Under the P-1 visa, you can visit the United States to perform at a specific athletic competition or arts performance. If you are an internationally-recognized athlete or artist, or if you are participating in an internationally-recognized event in the United States, then you may be able to visit the United States with a P-1 visa.
There are two main visas under the P-1 visa category, including:
- P-1A Visa: For internationally-recognized athletes and sports teams.
- P-1B Visa: For internationally-recognized entertainment groups
There are two different sets of requirements for each category. If you qualify as an internationally-recognized athlete or artist, then you may qualify for the P-1A or P-1B visa.
P-1 Visa Requirements
P-1 visa requirements vary depending on whether you’re an individual or part of a group.
P-1 Visa Requirements for Individual Athletes
If you’re an individual, internationally-recognized athlete, then you may qualify for the P-1 visa if you are coming to the United States to participate in an individual event, competition, or performance in which you are internationally recognized for attaining a high level of achievement. If you have a particularly high level of skill or recognition in a specific event, and if you are well-known for that skill in more than one country, then you may qualify for the P-1A visa as an individual athlete.
P-1 Visa Requirement for Athletic Teams
If you are coming to the United States to participate in a team event, then your team must have achieved significant international recognition in your chosen sport. Additionally, the event in which your team is participating must be a distinguished event that requires the participation of athletic teams of international recognition. If you are part of an internationally-recognized team participating in a distinguished event, then you and your team may qualify for P-1A visas.
P-1 Visa Requirements for Entertainers
The P-1B visa is given to internationally-recognized entertainers visiting the United States as part of a group. If you are not part of a group, then you are not eligible for a P-1B visa. This visa is specifically designed for entertainment groups.
To qualify for a P-1A visa as an entertainment group, your group must be internationally-recognized as having a high level of achievement in a field evidenced by a degree of skill and recognition “substantially above that ordinarily encountered”, as defined by USCIS.
Additionally, at least 75% of the members of your group must have had a “substantial and sustained relationship with the group” for at least one year. Finally, the international recognition must be for your group as a whole – not just one single member of that group.
Not all entertainment groups need to meet the “internationally recognized” provision. If you are a circus performer or essential circus personnel, for example, then you are not required to have international recognition, nor are you required to have been with the group for at least one year. You are exempt from both of these requirements.
Certain entertainment groups can also have the “international recognition” requirement waived if they are particularly recognized within their home country. If you are nationally recognized, for example, but have not achieved international recognition, then you may still qualify for a P-1 visa.
How to Apply for a P-1 Visa
Applying for a P-1 visa requires your U.S. employer to petition the USCIS. Then, you will need to visit a U.S. embassy or consulate to complete the application.
Step 1) Receive a Job Offer in the United States
You must receive an invitation to participate in an event in the United States or perform at an event in the United States. If you are not being paid to perform or participate in the event, then you may not need a P-1 visa. If you are receiving compensation, however, then you may need a P-1A or P-1B visa.
Step 2) Wait for your Employer to File a Petition
Your U.S. employer must file a petition for Form I-129, Petition for a Non-Immigrant Worker. The employer will also need to pay various fees and attach supporting documentation verifying the individual or group’s international recognition. Common requirements for this petition include:
- Written consultation from an appropriate labor organization regarding the nature of the work to be done (although this requirement can be excused)
- A statement proving the group has been established and performing regularly for at least one year
- Itinerary with the dates and locations of the athletic or artistic performances
- Copy of the work contract
- Statement listing each member of the group and the exact dates each member began employment with the group
- Evidence that the group is internationally recognized as “outstanding in the discipline for a sustained and substantial period of time”; this evidence can include any of the following:
- Evidence that your group has performed and will perform as a starring or leading entertainment group in a significant production as evidenced by critical reviews, advertisements, publicity releases, endorsements, etc.
