Athletes and entertainers who don’t qualify under the extraordinary ability used for the O-category are covered by the P-Visa. The P-1 category is specifically for:

  1. Alien athletes who compete as part of a team or individually at a level that is internationally recognized.
  2. Aliens who’re essential to the performance of an entertainment group that enjoys international recognition. The group must’ve been recognized as outstanding for a significant period of time. There is an important distinction between entertainers and athletes within this subcategory. Individual athletes can get admission into the United States as P-1 aliens. However, entertainers cannot. For single entertainers, the only grounds for a P-1 approval are entering the U.S. to join into a foreign-based entertainment group.


    Applying for the P Visa Classification

    The following is the steps required in the P Visa application process

  3. Form I-129 must be filed with the USCIS, which grants permission of employment for a P-alien. The permission is temporary. Employers have the option to file a P petition up to a year in advance of any scheduled performance, competition or event.
  4. A consultation requirement needs to be met before the approval of a petition. According to law, a labor organization that has expertise in the alien’s specific field must submit an advisory opinion. The petition has the power to establish the lack of existence of a labor organization.
  5. If multiple P-aliens are part of a team or group that seeks classification based on the reputation of the entire group, A P- petition can be filed for more than one P-alien.
  6. Support personnel that are essential cannot be added to the same petition as the principal group or P-alien.
  7. Once a petition has been approved, the substitution of aliens of permission inside of the P-category, but only for groups or teams. Substitution is not permissible for P-category support personnel or principal aliens.
  8. After the petition has been approved, the foreign national needs to bring the approval notice to the United States Consulate and apply for the P-visa.

    Duration of Stay

    The P visa classification has duration parameters which are as follows:

    • Excluding individual P-1 athletes, the duration of stay provided for P nonimmigrants is equal to the time needed for specific performances, events or competitions and cannot exceed one year.
    • The initial duration of stay for individual P-1 athletes is usually five years. The maximum length of stay for individual P-1 athletes is 10 years.
    • For a team or P-1 athlete, the event might last for the duration of the alien’s contract when the contract duration is longer than the season.
    • For a P-2 petition, the event might be the duration of reciprocal exchange agreement.
    • After the initial stay, an extension for P-1 individual athletes cannot be given for five years, for a period of stay that doesn’t exceed 10 years.
    • For all other P nonimmigrants, duration of stay extensions can be granted in increments that don’t exceed one year. Extensions allow for the completion of the initial activity or event that approval was given for.
    • Extensions might also be granted for the completion of comparable or similar competitions, engagements or performances that weren’t listed inside of the first petition.

    Positions That Require the Services of a P-1 Classification

    P-1 aliens seeking classification as athletes must be entering the United States to perform services inside of an event or competition that requires an internationally recognized athlete. The members of an athletic team or entertainment group must be entering the United States to perform at a competition, performance or event that requires an internationally recognized athletic team or entertainment group.

    P-1 Athletes and Athletic Teams

    For athletic teams and athletes, USCIS rules say a petition must be submitted with evidence that proves the team is internationally recognized in the sport. Any petitions for athletes who’ll compete individually must be submitted with evidence that shows the athlete has obtained international recognition for the sport based on reputation. The international recognition requirements means an athlete has achieved a high level in a particular sport, which is evidenced by a level of recognition and skill that isn’t ordinarily encountered. In other words, the athlete’s achievements must be leading, renowned or very well-known in multiple countries.

    Evidence of international recognition can include:

    • A tendered contract from major sports teams or leagues in the United States. If contracts aren’t regularly executed for the sport, then this form of evidence won’t be needed.
    • Documentation of two or more of the following:
    • Prior participation with a major sports league in the United States.
    • Prior participation with a national team or international competition.
    • Prior participation in an intercollegiate competition for a U.S. college.
    • Statement from an authority figure who is part of a major United States sports league.
    • Statement from a recognized expert in the sport, which shows that the team or alien is internationally recognized.
    • International rankings for the team or individual.
    • Substantial awards or honors given to the team or individual. According to current USCIS policy, players contracted with the National Hockey League or Major League Baseball must only submit contracts to establish P-1 credentials.

