P-1A Visa: For Professional Athletes… and Gamers?

P-1A visas for professional athletes now extend to professional gamers, too!
The arrival of spring means we are entering one of the most anticipated times in the sports season. We have the March Madness, NBA playoffs, and the start of the MLB season. This time of year has the immigration attorneys at the Law Office of Alison Yew thinking about U.S. sports visas for professional athletes, which are known as P-1A visas.

The P-1A classification is a type of non-immigrant/ temporary work visa for professional athletes to come to the U.S. to perform or compete at a specific athletic event. The athletes, performing individually or as part of a group or team, must be internationally recognized as having obtained a high level of achievement in their chosen sport.

But did you know that the P-1A visa isn’t just for athletes in sports that we traditionally think of, like basketball, soccer, or football? The definition of “professional athlete” has now been extended to cover professional video gamers!

In the last few years, these U.S. sports visas have been issued to professional video gamers who are coming to the country to participate in major gaming tournaments. Back in 2013, USCIS issued the first P-1A visa to a Canadian League of Legends player, Danny “Shiphtur” Le, to come join a North American team competing in the League of Legends World Championship (LCS). Le was one of the world’s top players of League of Legends, and the first eSports player to be granted the P-1A visa. By issuing the visa, the LCS was officially recognized as a professional sports league, just like the NBA, NFL, NHL, etc. This was later followed by the issuance of a U.S. sports visa to the first professional StarCraft II player, a player from South Korea.

The growth of e-sport gaming has definitely been increasing steadily, with certain U.S. gaming tournaments filling venues as large as the Staples Center in Los Angeles, where tens of thousands of spectators come to watch the championship in person. With all of these changes in technology and culture, it is no surprise that immigration law has been changing and expanding as well!

The demand for temporary work visas like the P-1A continues to grow, and the entire process remains as complex as ever. The San Jose immigration attorneys at the Law Office of Alison Yew have the expertise to help! Learn more about P-1A visas and the specific criteria to qualify for one. You can also contact us for a free case evaluation if you think you or someone you know might quality.