Athletes and Sports: A Compelling Case for Immigration

Athletes and Sports: A Compelling Case for Immigration

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The United States is home to many popular and emerging sports. The United States has the top professional leagues in the Big Four and is the place where many Olympians train. There are top-notch ski resorts, tennis, and golf facilities where the world’s greatest practice and compete. Wakeboarders, surfers, and runners all have made America home.


Listen to or watch the Immigration Show episode on this topic with audio with attorney Jon Velie & broadcaster Dave Kelso


The USA is a sports-centric country that leads the world in most sports. Sports entertainment makes the U.S. an ideal place for foreign-born athletes because of the immense financial potential.

Sports immigration is a unique industry that includes foreign coaches, managers, support staff, and many other people that all require visas to participate. There are a few different visa types available, each suited for the different situations and positions.

O1 Visa is for Extraordinary Ability and reserved for people who have risen to the top of their profession. Some criteria that we consider are whether the individual has won national or international awards or if they are members of an elite association, such as a national team.  

There are a variety of methods used to analyze an individual’s special abilities. Micro statistics are a fantastic way to demonstrate exactly how players are extraordinary in a particular area. The O1 visa can be used for both players and coaches.

P1 Visa is for entertainers and internationally recognized exceptional athletes. The P1 is available to coaches and support staff. However, intensified restrictions are limiting the P1 Visa to the person competing and select ancillaries.

H2B Visa may be used for a wide variety of seasonal industries. This visa can cover athletes, coaches, and persons in support positions.

H1B Visa can be used for a coach, administrator, or management level person in some circumstances. Specialty occupation qualifiers have become a major point of debate. Coaches that perform very specific functions, like a strength and conditioning coach with a physiology or kinesiology degree, could meet the specialty occupation requirements.

Several types of visas are available for the athlete wanting to remain in the United States permanently.

  • EB1, Exceptional Ability Green Card is most similar to the O1 Visa but has an even higher standard that must be sustained for some time. With that being said, it may not be suitable for Rookie of the Year.
  • EB2, Employment-Based Exceptional Ability Permanent Residence (Second Preference). The EB2 qualifiers do not explicitly list athletics, and there has been litigation as to whether athletes qualify. To successfully obtain an EB2, the individual really needs to have international recognition and be part of well-established sports rather than emerging sports.
  • EB3 is a permanent residence U.S. visa/Green Card for Skilled, Professional, or Other Workers. An athlete or coach can qualify as skilled and/or professional employment.

The Labor Certification Process is required for the EB2 and EB3. This is where the employer runs ads to determine whether there is an American available to fill the position. The Labor Certification Process may not be applicable to the athlete but could be required for a coach, front office personnel, marketer, or tickets salesperson.

  • EB5: Immigrant Investor Visa can be used for people who want to buy a professional sports franchise. A 1 million dollar investment is required, and most sports franchises will meet this criterion.
  • Athletes may also wish to enter the U.S. for a single competition or tournament in which the B1 or B2 Visa can be used.

The criteria for obtaining a visa has gotten significantly more complicated, and sports immigration is also feeling the heat. Successful immigration attorneys have had to rise to the challenge and become even better.

For OnlineVisas.com, writing detailed 25-30-page brief has proven to be a successful strategy. We bring in experts and entertainers to analyze the athletes and have them put it in writing.  For some of our clients, we’ve had incredible people like Serena Williams, Jon McEnroe, and Fran Fraschilla give their opinions.

We view cases as if they are being tried in a courtroom, where you would get expert testimony to validate the case. This is what we are doing with the briefs; we put experts on the stand – just in writing. Experts put gravity behind the case, which gives applicants the best chance at approval.

OnlineVisas has represented many athletes in a variety of sports. Lauri Markkanen of the Chicago Bulls. Alex Len who just started playing with the Hawks and was with the Suns for years prior.  Ziggy Ansah in the NFL.

OnlineVisas represents the Arizona Diamondbacks in Major League Baseball. We had the opportunity to work with Pablo Sandoval who plays for the Giants and received MVP of the World Series. We also represented Sandoval’s brother to help him get an L1 Visa to create a non-profit that benefited kids in his home country of Venezuela. Another client of ours was Sheldon Souray in the NHL who set a previous unofficial record for fastest slap shot ever.

We’ve had a lot of success in immigration sports because of our unique approach to building compelling cases.

About the Author Jon Velie

About the author: Jon Velie has practiced Immigration law since 1993. He is CEO of OnlineVisas.com., a revolutionary Immigration platform and global Immigration network. Jon is an Amazon number one best-selling author of H1B Visa: Application & Approval, is regularly covered by major media and has won a number of international awards. Jon can be contacted at jon@onlinevisas.com or 405-310-4333 office or 405-821-5959 mobile.

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