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Obtaining American Visas for Foreign Athletes

Foreign athletes looking to compete within the United States must meet specific requirements and provide extensive proof in order to obtain an American visa. With the help of expert San Diego Immigration lawyers at KAZMI & SAKATA, eligible athletes can successfully file a P-1 visa, granting foreign athletes the ability to compete legally within the United States.

Under the P-1 visa, qualified athletes are either individual competitors or are a part of a team that is internationally recognized. International recognition is defined as a high level of achievement, to the extent that the individual or team is renowned, well-known or the leading athlete in more than one country. Additionally, the degree of skill demonstrated is considered to be substantially above the level ordinarily encountered.

Once the athlete or athletic team qualifies for international recognition, they must be entering the states to participate in a specific U.S. competition, event or performance. These events can also include promotional appearances and are also applicable for entire sporting seasons. The athletic event itself or sporting season must have a distinguished reputation and require participation of other international athletes or teams, also holding international reputations.

Individuals who are an integral part of the performance of a qualified P-1 athlete or team are also eligible under the P-1 visa classification. These individuals perform specific support services and are considered essential support personnel. Their services cannot be performed by an average U.S. worker, typically comprised of coaches, trainers, scouts, team officials and referees.

With a P-1 visa, individual athletes may be admitted for the time needed to complete the event, competition or performance, not to exceed five years. One extension of up to five years is permitted, resulting in a total stay limited to ten years. For athletic groups, admittance is also granted for the time needed to complete the event, competition or performance, but is not to exceed one year. Extensions for these groups may be given in one year increments. Extended sport personnel follow the same guidelines as individual athletes.

To complete the application process for a P-1 visa, applicants must also file Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker. The petition must include specific supporting documents including a copy of the written contract with the U.S. sports league of the athlete or team, as well as evidence of the team’s ranking and international status.

Foreign athletes can visit our website at for more information about the additional paperwork needed to complete the application process or can contact us directly to address additional questions about the P-1 visa by call our office at 858-874-0711.

July 2024