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P Visa Guide: Everything you need to know about P Visas


Written by Susan Pai, Immigration Attorney, Cap City Law, PS


P-1A Visas are for individuals or groups coming temporarily to the United States solely for the purpose of performing at a specific athletic competition as:

  • An individual athlete at an internationally recognized level of performance;
  • Part of a group or team at an internationally recognized level of performance;
  • A professional athlete; or
  • An athlete or coach, as part of a team or franchise that is located in the United States and a member of a foreign league or association.

The P-1A classification also applies to professional or amateur athletes coming temporarily to the United States solely to perform in a specific theatrical ice skating production or tour, individually or as part of a group.

A consultation letter from a recognized peer group or industrial union group stating they have no objection to the applicant’s entry to the U.S. is required. A P-1 visa may be for an initial period of up to 5 years and may be renewed for a total P-1 stay of 10 years.

P-1B Visas are for groups coming to the United States temporarily to perform as a member of an entertainment group that has been established and recognized internationally as outstanding in the discipline for a sustained and substantial period of time. At least 75 percent of the members of your group must have had a substantial and sustained relationship with the group for at least one year.

Your entertainment group must be internationally recognized, 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 reputation of the group, not the individual achievements of its members or the acclaim of a particular production, is essential.

Note: Individual entertainers not performing as part of a group are not eligible for this visa classification.

Exceptions to the eligibility requirements for a P-1B entertainer visa can vary depending on specific circumstances and the discretion of U.S. immigration authorities. While formal exceptions aren’t outlined in the regulations, there are factors that might
influence the application process or eligibility determination:

  1. Extraordinary Ability: While the P-1B visa category typically requires membership in a group or entertainment company, individuals with extraordinary ability in their field may be eligible for the P-1A visa category instead. This category is designed for individual performers who have achieved distinction or recognition in their field.
  2. Emerging Talent: In some cases, emerging performers or entertainers who may not meet all the usual criteria for the P-1B visa category but who show promise or potential in their field may still be considered for the visa. This can be particularly true if they are part of a group or production that has already demonstrated success or acclaim.
  3. Case-by-Case Evaluation: Ultimately, applications are evaluated on a case-by- case basis, taking into account the circumstances and evidence provided by the petitioner and applicant. While there are general eligibility requirements for the P- 1B visa category, there is room for discretion or consideration of exceptional circumstances.

It’s important for applicants and petitioners to thoroughly review the eligibility requirements for the P-1B visa category and consult with an immigration attorney for guidance on their specific situation.

P-2 Visas are for individuals or groups coming temporarily to perform as an artist or entertainer, individually or as part of a group, who will perform under a reciprocal exchange program between an organization in the United States and an organization in
another country.

P-3 Visas are for individuals or groups who are seeking to enter the U.S to perform, teach or coach as artists or entertainers under a program that is culturally unique. The term of the P-3 visa is for the duration of the program, in one-year increments.

P-4 Derivative Visas are available for spouses and minor children of P-visa holders. P-4 visa holders may attend school but may not be employed as a P-4 visa holders.

A Single P Visa Application Can Include up to 25 Applicants. The P visa program allows for group applications, where one petition can include multiple beneficiaries. Specifically, a single P visa petition can include up to 25 beneficiaries, whether they are
athletes, artists or others. This provision is particularly useful for touring groups, performance ensembles, sports teams, or other situations where multiple individuals will be traveling together to participate in the same event or activity in the United States.

Group applications streamline the process for both petitioners and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) by allowing multiple beneficiaries to be included in a single petition, rather than filing separate petitions for each individual. However, it’s essential to ensure that all beneficiaries meet the eligibility requirements for the P visa category under which they are applying and that the petition includes all necessary documentation and evidence to support their applications.

The Following Conditions Must be Satisfied:

Non-immigrant intent is a key requirement for obtaining a P visa. These visas are designed for athletes, entertainers, artists and others who wish to temporarily enter the United States to perform at a specific event or engage in a specific competition, and then return to their home country. Therefore, applicants must demonstrate that they have no intention of immigrating to the United States and that they plan to return to their home country after the completion of their activities under the P visa.

P Visa holders must not adversely affect American workers. The purpose of the P visa is to allow individuals with specific talents and skills in the fields of athletics, entertainment, and the arts to come to the United States temporarily to participate in events or performances that benefit the American public, without adversely affecting American workers. Therefore, employers sponsoring P visa workers must demonstrate that there are no qualified American workers available to perform the services or fill the positions offered to the foreign nationals. This helps ensure that the P visa program does not undercut opportunities for American workers. If there’s a certified strike or labor dispute at the worksite where the P visa holder intends to work, the petition for the visa will be denied. Even if the petition has already been approved, the visa application can still be denied in such cases. This policy is in place to ensure that the employment of foreign workers under the P visa program doesn’t undermine the rights or bargaining power of American workers involved in labor disputes.

Eligibility of P-1A Professional Athletes:

To establish the qualification for a P-1A visa, an athlete must meet at least two of the following:

1. Participation in a Major United States Sports League: You must have participated in a major United States sports league for a significant season, and your team must be a member of the association of clubs that comprises the league. Examples of such leagues include Major League Baseball (MLB), the National Football League (NFL), the National Basketball Association (NBA), the National Hockey League (NHL), and Major League Soccer (MLS). The team must be associated with a league or association that meets certain criteria. According to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) regulations, the
association or league must:

    • Consist of at least six teams.
    • Have combined revenues exceeding $10 million annually.
    • Regularly regulate the conduct and performance of its member teams.
    • Be a minor league team affiliated with a major league (as described above).

2. Participation in International Competition Representing Your Country: You must have represented your country in a significant international competition, evidenced by international rankings or comparable evidence.

