognized level” to come to the United States for competitions.[1] With this visa, an individual or members of a team can come to the United States temporarily for participation in tournaments and other events against American athletes as well as other foreign competitors.

But what level of achievement qualifies as “international recognition,” and how should a P-1 visa applicant prove that he or she is an internationally recognized athlete?

If you are uncertain about what you should include or have questions regarding your application you should contact an immigration attorney for advice and assistance.

What is international recognition?

To accept an athlete as internationally recognized, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) requires that he or she demonstrate a high level of achievement with evidence of skill and recognition above that ordinarily encountered. His or her achievement must be “renowned, leading, or well-known in more than one country.”[2]

Although not always necessary, meeting this requirement usually entails some type of international ranking.

Other ways of garnering international recognition for a P visa include competing with a professional league, participating as a member of a college team, or competing in a major international tournament.

If you are an athlete who has competed professionally in the United States or at the international level, in many cases you have a strong chance of qualifying for a P-1 visa.

What do I need to prove?

An athlete’s application for a P-1 visa must be accompanied by evidence that the athlete has achieved international recognition for their talent.

In addition to documentation of the athlete’s plans to compete with a team or as an individual, he or she must provide evidence showing at least two of the following assertions are true.[3]

  • The applicant has competed in a prior season with a major U.S. sports league
  • The applicant has competed with a national team at the international level
  • The applicant has previously participated to a significant extent for a U.S. college or university in intercollegiate competition
  • The governing body of the sport accepts the individual or team as internationally recognized
  • A member of the sports media or an expert in the sport accepts the individual or team as internationally recognized
  • If there are international rankings in the sport, the individual or team is ranked
  • The individual or team has received a significant honor or award in the sport

What can I include with my application as proof of international recognition?

Contracts, official communications, newspaper excerpts, and other documentation can all satisfy these requirements.

Providing a copy of a contract that shows the athlete had plans to participate in one of these competitions will likely be accepted as evidence but it would be wise to include other evidence showing he or she actually participated in the event.

An applicant may use previous communications he or she had with officials prior to or following your participation in the competition. An applicant can also contact officials from the sport’s governing body to request a statement acknowledging his or her level of recognition.

Clippings or printouts from legitimate news sources detailing an athlete’s achievements can be used as evidence of media recognition. These would be strongest as evidence if they describe the athlete’s performance in relation to other international competitors at a specific international or professional competition.

Other correspondence and credible documentation may be accepted as evidence so long as they are legitimate and demonstrate one of the required attributes. Generally, many types of documents will be accepted to demonstrate an applicant’s international recognition.

Applying for a P-1 visa

To bring an athlete to the United States with a P-1 visa, his or her employer must file Form I-129 and include appropriate evidence supporting the application.

Unique to the P-1A visa, requirements include proving that the applicant is an internationally recognized athlete. International recognition can include international rankings, professional team membership, national team membership, and participation in major international competitions.

There are numerous types of documents that can be used to show an athlete meets these requirements. Supporting evidence can include contracts, communications, news reports, awards, and several other documents which show an applicant enjoys a significant level of international recognition.

As with all other applications for admittance to the United States, your interests would be best served by contacting an immigration attorney to help you through the process.

An immigration lawyer can ensure that you provide all the required information and appropriate evidence presented effectively with your application so that you obtain your visa without delays and hassles that often result from small mistakes that could be made by someone with limited familiarity and experience.

By providing appropriate documentation to show your accomplishments and recognition at the international level, you will be well on your way to coming to the United States as an athlete with a P-1 visa.


[1] 8 U.S.C § 1184(c)(4)(a).

[2] 8 C.F.R. § 214.2(p)(3).

[3] 8 C.F.R. § 214.2(p)(4)(ii)(B).

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