P-1 Visa - Internationally Recognized Athletes

The P-1 visa is designed for athletes who are required to temporarily enter the United States to compete as an athlete in specific competitions, either individually, or with a team. The athlete must be coming to the United States in order to compete at a internationally recognized level.


P-1 Visa Requirements for Individual Athletes

The athlete must exhibit a substantial level of achievement and recognition. In addition, the athlete must be internationally recognized for their ability and must be coming to the United States for a specified period of time in order to compete in an event or competition.

P-1 Visa Requirements for Athletic Teams

The athlete must be coming to the U.S. in order to participate in an internationally recognized competition with their team. The athlete must be internationally recognized for their ability in order to qualify for the visa.

P-1 Visa Application Process

The U.S. employer must file Form I-129 Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker. The employer must also submit the following required documentation:

  • Written consultation from a labor organization related to the field, which must include an explanation of the work or services that the athlete will perform in the United States and the athlete’s qualifications. If a labor organization does not exist for the field, then this requirement will be waived
  • A written contract from a major U.S. sports team or league stating the terms and conditions of employment
  • An explanation of the sports events that the athlete will compete in, including a schedule of events and itinerary

The U.S. employer must also provide at least two of the following:

  • Evidence showing that the athlete has competed in an international competition as part of a national team
  • Evidence that the athlete has previously participated in a sport with a major U.S. team
  • Evidence showing that the athlete has previously participated for a U.S. college in an intercollegiate competition
  • Evidence that the athlete or their team is ranked on an international scale
  • Evidence that the athlete or team has won a significant honor or award in their sport
  • A written testimonial from a recognized expert of the sport or sports media which describes how the athlete or their team is internationally recognized
  • A written testimonial from major U.S. sports team indicating how the athlete or their team is internationally recognized for their achievements in the sport. A recognized sports organization may also provide this information instead.

After the I-129 is approved, the athlete may apply for the visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate. While at the embassy or consulate, the athlete must provide:

  • A copy of their passport with a validity date of at least 6 months after the expiration of their visa
  • A 2x2 color photograph
  • A receipt showing that the processing fee has been paid

P-1 Visa Period of Stay

The P-1 visa for individual athletes is valid for a maximum of 5 years. P-1 visa renewals for individual athletes are limited to an additional 5 years. P-1 athletes may only remain in the United States for a total of 10 years. In order to obtain a P-1 extension, the athlete must show that additional time is needed in order to complete the sports event or competition mentioned in their initial P-1 visa application. 

The P-1 visa for athletic groups is valid for one year. The athletic group may renew their P-1 visas for increments of one year in order to complete the stated event or competition in the U.S.

P-1 Visas for Essential Support Personnel

Essential Support Personnel can apply for a P-1 visa if they can show that they are essential for the success of the sports team or athletes that they support. Essential support personnel must show that the services that they provide for the athlete or team cannot be provided by U.S. workers. Common essential sport personnel include coaches, trainers, referees, and other team experts.

Essential Support Personnel Period of Stay

Like P-1 athletic groups, essential support personnel may remain in the United States for a maximum of one year. The visa may renewed in increments not exceeding 5 years in order to complete the stated activity. Essential sports personnel may remain in the U.S. for a total of 10 years. All extensions of stay are made by filing Form I-129.

Essential Support Personnel Application Process

The petitioner must complete and submit separate Form I-129s for the support personnel. Form DS-160 may submitted instead. In addition, the following supporting documentation is required:

  • A consultation from a recognized labor organization with expertise in the field related to the sport in which they are involved
  • A written statement the support personnel’s qualifications and reasons why the support personnel is essential for the success for the team. The petitioner must also provide documentation regarding the support personnel’s experience with the athlete or team
  • A copy of a written contract describing the terms and conditions of employment must be included

Spouse & Children of P-1 Visa Holders

The spouse and children under 21 years of age of a P-1 visa holder may enter the United States under P-4 nonimmigrant status. The spouse and children of P-1 visa holders may not obtain employment while in the United States. That is, P-4 visa holders are unable to obtain employment authorization. 

Change of Employer

If there is a change of employer, the new employer must file a new I-129 to employ the athlete and extend their stay. The P-1A visa holder is not allowed to work for the new employer until the new I-129 is approved.

Written by:Mark Carmel