Top athletes and coaches in more than 50 different sports have sought legal advice from us to understand temporary work status, either O or P visas, and the green card process. We help them create a realistic plan to help them achieve their goals.
For O Visas, athletes must be able to demonstrate extraordinary ability in athletics and that they are among the few who have risen to the top of the sport (nationally or internationally) through sustained national or international acclaim. O petitions are good for three years and may be followed by an unlimited number of extensions. Extensive documentation must be provided as evidence showing that the athlete has either won an Olympic or major internationally recognized award in the sport or meets three of seven criteria:
- Receipt of nationally or internationally recognized prizes or awards as an athlete or a coach
- Membership in professional athletic associations which require outstanding achievements in order to become a member, as judged by recognized national or international athletic experts
- Published material in professional or major trade publications, newspapers or other major media about the beneficiary and his role as an athlete or coach
- Authorship of scholarly articles in professional athletic journals or major media
- A high salary or other remuneration for services evidenced by contracts or other reliable evidence
- Participation on a panel, or individually, as judge of the athletic talent of other elite athletes
- Employment in a critical or essential capacity for organizations and establishments that have a distinguished reputation.
The P-1 classification applies to athletes coming to the U.S. temporarily to perform at specific athletic competitions as an athlete (individually or part of a team) at an internationally recognized level of performance. An athlete may not sponsor himself for a P-1; it must be sponsored by a U.S. employer or agent. P-1 approvals are good for 2-5 years, and may be followed by a five year extension.
As a starting point for a P-1 Visa, the athlete must be able to demonstrate at least two of the following:
- Evidence of having participated to a significant extent in a prior season with a major United States sports league.
- Evidence of having participated to a significant extent in international competition with a national team.
- Evidence of having participated to a significant extent in a prior season for a U.S. college or university in intercollegiate competition.
- A written statement from an official of a major U.S. sports league or an official of the governing body of the sport which details how you or your team is internationally recognized.
- A written statement from a member of the sports media or a recognized expert in the sport which details how you or your team is internationally recognized.
- Evidence that you or your team is ranked, if the sport has international rankings.
- Evidence that you or your team has received a significant honor or award in the sport.
The Green Card (permanent residency in the United States) process for an athlete of extraordinary ability is very similar to the O-1 visa process, with three major differences:
- An O-1 athlete must be sponsored by an employer or agent, but for a green card, the athlete can sponsor himself;
- USCIS uses a more-rigorous standard to judge a green card petition than they do an O-1 petitions when judging whether an athlete is truly at the top of his sport, and truly has received “sustained national or international acclaim”; and
- The athlete must submit to a medical exam to prove that he/she has no contagious diseases and must go through an extensive background security check to prove that there are no prior arrests or convictions for a crime, and to prove that there is no terrorist activity.