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Securing a visa for athletic competition

We often write about visas available to individuals who can contribute to business in the United States. These individuals are not the only ones who want to come to the U.S. as part of their jobs however. There are many people who have different types of careers who can benefit from being here as well, such as athletes.

Depending on the sport in which one participates there may be a need for an athlete to leave his or her home country to come to the U.S. to compete. Some athletes may be able to secure a P-1A visa that makes it possible for them to remain in the U.S. temporarily while he or she participates in an athletic competition.

There are of course certain requirements that must be met before an athlete can get the visa. The criteria depends on whether the athlete competes as an individual or part of a team.

When some is on a team, the competition prompting the visit must require the participation of teams that are recognized internationally and are distinguished. The team itself must also have a certain level of international recognition. The initial period of stay they may seek is up to one year. Extensions in increments of a year may also be sought if more time is necessary to complete the competition.

Athletes who compete as individuals must possess a degree of recognition and skill that is considered to be substantially above others. The athlete must also be internationally recognized. They may be able to secure an initial period of stay of five years with an extension of up to 10 years total.

To secure the visa Form I-129 must be completed and accompanied by supporting documents and the designated fee. Supporting documents might include an itinerary, an explanation of the event, a copy of a contract with a major sports team or league, a written consultation from a labor organization as well as two pieces of documentation that support the level of play the individual or team is involved in.

As is the case in most immigration matters there could be multiple pitfalls in seeking to obtain the P-1A visa. For this reason in most cases it is advisable to consult an immigration lawyer.

Source: USCIS, “P-1A Internationally Recognized Athlete,” Accessed Oct. 24, 2014

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