3. Significant Participation in a Prior U.S. College / University Season in Intercollegiate Competition.

4. Performance Contract with a Major United States Sports League: You must have signed a contract with a major United States sports league or team in one of the designated sports.

5. Internationally Recognized: The applicant must be internationally recognized as outstanding in their field. This recognition should extend beyond just one country.

Here are some key points:

    • Renowned in Multiple Countries: The athlete must have achieved a level of recognition and excellence in their sport that goes beyond national borders. This could be demonstrated through participation in major international competitions, receiving significant honors or awards on an international scale, or having a substantial reputation in the sport globally.
    • Evidence of Recognition: Documentation such as participation in major competitions, significant awards or titles, high rankings in international standings, or written testimonials from experts in the field can all help demonstrate the athlete’s international recognition.
    • Group Recognition: In some cases, if the P-1 visa application is for a team sport, the recognition may be focused on the team as a whole rather than individual athletes. However, each member of the team must still contribute to the overall international recognition of the group.

6. International Ranking

7. Significant Honor / Awards in the Sport

Meeting these criteria is crucial for demonstrating eligibility for the P-1 visa as an athlete. It’s essential for applicants and their sponsors to provide comprehensive documentation and evidence to support their case during the visa application process.

Eligibility of P-2 Performers and Entertainers.

The P visa category encompasses not only athletes but also individuals involved in the arts. This includes a wide range of artistic fields such as fine arts, visual arts, and performing arts. Therefore, individuals such as actors, musicians, dancers, and other performing artists can apply for P visas to come to the United States to participate in specific events, performances, tours, or productions.

The performer or entertainer must contribute meaningfully to the performance. The performer must also be considered outstanding in the discipline. This requires the performer to have been a member of the group for a “substantial” period of time. This is usually considered to be one year.

Circus performers are also eligible for P-2 visas, but there are slightly different requirements for them compared to other artists. These requirements typically focus on demonstrating the performer’s skill and recognition in the circus arts, along with providing evidence of their participation in a specific circus performance or tour in the United States.

Overall, whether it’s in the realm of athletics or the arts, the P-2 visa program provides a way for individuals with exceptional talents or abilities to come to the United States temporarily to participate in specific events or performances that benefit the American public.

Eligibility of P-3 Artists or Entertainers Coming to Be Part of a Culturally Unique Program

The P-3 visa is specifically designed for individuals or groups who are coming to the United States to participate in a culturally unique program or performance. Interestingly, the P-3 does not only apply only to artists or entertainers, but also to coaches and
support personnel. The P-3 visa is also used to help facilitate unique or unusual sporting events (e.g. esports players). Here are the eligibility requirements for artists, entertainers and others seeking a P-3 visa:

1. Culturally Unique Program or Performance: The program or performance must be culturally unique, meaning it is rooted in the traditions, folklore, artistic expressions, or heritage of the applicant’s home country or culture. It should not be a commercial or mainstream production.

2. Cultural Exchange Program: The P-3 visa applicant must be coming to the United States as part of a cultural exchange program that is designed to promote the understanding and appreciation of the applicant’s culture. This can include performances, workshops, exhibitions, or other cultural events.

3. Skills or Expertise: The applicant must possess the skills, expertise, or experience necessary to perform or participate in the culturally unique program or performance. This can include artists, musicians, dancers, performers, or other individuals with specialized knowledge or abilities related to their cultural tradition.

4. Group or Individual: Both individual artists and groups of artists or performers can qualify for the P-3 visa. If applying as a group, each member of the group must contribute to the cultural significance of the program or performance.

5. Recognition or Reputation: While not explicitly required by the regulations, having recognition or a reputation for excellence in the applicant’s cultural field can strengthen the P-3 visa application. This can be demonstrated through awards, honors, media coverage, or testimonials from experts in the field.

6. Duration of Stay: The P-3 visa is typically granted for the duration of the cultural program or performance, up to a maximum of one year. Extensions may be possible in certain circumstances.

Overall, the P-3 visa is intended to facilitate cultural exchange and promote the diversity of artistic expression by allowing artists and entertainers to share their unique cultural traditions with American audiences.

It is crucial to consult with a lawyer when applying for the P visa:

1. Complexity of Immigration Law: Immigration law can be intricate and challenging to navigate, especially for individuals unfamiliar with the legal process. A lawyer who specializes in immigration law can provide guidance on the requirements, documentation, and procedures involved in the P visa application process.

2. Individualized Advice: Every immigration case is unique, and what works for one applicant may not work for another. A lawyer can assess your individual circumstances, identify potential challenges or issues, and provide tailored advice to increase your chances of success.

3. Maximizing Eligibility: A lawyer can help you understand all the eligibility criteria for the P visa category you’re applying for and ensure that you meet each requirement. They can also help you gather the necessary documentation and evidence to support your application and maximize your eligibility.

4. Avoiding Mistakes: Simple errors or omissions on your visa application can lead to delays, denials, or even immigration consequences. A lawyer can review your application thoroughly to ensure accuracy and completeness, minimizing the risk of mistakes that could jeopardize your chances of obtaining a P visa.

5. Addressing Legal Issues: If you have any legal issues or concerns that may affect your visa application, such as past immigration violations or criminal history, a lawyer can advise you on how to address these issues and mitigate their impact on your application.

6. Representation and Advocacy: A lawyer can represent you throughout the visa application process, communicating with immigration authorities on your behalf and advocating for your interests. If there are any issues or complications with your application, having legal representation can be invaluable in resolving them effectively.

Overall, consulting with a lawyer can provide you with the guidance, support, and expertise you need to navigate the P visa application process successfully and achieve your immigration goals.

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