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How international athletes enter the U.S.

From boxing and mixed martial arts to soccer and hockey, there's no question that many, if not all, of the sporting events that people across the nation love to watch on television, follow over the internet or attend in person have a decidedly international presence, meaning many of the competitors hail from other countries.

While most people are already well aware of this and/or have likely given the matter little thought, it does raise interesting questions about how it is that individuals, like a foreign fighter coming to Miami for a title bout, or a group of individuals, like one of the NHL's seven Canadian clubs coming to play the Florida Panthers, can enter the U.S.

In general, an athlete or group of athletes coming to the U.S. to compete in a specific competition will fall under what is known as the P-1 visa classification.

As far as individual athletes are concerned, the following elements must be satisfied in order for them to be considered eligible for a P-1A visa:

  • He or she must be coming to the U.S. for the purpose of participating in an individual event, performance or competition in which they have gained international recognition for a high level of achievement.
  • This high level of achievement resulting in international recognition is demonstrated by "a degree of skill and recognition substantially above that ordinarily encountered so that the achievement is renowned, leading or well known" in various nations.

As far as athletes who are part of a team are concerned, the following elements must be satisfied in order for them to be considered eligible for a P-1A visa:

  • He or she must be coming to the U.S. for the purpose of participating in a team event in which they have gained international recognition in the sport in question.
  • The event in question is distinguished and requires the participation of athletic teams that have gained international recognition.

We'll continue this discussion in a future post, examining the application process and the supporting documents that must be submitted to secure a P-1A visa.

If you have questions or concerns relating to the ability of an athlete, artist, model or entertainer to enter the U.S., please consider speaking with a skilled legal professional who can handle all matters, including any legal challenges that arise.

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