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Can an eSports Athlete Apply for P-1 Visas?

The international eSports industry is breaking the paradigm of the traditional sports structure. In fact, recent years have found that that athletes from around the world are traveling to the United States in the hundreds of thousands to participate in eSports competitions. This is largely a result of a 2013 decision where USCIS approved its first P-1 visa, giving an international eSports athlete the opportunity to participate in a U.S. eSports competition. Not only did this decision open the doors for global eSports athletes to compete in U.S. competitions, but it also broadened the United States’s impact in the eSports estimated $900 million market.

As a result, eSports athletes wanting to take their talents to a U.S. competition can get a visa through the P-1A, O-1A, an EB-1A green card.  This article will address the P-1A option.  Stay tuned for tomorrow’s posting on the O-1A and EB-1A route. 

Differences Between the P-1A visa and O-1A visa

Although both the P-1A visa and the O-1A visa allow eSports Athletes participate in major U.S. competitions, the P-1A visa is much more limiting than the O-1A visa.  The P-1A visa is only valid for the time needed to complete a specific event, while the O-1A visa is valid for 3-years and is continuously renewable. The O-1A visa, on the other hand, requires the applicant to overcome more hurdles than the P-1A visa. Where the applicant is applying for a visa for an event by event basis, the P-1A visa is likely the better option.  Besides, if the P-1A applicant needs an extension, they may be granted in 1-year increments.

How Do Gamers Fulfill the P-1A Category?

The P-1A category visa is designated for internationally recognized athletes and teams coming to the U.S. to participate in a specific athletic competition. Although the P-1A visa requires a high level of achievement, it does not require you to be the David Beckham of gaming to qualify.  You need only to prove that your degree of skill and recognition is substantially above that ordinarily encountered. Showing that the achievement is renowned, leading or well known in more than one country is sufficient to fulfill this criterion.

It is essential for the applicant to understand that USCIS will evaluate each petition on its merits. Accordingly,  previous petition approvals will not necessarily guarantee future petition approvals, nor will denials necessarily warrant subsequent denials.

How to Prepare for Your P-1 Visa?

While your attorney will file your actual petition, getting your case prepared to submit requires your full cooperation. It is essential that an eSports gamer applying for a P-1A visa prepare biographical documents such as birth certificate, passport, and previous visas.  Evidence you should consider collecting includes:

  • Proof of your gaming achievements in other competitions abroad. If you are applying as an individual and not as part of an eSports team, you must know that your skill is above your peers. This evidence should be able to show that you are internationally ranked, or you have received significant awards.
  • Proof that you are entering the U.S. to perform in an athletic event of distinction
  • Evidence of your history in eSports competitions such as pay statements, signed letters, official records or press coverage.
  • A list of organizations governing eSports leagues. These persons should be able to attest to how essential your work has been to their success. Be sure to hold off on drafting any letters or asking these individuals for a letter before meeting with your consulting attorney, as they may have a specific and approach to this criteria.

What Are My Next Steps?

Although public opinion is changing on immigration, it is essential to understand that the eSports Gamer profession is relatively new. Consequently, no hard and fast rule will guarantee a visa.  As a result, it is vital that you submit your very best case. Hiring an experienced immigration attorney who has secured P-1A visas for gamers is crucial in giving yourself the best shot in obtaining your visa.  D’Alessio Law Group is a leader in helping eSports athletes take their work and careers to new heights in the U.S so feel free to set up a consultation with us at 310-909-3934. Be sure to check out our other profession based articles such as, “How Do I Get A Chef Visa.”

Disclaimer: The information included in this blog posts is for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice.  You should contact your attorney to obtain advice concerning any particular issue or problem. Use and access to this blog or any of the links contained do not create an attorney-client relationship between D’Alessio Law Group and the use user or browser.  The opinions expressed at or through this post are the opinions of the individual author and may not reflect the opinions of the firm or any individual attorney.


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