Athletic competitions and events occur all over the world, and when they are held in the United States, foreign athletes must obtain P-1A visa classification prior to entering the country via Pennsylvania or another state. The athletes may be performing as individuals or with teams or groups at internationally-recognized performance levels. As with other types of visa classifications, the athletes have to meet certain criteria and complete the application process.
Individual athletes and sports teams have to be traveling to the United States to participate in competitions, events or performances for which they are recognized around the world and have earned a high degree of achievement. Individuals must exhibit a level of recognition and skill that is much higher than ordinary or is well known in other countries. Teams must be participating in internationally-recognized events and be distinguished in the sports in which they participate.
The application process starts with the U.S. employer or promoter filing Form I-129 along with supporting documents and applicable fees. They also have to submit a consultation from the proper labor organizations, describing the services or work that the athletes will perform along with their qualifications. The consultation requirement is waived if there are no appropriate labor organizations.
Following the approval of the petitions, the athletes should submit nonimmigrant visa applications to the U.S. consulate or embassy. The initial length of approved stay for individual athletes is up to five years, and for teams it is up to one year. These periods may be increased to a total of 10 years for individuals and in increments of up to one year for teams as long as they continue to compete.
Individual athletes or teams who have trouble understanding the requirements to obtain P-1A status could seek guidance from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. If they believe they are wrongly denied the classification, they make ask immigration lawyers to help them dispute the decision.