    Entertainment Groups

    For entertainment groups, P-1 classification can be given to groups that perform as a single unit that is based on the international reputation of the group. There are some exceptions, and there are two principal requirements that entertainment groups must meet:

    • The group needs to be recognized internationally as being outstanding in their sport for a sustained period of time.
    • At least 75 percent of the group’s members must’ve had a sustained relationship with the group for one year or longer and provided services that are integral to the performance of the whole group.

    (1) One-year membership required

    The one-year standard states that evidence is needed to prove that 75 percent of the entertainment group and accompanying personnel have been providing integral services or performing regularly with the group for one year. Any intermittent employment doesn’t count towards the one-year requirement. There are a few exceptions to the one-year requirement:
    a. It’s possible for the requirement to be waived for exigent circumstances or illness that affects group members.
    b. The one-year requirement doesn’t apply to integral circus support personnel and circus performers. Final rules state that 75 percent of an entertainment group must’ve been performing under the same group name for the one-year period. The group also doesn’t need to be internationally recognized during the one-year period.

    (2) International Recognition Requirement

    To become eligible for P-1 status, an entertainment group must’ve been recognized internationally in their sport for a significant period of time. The USCIS rules say international recognition can be established through:

    • Receipt or nomination given to the group that represents substantial international prizes or awards, which are awarded for extraordinary accomplishments in the field.
    • By three of the below types of documentation that show the team has:
    • Achieved international recognition for outstanding performance in the field, which is evidenced by published material, magazines, trade journals or newspapers.
    • Performed as a leading entertainment group in events that show outstanding performance in the group’s field, evidenced by testimonials, trade journals and newspapers.
    • Performed or plans to perform for establishments or organizations that have a strong reputation in the field.
    • A record of critically acclaimed or commercial successes in the field, evidenced by box office receipts, video sales, ratings or other achievements.
    • Obtained substantial recognition from organizations, government agencies or critics in the field.
    • Commands a large salary for services that are comparable to other individuals recognized in the field.

    (3) Exceptions for the international recognition requirement

    The international recognition standard for an entertainment group might be waived by the USCIS. The USCIS can waive the requirement if there is not enough access to media or significant geography challenges. For example, circus groups are example from the requirement. Circus groups are also exempt from the one-year requirement. In situations when international requirements are waived, only national recognition must be met.

    (4) P-1 Circus Personnel

    Alien circus personnel are exempt from the international recognition and one-year standard. In these situations, the petitioner is only required to prove that the aliens are entering the United States to join a nationally recognized circus.

    (5) Additional notes for new groups, young artists and solo entertainers

    According to the USCIS, P-1 petitions cannot be given to individual foreign entertainers. The only exception for these individuals is if they’re entering the United States to join an entertainment group, such as an alien orchestra. An example would be an individual entering the country to join an orchestra that is on tour in the country.

    Essential P-1 Support Personnel

    According to the USCIS, an essential support alien is an individual who is highly skilled and serves as a very important part of the performance of a P-1 alien or group. This individual must be capable of providing services that cannot be performed by a U.S. worker. The services must be crucial to a successful performance by the P-1 alien group. These aliens must also have sufficient qualifications and critical knowledge needed to perform the services integral to a successful performance. The petition must be submitted with a statement that describes the alien’s prior experience and skills that are critical to the group’s performance.

    P-2 Category

    The P-2 category is what covers entertainers and artists, consisting of groups or individuals, who wish to be admitted through the use of a reciprocal exchange program between U.S. and foreign-based organizations, which handle the temporary exchanging of entertainers and artists. In terms of caliber, the entertainers and artists that are to be exchanged must be similar. The conditions and terms of employment must also be similar. The number of entertainers or artists involved in the exchange must also be similar. The petition for a P-2 classification must be submitted with:

    • A copy of the exchange agreement between the U.S. and foreign organizations involved with sponsoring the aliens and facilitating the exchange.
    • A statement directly from the sponsoring U.S. organization that describes the reciprocal exchange of entertainers or artists.
    • Evidence showing a suitable U.S. organization was involved in the negotiation process.
    • Evidence that shows the artists and entertainers involved in the exchange have comparable skills and fair conditions and terms have been negotiated.

    Essential Support Personnel

    The definition that describes essential support personnel for the P-1 category is the same for the P-2 category.

