The U.S. Immigration Law recognizes the benefit of bringing foreign talent to the United States. By granting work visas and permanent residence status to foreign athletes, the country hopes to benefit from their athletic skills. There are a few options for foreign athletes who wish to work and/or live in the United States.
Business Visitor Visa for Prize Money Athletes
Professional athletes may use the B1 visa to participate in events in the U.S. and earn prize money. An athlete cannot engage in any employment using this visa and may not earn any wages aside from prize money earned at a competition or event.
P-1A Nonimmigrant Visa
This category applies to athletes coming to the U.S. temporarily to perform at a specific athletic competition as an individual or as part of a group or team, at an internationally recognized level of performance. This category requires an offer of employment.
Individual athlete must be coming to the United States to participate in an event, competition or performance in which you are internationally recognized with a high level of achievement. As part of a group or team, 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.
It’s important to note that an event can mean an entire sports season or multiple seasons. For example, a horse racing jockey can qualify for a 5-year visa under this category if he is participating in 5 consecutive seasons.
This visa allows a period of stay of up to 10 years total (in five year increments) for individual athletes, and up to one year for groups.
EB-1 Immigrant Visa
You may be eligible for this category if you can demonstrate extraordinary ability in your sport through sustained national or international acclaim. Your achievements must be recognized in your field through extensive documentation. This documentation can include evidence of prizes or awards for excellence, original contributions to the sport, membership in top level teams, published material about you, evidence that you have been asked to participate as a judge, evidence of your performance of a leading or critical role in distinguished organizations, or evidence that you command a high salary.
No offer of employment is required. This visa category gives you the ability to apply for permanent residence.Avvo Article