Successful athletes, artists, and entertainers travel worldwide to showcase their talents and grow their careers. The United States is one of the favorite destinations for these people because it puts them in the global spotlight and opens doors for career development opportunities. However, the strict immigration laws in the U.S. might prevent you from making your dreams a reality. 

Thankfully, there is a way you pursue your immigration rights by applying for a P performing athlete, artist, entertainer visa. The visa allows non-immigrant workers in athletics, art, and entertainment specialty to temporarily visit the U.S. with their families. The process of acquiring these forms of visas is complicated and a lengthy one, which is why you need a profound immigration attorney. 

At the California Immigration Attorney, we will walk you through the whole process, including the forms and other documentation you must complete. Additionally, we will speed up the process and ensure the P visa is awarded the first time.

Overview of P Visas

The USCIS awards non-immigrant work visas to aliens to come and work in the United States. Visas fall under various categories, and those for performing athletes, artists, and entertainers fall under the P visas classification. The P temporary visa category has three subdivisions, which are; P-1, P-2, and P-3. The duration of the visa depends on the subcategory your visa falls into. Like L-1 visas, there is no set maximum figure of individuals who can receive P visas annually. Further, holders of these visas are free to apply for permanent residency without violating visa status. 

P-1 Classification 

The P-1 classification is set aside for non-immigrant or alien athletes who compete individually or as a group in an athletic competition recognized worldwide. Further, this category involves entertainers who perform with or are a fundamental part of an entertainment group recognized globally for its outstanding and continued performances.

It’s worth noting that although athletes and entertainers fall under this subcategory, a distinction exists between the two. The difference is that admission in the U.S. is possible for an individual P-1 athlete, but not for a single entertainer. The only time one entertainer can acquire this category of visa is if they are visiting the country to join an overseas performing group.

P-1 visas are granted for five years, although you can extend the stay once for no more than five years. After the 120 months stay, the visa holder can apply for a new visa, depart the country, or acquire an extra five years. If your admission to the U.S. was for a group, you might not extend the visa for more than 12 months. 

1. Definition of an Athlete

For an athletic team to qualify for a P-1 visa, they must be visiting the U.S. for a globally recognized team event. Additionally, the team of athletes must have global recognition for the sport they are coming to take part in. The individual athlete or team must have left a mark because of distinguished achievements recognized in at least one country as outstanding and the best. 

P-1 classification has stretched to take in:

  • Athletes, either skilled or novice, who achieve at a globally renowned level
  • To consist of beginner sports persons or trainers of athletic teams that are members of an international confederation.
  • Expert or amateur ice skaters

Besides, the applicant should provide proof of a contract with a major United States league or team. On top of these requirements, the athlete or group of athletes will need to meet two or more of the following conditions:

  • Evidence of involvement in a global competition through a home national team
  • Evidence of individual athlete or previous team involvement with a key sports league in the U.S.
  • Evidence that the squad or individual athlete has a global ranking
  • Evidence the individual or team are winners of a significant award for the activity they will be participating in the U.S.
  • A statement put in writing by an official or governing body of a major sports league in the U.S. explaining how the individual or group of athletes is globally renowned.
  • Provide a statement from a renowned sports professional about an individual’s or squad’s global acknowledgment.

It’s worth noting that as per USCIS’s new policy, to establish your credentials, you must tender your contract if you have an active one with a significant basketball league or the National Hockey League. 

2. Definition of an Entertainer

As stated earlier, P-1 visas also cover members of internationally renowned entertainment groups visiting the U.S. to perform as part of an entertainment group. The group members’ performance or reputation is not considered because the visas are not awarded individually but as a group. 

In this case, a group must have at least two members. However, for a traditional solo artist who performs with backup artists, they may still be deemed a group of entertainers if 75 percent of them have been performing together for a continuous twelve months. If the solo artist doesn’t meet these qualifications, they are ineligible for P visas, but they can still qualify for an O visa. 

There are exceptions to the one-year requirement. It’s possible to waive a requirement if a disease or an unexpected situation affects a group member. Additionally, the condition is waivable when a non-immigrant boosts the group by playing a critical role.

