P Visas are designed to allow internationally recognized foreign athletes, sports teams, as well as entertainment and performance groups come to the U.S. on a temporary basis. This page was designed to give some general information on the P-visa and perhaps help foreign athletes and performers decide if they should contact an immigration attorney. The following topics are covered on this page:
- P visa basics
- P-visa eligibility
- Types of P visas
- Applying for a P visa
- Do I Need an Immigration Attorney?
It’s important to note that while certain legal concepts are discussed here, nothing on this page is intended as a substitute for speaking directly with an attorney. The American immigration system is vast and complex. A qualified immigration lawyer’s job is to help foreign nationals navigate the process as quickly and as effectively as possible. For more information, contact our office.
P Visa Basics
Every year, foreign athletes and performers come to the states for competitions, talent exhibitions and cultural events. Many of these folks will require P visas. Because of the temporary nature of P visas, the U.S. government issues more each year than permanent visas. As a result, wait times are typically shorter for P visas than other visas.
Depending on the type of event, whether athletic or cultural, and the foreign national’s role in that event, there are four different categories of P visas, which are described in more detail in the section below.
Athletes or performers granted a P1 Visa must be coming to the U.S. temporarily for the specific purpose of performing in a competition, event or performance. However, their visit can include a short vacation as well as promotional appearances and “incidental stopovers.”
The length of stay allowed by P visas varies according to the event, and can last an entire season, or the length of an official contract. Under some circumstances, multiple extensions are possible. For instance, certain individual athletes are able to extend their stay up to a maximum of 10 years.
However, because of the variation in athletic and performance events, and the visas issued, it is necessary to speak directly with an immigration attorney to get a better idea of the time that might be allotted in your specific situation.
P Visa Eligibility
In order to for foreign athletes to be eligible for P visas, they must either perform individually or as part of an “internationally recognized team.” The code of federal regulations defines international recognition as being tied to high achievement “substantially above that ordinarily encountered, to the extent that such an achievement is renowned, leading, or well known in more than one country.”1
In the case of foreign performers, the group must be outstanding in the discipline for a substantial period of time.
Persons eligible for a p-visa can include the following:
- Groups or teams with as few as 2 people
- Minor league athletes
- Certain amateur performers
- Folk Dancers
- Circus Performers
- Culturally unique groups or entertainers
- Essential support personnel
Types of P Visas
There are different types of P visas granted depending on whether the applicant is a performer, athlete or artist. These include:
P1 Visa – This visa is granted specifically to athletes and group entertainers. The P1 visa category is broken down into two subgroups — the P1A, which applies to athletes, and P1B, which applies to performers.
In the case of performers (P1B), the foreign national must usually have performed with the entertainment group for more than one year.
Also eligible for temporary admission to the U.S. under the P1 visa category are essential support personnel including: coaches, scouts, trainers, and team officials. In some cases, referees might even qualify.
P2 Visa – Intended for artists or entertainers who are part of a “reciprocal exchange program.” This means a program involving two organizations or companies — one from the U.S., one from another country — participating in an international exchange of artists, or entertainers.
P3 Visa – This status is granted to artists and entertainers involved in a “culturally unique” program. The program can be commercial or noncommercial, but must further the understanding or development of the art form. This could include many types of performances, from folk dancing, to Klezmer playing.
P4 Visa – This category applies to the dependants of foreign athletes and performers who have been granted P visas. The P4 is granted to spouses and unmarried children (under 21 years of age). The amount of time allotted by the P4 visa is the same as that allotted to the main P visa holder.
Applying for P Visas
The filing requirements when applying for P visas can differ slightly depending on the specific event involved. However, in most cases the process begins with a U.S. employer, or agent “sponsoring” the foreign national’s petition for a visa. This involves the U.S. citizen filing a Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker (Form I-129). This document is filed through US Citizenship and Immigration Services.
In the case of athletes applying for a P1 visa, the agent or employer must consult with an appropriate labor organization and describe the work to be performed in the U.S. Other supporting documentation required for an athlete’s P1 visa includes an explanation of the event, travel itinerary, evidence of significant participation in international competition, as well as a written statement from a member of the sports media detailing how the foreign applicant’s team is internationally recognized.
In the case of entertainers applying for a P1 visa, a labor consultation is also required. In addition, the applicant must submit evidence that the performance group has been internationally recognized for a sustained period.
P2 visas require a labor consultation as well as a copy of the reciprocal exchange agreement between the sponsoring U.S. organization and foreign organization.
In the case of all P visas, once the petition is approved, the performers or athletes will be able to apply at a U.S. embassy or consulate.
It’s important to remember that the application procedures described in this section don’t nearly cover every visa scenario. Because of the complexity of federal law, as well as immigration filing procedures, it’s always recommended that those applying for P visas consult with a qualified immigration lawyer.
What if I Change Teams Or Groups?
In the event that a P1 visa holder (whether P1A or P1B) changes employers, they might be able to continue staying in the U.S. under P1 visa status. However, the new employer will be required to file another Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker (Form I-129) and request permission from USCIS to continue employing the foreign national and extend their stay.
Do I Need an Immigration Attorney?
An athlete, artist or performer applying for a p-visa should hire an attorney. The federal immigration system is a vast bureaucracy and applying for a P1 visa or other visa, can be a dizzying experience marked by encounters with multiple federal agencies.
A good lawyer will help a client navigate the process and hopefully avoid filing errors that could be costly or time-consuming. It is important to keep in mind that simple filing errors can lead to a denial of application. If you have questions about your eligibility for a p-visa, or how to apply, contact our office to see how we can help.
If you need a different type of temporary visa, visit our temporary visa main page.