- Evidence that your group has achieved international recognition, awards, and acclaim from awards organizations, critics, and other entities
- Evidence that your group has a record of major commercial or athletic success
- Evidence of having participated to a significant extent in a prior season with a major United States sports league, a national team, or a college or university team
- Evidence that the team or individual is ranked, if international rankings are available
- Evidence that you or your team has achieved significant recognition in the sport
- Proof that your group is commanding an exceptional salary or receiving an exceptional payment for their services in the United States
After the U.S sponsors or employers hand in the petition to USCIS, it will take 2 to 8 weeks for it to process. If the petition is approved, USCIS will notify the U.S sponsors and the athletes or entertainers by sending in Form I-797, Notice of Action. Only after they have sent the approval, can the athletes or entertainers start their visa application at a U.S Embassy where they live.
Step 3) File Form DS-160
Once your employer has filed the petition for form I-129, you can proceed with the rest of the P-1 visa application process. You’ll start the application process at the website of your local U.S. embassy or consulate. Look for form DS-160, which is available online in your local language. Complete the form accurately and then submit it. You’ll receive a submission confirmation page upon completion.
Step 4) Pay the Application Fee
The standard fee for a P-1 visa application is $190. There are other fees involved, although these fees must be paid by your U.S. employer. Once you have paid the application fee, save the receipts and move onto the next step.
Step 5) Schedule your Visa Interview
All applicants for the P-1 visa between ages 14 and 79 are required to have an in-person interview with a nearby U.S. embassy or consulate. Schedule your interview in your country of residence, then save your visa interview confirmation letter.
Step 6) Prepare your Documents
While you wait for your interview date, prepare your documents for the interview. Your employer should have already submitted many of your supporting documents, including evidence of your international recognition and achievements. However, you may need to bring copies of this information to your interview with you.
Additionally, you will need to bring a valid U.S. passport, a valid U.S. visa photo, and other documents with you to your P-1 visa interview.
Step 7) Complete the Interview
The interview will take place at the U.S. embassy or consulate of your choice. The consular officer is simply trying to verify the information on your application to ensure you’re visiting the United States for a legitimate purpose. Answer truthfully. The interview can last anywhere from 60 seconds to 60 minutes.
How Long Does It Take to Process a P-1 Visa?
The P-1 visa takes as long as 3 to 6 months to process. However, employers who pay the expended premium process fee of $1,225 may have a P-1 visa processed in as little as 2-3 weeks.
You are able to work for multiple employers under a P-1 visa. However, each employer is required to file a separate petition to USCIS.
How Long Does My P-1 Visa Last?
Your P-1 visa expiry date varies depending on whether you’re an athlete or entertainer.
Individual Athlete: As an individual athlete, your P-1 visa will be granted for a maximum of 5 years, after which you can extend your visa for another 5 years for a total of 10 years. After this maximum 10 year period is over, you must return to your home country.
Team Athletes: Team athletes will receive a maximum of a 1 year visa, although thisw visa can be extended annually in one-year increments.
Entertainment Groups: Entertainment groups will receive a maximum of a 1 year P-1 visa, although extensions are available annually in one-year increments.
Can I Change My Status or Get a Green Card with a P-1?
The P-1 visa is a non-immigrant visa that allows you to enter the United States short-term for athletic and entertainment events. It is not designed to be a path to immigration.
The P-1 visa is also not a dual status visa, which means you will need to declare your intent to return home upon conclusion of your visa.
The only feasible way to change your status or get a green card from a P-1 visa is by marrying a U.S. citizen or by getting a family or employer-based petition.
Alternatively, athletes and entertainers with extraordinary abilities may be able to apply for an EB-1 or EB-2 immigrant visa, although this may require returning to your home country.
Can I Bring Dependents to the United States With Me?
Anyone eligible for a P-1 visa is also allowed to bring dependents with them to the United States. To qualify as a dependent of a P-1 visa holder, you must be in one of the following two categories:
- Spouse of a P-1 visa holder
- Unmarried child under 21 of a P-1 visa holder
If you meet either of these requirements, then you may qualify for a P-4 visa. The P-4 visa allows you to visit the United States and study, but it does not allow you to work in the United States.
By following the guide above, you can ensure your P-1 visa application process for athletes and entertainment groups goes smoothly.