The twelve months requirement is inapplicable to circus performers and crucial support personnel. Additionally, 75 percent of the group and critical support staff need to have been performing together for twelve months under the same group name and gained international recognition throughout the period. 

Keep in mind that it’s the P-1 visa sponsor or the U.S. employer of these entertainers that petitions the U.S.C.I.S. for admission. And when making the petition for these visas, these employers must avail evidence of the group’s sustained global acknowledgment. Some of the employer’s proof includes the team being nominated for an international award or honor or winning a universal award or prize. Additionally, the group of entertainers must meet a minimum of three of the following conditions:

  • Your group of entertainment or organization has or will be prime in an upcoming production or event that is highly reputable.
  • The group has global recognition. There must be evidence like appraisals or printed materials demonstrating the group has attained worldwide credit and commendation for exceptional accomplishment in the arena.
  • Proof that the group of members receives or continues to receive high salaries or sizable wages.
  • Proof that the team has received significant credit as exceptional in the specialty from governments, organizations, and other professionals.
  • Evidence of large attendance or rating, an indicator of exceptional commercial success or essential commendation.

Although international recognition is a critical requirement, an entertainment group needs to be eligible for a p-1 visa if the USCIS waives this requirement. There is an exception to this requirement in situations where an entertainment group renowned nationally has been exceptional for an extended period but cannot prove international recognition because of a lack of access to media or geographical consequences. 

Besides, circuses are exempted from the global recognition requirement. The twelve months for the group and support personnel requirements are also exempted. The only need for them is to gain national recognition. 

3. P-1 Circuses

Circus performers and their support staff need to be part of the organization for twelve months to be eligible for P-1 visas. Still, there is a condition that they must have national credit and an exceptional reputation. As noted earlier, there is an exception to the one-year requirement for non-immigrant circus support employees who perform as members of the circus or the group. In such cases, the petitioner for the P-1 circus visas must demonstrate that the alien is coming to be a member of a nationally recognized circus group that has been outstanding for a long time. 

4. P-1 Visa Indispensable Support Employees

USCIS outlines an indispensable support employee of a circus group as a critical individual who is part of the non-immigrant group’s performance because of the essential support services. The services these support personnel provide must not be readily available in the U.S. and an integral to a successful performance. 

For these essential support personnel to be eligible for the P-1 visas, they must possess critical knowledge of the services they will be providing and experience in offering these support services to the P-1 non-immigrant or group. A written statement detailing the unique skills and expertise the personnel provides is mandatory as part of the P-1 visa petition. 

The support staff described here include coaches, trainers, team officials, scouts, and referees. You should also note that these personnel never file the petition for these visas in person. Instead, it’s their sponsor or U.S. employer that files the petition on their behalf. Some of the documents the petitioner must include in the petition are:

  • Non-immigrant’s curriculum vitae or resume
  • Biographical documents like passports
  • Availing a written statement from the support personnel sponsor about their critical skills, experience, and how essential they are to the circus performers.
  • Provide a copy of a written agreement between the United States employer and the support staff, explaining the contract’s terms or a summary of an oral contract signed by the alien.
  • Evidence of any other support document demonstrates the support personnel’s level of skills and expertise in the field.

P-2 Visa Classification

The P-2 classification covers artists or entertainers coming to temporarily perform in the U.S. alone or as a group through the reciprocal program between a United States organization and an organization from another country. 

Eligibility Criteria for P-2 Visas

P-2 category visa petitions are filed by sponsoring organizations, a U.S. employer, or the U.S. labor organization that negotiated the contract. Unfortunately, not every artist or participant is eligible for this program. Below is the criteria that you should meet:

  • You must be part of an exchange program organized by at least two organizations in which one of the organizations is based in the U.S.
  • The exchange program must be part of the reciprocal exchange program
  • All applicants must demonstrate they possess comparable skill levels to their American counterparts performing outside the country.

Note that as of April 2020, only five reciprocal exchange programs have been approved by the USCIS.

Any reciprocal agreement submitted outside the five programs is subject to review to determine if it follows the regulatory standards. 

P-2 visa classification duration includes the time required for the performance or event and should not exceed one year.

The highly skilled support personnel of the artists and entertainers are eligible for the classification if there is proof they are an integral part of the performance’s success. The support services they provide are not readily available in the U.S. Under this classification, the support staff includes stagehands, trainers, and other individuals with exceptional knowledge of the particular performance or event. 

