A P-1 visa is a type of temporary nonimmigrant visa that enables foreign-born nationals to enter into the United States solely for the purposes of performing in a specific athletic or entertainment competition and/or event. 

Within the P-1 visa category, there are two separate classifications: a P-1A visa and a P1-B visa. The difference between the two is that a P-1A visa is generally reserved for international athletes, whereas a P-1B visa may be issued to a member of a foreign entertainment group. 

Accordingly, you may be eligible to apply for a P-1A visa if you are:

  • An individual athlete who is recognized throughout the world for your athletic abilities in a particular sport; 
  • A professional athlete with an established reputation throughout the world;
  • An amateur or professional athlete who is touring or starring in an ice skating production as either part of an ice skating team or in an individual capacity;
  • Part of an athletic group or team that has achieved international recognition in a certain sport; 
  • An amateur athlete or coach who is part of a team that is located in the United States and also a member of a foreign sports league or association; and/or
  • An essential member of a renowned athlete’s support team (e.g., trainer, agent, scout, referee, etc.). 

On the other hand, you may be eligible to apply for a P-1B visa if you are:

  • Staying in the United States for the purposes of temporarily performing as a member of an entertainment group that:

    • Has already been established for a minimum of one full year, 
    • Has a 75% membership rate of group members who have been affiliated with the group for at least one full year; and is
    • Internationally recognized as outstanding within their entertainment discipline.
  • Alternatively, you may also qualify for a P-1B visa if you are a foreign-born circus performer or essential circus personnel that is either individually well-known or is joining a nationally recognized circus organization. 

It is important to note that there are many different categories of P visas, meaning that there are P visas available for more than just athletes and members of a globally recognized entertainment group. Some other types of individuals or groups who may qualify for a P visa include: 

  • Applicants who are eligible for a P-2 visa, such as performers, actors, artists, entertainers, or musicians who are performing temporarily as part of a group or as an individual under a cultural exchange program;
  • Applicants who are eligible for a P-3 visa, such as artists or entertainers who are temporarily performing, coaching, teaching, interpreting, developing, or representing as either a group or an individual under a culturally unique program; and
  • Applicants who are eligible for a P-4 visa, such as the spouse of any of the parties listed above or a dependent child of such parties. 

For the purposes of this article, however, we will only be discussing P-1 visas for internationally based athletes or members of a group. Thus, the term P-1 in this instance, will mostly refer to those who hold either a P-1A or a P-1B visa. All other types of P visas are classified accordingly (e.g., P2, P3, P4, etc.). 

Aside from being able to compete or perform in certain events or competitions, a P-1 visa may also provide a number of other important benefits to its holder, such as:

  • The holder of a P-1 visa will be allowed to perform for prize money and/or payment;
  • A P-1 visa holder is allowed to travel freely throughout the United States as well as abroad, so long as the P-1 visa is not expired;
  • The holder of a P-1 visa will be eligible to apply for a green card or lawful permanent resident status; 
  • A P-1 visa holder will be allowed to participate in some part-time study programs; and
  • Depending on the type of P-1 visa, it can remain valid for a period of up to five years and may be extended for a maximum of no longer than ten years (i.e., only for those who have a P-1A visa). This means that the holder will be allowed to stay in the United States for the authorized extent of time between those ranges. 
    • In contrast, P-1B visa holders can only remain in the United States for as long as the event or competition takes and is not to exceed a period of one full year. Additionally, visa extensions will only be allowed in one-year increments.

To learn more about P-1 visas or to find out whether you qualify for one of the eligibility categories required to apply for a P-1 visa, you should speak to a local immigration attorney for further legal advice. 

How Do I Obtain a P-1 Visa?

As previously mentioned, in order to qualify for a P-1 visa, an individual has to be internationally recognized as either an athlete or the member of an internationally recognized entertainment group. 

In general, the application process for P-1 visas will include the following:

  • First, they must meet the eligibility criteria for either a P-1A visa or a P-1B visa, which was discussed in the above section. Keep in mind that only athletes can perform as an individual. P-1B visa applicants must be members of a group. 
  • Next, P-1 visa applicants must be sponsored by a U.S. employer, agent, sponsoring organization, or foreign employer through an agent located in the United States. These parties will vary based on whether the application is for a P-1A or P-1B visa. 
  • The sponsoring party must then file Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, with the USCIS, along with any other necessary documentation and filing fees. 
  • Those applying under the P-1B visa category may also need to obtain a consultation from a proper labor organization regarding the nature of the work to be performed or a statement that proves that the group has been established and has performed regularly for at least one full year. This requirement will be waived if no appropriate labor organization exists for the group.

In addition, both a P-1A visa and a P-1B visa require a multitude of supporting evidence. For instance, each category of persons who may be eligible for a P-1A visa will require different forms of evidence, such as pay stubs, tax documents, and copies of sports contracts. 

As for the evidence required for those who are applying for a P-1B visa, they may need to provide evidence of news articles that establish their stellar reputation, prove they are critically acclaimed, or have received recognition from a government agency. 

Do I Need a Lawyer to Apply for a P-1 Visa?

The USCIS admits that the definitions and eligibility criteria to apply for a P-1 visa may be confusing, but are necessary to understand in order to be able to qualify for a P-1 visa. Therefore, it is strongly recommended that you consult with a local immigration attorney if you need assistance with the P-1 visa application process or in understanding your legal obligations and rights as a P-1 visa holder. 

An experienced immigration attorney can make sure that you not only qualify for a P-1 visa, but also that you select the right category listed under the umbrella of P-1 visas. Your attorney can also help you complete a visa application for your spouse and/or dependent children. 

Additionally, if you are having issues with a P-1 visa or are being summoned to appear in court due to a violation of P-1 visa conditions, your attorney will be able to provide legal representation as well.