Just like anyone else who intends to come to the United States to work, athletes must have the appropriate visa or green card in order to perform their sport. There are a number of different options available, and you may want to consult with an attorney to determine what is the right visa for you.
O-1 visas are available for those individuals who demonstrate extraordinary ability in their field. To obtain an O-1 visa, an athlete must demonstrate that they have a “level of expertise indicating that they are one of the small percentage who has risen to the top of their field of endeavor.”
Athletes who cannot meet the high standards of an O-1 visa may qualify for a P-1 visa. In order to qualify for a P-1 visa, an athlete must demonstrate that they are internationally recognized and are coming to the United States to participate in a league or event with a distinguished reputation. Athletes who will be working with a league such as the MLB or the NFL must only establish that they have a contract with that league.
An H-2B visa is available for athletes who cannot meet the higher standards of an O-1 or P-1 visa. With an H-2B visa, you may be allowed in the United States temporarily if the sponsoring team gets a labor certification from the Department of Labor. Athletes who play under a minor league contract are typically issued an H-2B visa for the duration of the season.
B-1 visas are available for professional athletes such as golfers and auto racers, whose only compensation will be potential prize money from a tournament or competition. They are considered business visitors.
B-2 visas are available for amateur athletes or groups of athletes who will be competing in an athletic event for which they will not receive payment other than incidental expenses. They are considered visitors for pleasure.
If you are an athlete and want to explore your immigration options, you should contact an experienced immigration attorney to evaluate your case. At Serving Immigrants, Inc., we have the experience and the knowledge to guide you through the application process. Contact us online or call us at (305) 907-6151 to schedule a strategy session.