    The P-3 Category

    The P-3 category covers entertainers and artists, including groups, who plan to perform for a program that is culturally unique. The USCIS states that performers need to be part of a culturally unique program. The entertainer or artist must be entering the United States with a plan to further his or her development or understanding of a specific art form and be primarily sponsored by governmental, cultural or educational organizations, and these organizations must be known for promoting international exchanges and cultural activities. Petitioners are required to submit evidence that proves the performance is culturally unique. The sponsoring organization or U.S. employer must submit the application for the intending non-immigrant worker with the Form I-129, and the application must have these accompanying documents:

    1. A valid copy of the written contract that was created between the entertainer or artist and agent, or a summary of the oral agreement.
    2. A valid copy of the itinerary or description of the cultural event. If there are multiple performances, than the locations and dates of all performances must be listed.
    3. Letters, testimonials or affidavits that are from recognized experts. These documents must show that the experts can attest to the authenticity of the group or alien’s ability to teach, coach, present or perform the intended art form. The credentials of the experts must also be listed, which includes the expert’s knowledge of the group or alien’s specific skills.
    4. Copies of the reviews present in journals, newspapers or other published works that show the culturally uniqueness of the group’s performance.
    5. Any additional documentation that shows the cultural uniqueness of the presentation or performance.
    6. Written consultation gathered from a relevant professional labor organization.

    Agents who’re representing several employers need to show that they’re authorized to act as agents for the petitioner.

    The P-4 Category

    P-4 status can be applied for by a spouse and unmarried children who’re under 21. P-4 visa holders aren’t allowed to seek employment but can attend college or school. The essential support personnel for the entertainer or artist can apply for P-3 visas. The Form I-129 must be filled out and submitted with:

    1. Written consultation from a relevant professional labor organization.
    2. A written statement that serves as documentation for the support person’s experience and essential skills as they relate to the P-3 entertainer or artist’s events.
    3. A valid copy of the written agreement between the support person and employer, or a summary of the oral agreement, which must describe the terms and conditions of the agreement.

    Positions That Require Services of P-1 Aliens

    If a P-1 alien wishes to be classified as an athlete in an individual capacity, he or she must be entering the United States to give services in an event or competition that requires internationally recognized athletes. The members of an athletic team or entertainment group must be entering the United States to provide services at an event, competition or performance that requires an internationally recognized athletic team or entertainment group.

    Special Conditions

    There are three required steps for an alien trying to obtain P-status:

    • Get an advisory opinion from a professional labor organization or submit sufficient evidence proving that there is no such organization.
    • Obtain USCIS approval of a P-petition that is supported by the advisory opinion.
    • Issuance of a P-visa that is based on the approved petition by the United States consulate.
    • IMPORTANT: It’s important to keep in mind that freelancing is not permitted.
    • P-classifications are only allowed to provide services for specific identified engagements, competitions, performances or events.
    • The P-status cannot be given to aliens who plan to enter the United States and freelance within the open market.
    • The group or alien will be admitted for no more than the duration of the engagement, competition, performance or event that is listed on the petition. Extensions are only approved for the completion of the event.

    Filing by U.S. agents and foreign employers

    A foreign employer has the ability to file a petition through a U.S. agent. The USCIS permits U.S. agents to file petitions for cases that involve workers who’re usually self-employed or normally hire agents for short-term employment.

    Filing Permanent Residence Papers

    According to the USCIS, an alien can legitimately enter the United States as a P-nonimmigrant for a temporary period of time. At the same time, the alien can try to become a permanent resident. In these situations, P-petitioners need to set forth a temporary, legitimate need for the alien’s services within the U.S, which must be combined with an explanation of the alien’s intent to return to his or her home country to await the issuance of a valid immigrant visa before returning to the United States.

    Employer Obligation to Pay for Return Abroad

    The 1990 Act says that employers must pay for the return trip of P-employees if their employment is terminated before the duration of stay has expired.

    Family Members of P Aliens

    The unmarried children under 21 and spouse of the principal alien are classified using the P-4 category. Family members cannot take part in employment within the United States unless they’ve been independently qualified to do so.

    Expedited Processing

    The USCIS permits expedited processing. A fee of $1,000.00 must be made payable to the Department of Homeland Security. For the fee, the USCIS offers expedited processing of cases, and it is called premium processing. The premium processing of cases guarantees action will be taken on the case within 15 days of filing. However, the fee doesn’t guarantee what type of action will be taken on the case; it only guarantees that some sort of action will be taken. The action could be approval or denial, or it might even be a request for more evidence, depending on the unique situation.

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