P Visas for Athletes and Entertainment Groups
The P visa categories, P-1, P-2 and P-3, are reserved for those aliens who will be coming to the US to perform in athletics or entertainment, and who do not meet the extraordinary ability standard required for classification in the O category.
P-1 visas are for aliens who are part of an entertainment group to perform in the U.S. based on the international reputation of the group. These visas are also for aliens who are coming to the U.S. to perform at a specific athletic competition as an athlete whether individually, or as part of a team for a specific athletic competition and, that the athlete or team, has international recognition.
For an athletic team to petition for a foreign athlete, the team must have achieved international recognition in the sport.
An athlete who will come to the U.S. to compete in individual events rather than as part of a team must show that he or she is internationally recognized.
The USCIS has defined “international recognition” as “having a high level of achievement in a field evidenced by a degree of skill and recognition substantially above that ordinarily encountered, to the extent that such achievement is renowned, leading, or well-known in more than one country.”
The event or events for which the athlete is coming to the U.S. must have a distinguished reputation and must require the participation of athletes and teams of international recognition.
For an entertainer to obtain a P-1 visa they must be part of an entertainment group.
Individuals cannot usually obtain a P-1 visa.
The only exception to this rule is if the foreign national entertainer comes to the U.S. to join a foreign entertainment group.
The group must be internationally recognized as outstanding and have a sustained period of achievement.
Also, the individual members must have a substantial relationship (at least a year) to the group.
This requirement may be waived in certain exigent circumstances and is not imposed on circus personnel if the circus is nationally recognized.
The group must have been together for at least one year and at least three-fourths of the members must have been in the group for at least a year.
Filing the Petition
A P-1, P-2, or P-3 petition may be filed by a US employer or organization, a foreign employer, or by a U.S. agent.
The petition must include the following information: any written contract between the alien and the petitioner, or, if there is no written contract, a thorough description of their oral agreement; an explanation of the event and an itinerary; and a consultation from a labor organization.
If a U.S. employer or agent is filing the petition, it should be filed at the USCIS Service Center having jurisdiction over the petitioner.
If a foreign employer files the petition, it should be filed at the USCIS Service Center with jurisdiction over the place where the alien will begin employment.
Evidence Needed for Athletes and Teams
When the application is filed on behalf of an athlete or team, at least two of the following types of evidence need to be presented:
- Participation to a significant extent in a prior season with a major U.S. sports league;
- Participation on a national team at international events;
- Participation to a significant extent in a prior season with a U.S. collegiate team;
- A written statement from an official in the governing body of the sport outlining how the athlete or team is internationally recognized;
- A written statement from a member of the sports media or other recognized expert outlining how the athlete or team is internationally recognized;
- Evidence that the alien is highly ranked if the sport uses a ranking system; or
- Evidence that the alien or team has received a significant award for performance.
Evidence Needed for Entertainers and Entertainment Groups
When the application is being filed on behalf of an entertainment group, the petition must include details about each person’s length of membership in the group. The petition must also demonstrate the group’s sustained international recognition. This may be done in two ways, first by nomination or receipt of awards for outstanding achievement in the field, and second, by submitting at least three of the following types of evidence:
- The group has and will continue to perform a starring role in productions or events with a distinguished reputation, evidenced by reviews, advertisements, press releases, contracts, or endorsements;
- The group has international recognition, evidenced by reviews in papers, trade journals, etc.;
- The group has and will continue to perform a starring role in productions or events with a distinguished reputation, evidenced by articles in newspapers, trade journals, etc.;
- The group has had commercial success;
- The group has gained significant recognition for achievements from leaders in the field; or
- The group commands a high salary compared to others similarly situated.
Aliens coming to the U.S. to work as support personnel for P-1 athletes, teams, or entertainment groups are also given the P-1 classification.
The application must contain a consultation from a labor organization, a statement describing the alien’s essential role, and a copy of the contract or summary of the oral agreement between the support alien and the employer.
P-2 visas are for artists or entertainers, either individually or as a group, who will be coming to the U.S. to perform in a reciprocal exchange program between an organization in the U.S. and an organization abroad which provides for the temporary exchange of artists or entertainers.
Evidence needed for petitions involving a reciprocal exchange program
- A copy of the formal reciprocal exchange agreement between the U.S. based organization that will sponsor the aliens and the foreign based organization that will receive U.S. artists or entertainers;
- A statement from the sponsoring organization describing the reciprocal exchange program of U.S. artists or entertainers as it relates to the specific petition;
- Evidence that an appropriate labor organization in the U.S. was involved in negotiating, or has agreed with, the reciprocal exchange of U.S. and foreign artists or entertainers; and
- Evidence that the aliens for which P-2 visa classification is sought and the U.S. artists or entertainers subject to the reciprocal exchange agreement have comparable skills, and that the terms and conditions of employment are similar.
Aliens coming to the U.S. to work as support personnel for P-2 artists or entertainers are also given the P-2 classification.
P-3 visas are for artists or entertainers, either individually or as a group, who will be coming to the U.S. to develop, interpret, represent, coach, or teach a unique or traditional ethnic, folk, cultural, musical, theatrical, or artistic performance or presentation. The artist or entertainer must be coming to the U.S. to participate in a cultural event or events to further the understanding or development of the alien’s art form. The event may be of a commercial or noncommercial nature.
Evidence needed for petitions involving a culturally or traditionally unique performance or event
- Affidavits or letters from recognized experts verifying the authenticity of the alien’s or the group’s skills in performing, presenting, coaching, teaching the unique or traditional art form and giving the credentials of the recognized expert, including the basis of the writer’s knowledge of the alien or the group;
- Evidence that the performance of the alien or group is culturally unique, as documented by reviews in newspapers, journals, or other published materials; and
- Evidence that all of the alien’s or group’s performances will be culturally unique.
Aliens coming to the U.S. to work as support personnel for P-3 artists or entertainers are also given the P-3 classification.