The sponsor of the artists and entertainers files the support personnel’s petition separately. The criteria for the petition include:

  • A statement from the relevant labor organization
  • Proof of a report detailing the support staff’s previous and current critical expertise and profoundness with the P-2 alien or group.
  • Provide a print of the agreement between the sponsor and support services
  • A summary of the oral contract terms about the employment

Limitations and Privileges of a P-2 Classification

The privileges a P-2 Category holder is eligible to include:

  • You have the freedom to work or perform for multiple companies and earn a living either in the form of money or prizes.
  • Switching or changing employers is allowed
  • Your close family can follow you to the United States but through a P-4 visa program
  • You participate in part-time learning
  • You are free to travel outside of the United States with zero restrictions if your visa is valid.
  • You can extend the original duration of stay by no more than twelve months

Unfortunately, compared to P-1 and P-3 classifications, P-2 visas have some limitations. Some of the rules are:

  • You must demonstrate the required level of competence in your specialty
  • You must be in a reciprocal program
  • You are eligible to work for more than one employer, but they must file form I-129 separately.
  • The duration of stay is one year instead of the six to ten years for the P-1 classification.

P-3 Classification 

The P-3 visa category covers artists and entertainers, groups included, who will perform in the U.S. under a culturally unique program. The USCIS adopted the policy that the P-3 alien or group must be coming to the United States to grow, interpret or train in a special cultural program. The nature of the cultural program might be commercial or noncommercial. 

The petitioner must submit proof demonstrating the event’s cultural uniqueness and evidence that the performance will be culturally exclusive.

The sponsoring company or U.S. employer must present the petition on behalf of the intending P-3 alien using Form I-129. The required documents for P-3 visa applicants that the petitioner must submit are:

  • A print copy of the agreement between the petitioner and the beneficially or a summary of the oral agreement.
  • A statement that explains the nature of the cultural event. If you are performing in multiple events, their locations and dates must appear on the itinerary.
  • Provision of written statements from renowned experts demonstrating or attesting to the authenticity of the P-3 non-immigrant or group’s abilities in performing, teaching, training, or presenting the exclusive or conventional art form. The qualifications of the alien or group must be stated, demonstrating their source of knowledge.
  • Proof that the artists or entertainers’ art form is culturally exclusive based on copies of reviews, journals, newspapers, and other published materials.
  • A written report from a labor organization with knowledge in the applicant’s skills
  • Extra documents to prove that the performance is culturally unique

Support personnel for the P-3 aliens or groups are eligible for this classification. However, they must submit form I-129 accompanied by the following:

  • A consultation or statement from a professionally related labor organization
  • A report detailing the support staff has been pivotal in the success of performances and the critical skills and experience they provide to the group.
  • A copy of the written contract between the agent or petitioner and the beneficiary who, in this case, is the artist or entertainer.

P Visa Classification Application Process

The process of applying for a P visa involves:

  • The filing of a petition with the USCIS utilizing Form I-129. Completing and submitting these forms with the agency allows the U.S. employer to acquire a P visa non-immigrant temporarily. The P visa alien’s sponsor can file the petition one year before the event’s date or performance.
  • Before the petition’s approval, there must be a submission of an advisory opinion by a professionally related labor organization; the event's date may be registered on behalf of multiple aliens or teams seeking classification based on the group’s group’s outstanding reputation.
  • Essential support employees for the P visa aliens are admitted to the classification separately. They are not included in the same petition as the artists or entertainers, or principal P visa beneficiaries.
  • P classification has a provision for substitution for groups or teams but only after the petition’s approval. For an individual P alien, substitution is not allowed for both the principal aliens and support employees.
  • Once the USCIS approves the petition, the foreign national seeking classification must visit the United States consulate overseas to apply for a visa.

Duration of Stay for P Visa Holder

P-1 single athletes and their essential support staff are allowed to extend their stay by a period not exceeding five years, and the total duration of stay shouldn’t be more than ten years. Other P visa classifications are permitted to extend their stay for up to one year but for purposes of continuing or completing the same event or activity for which the visas were awarded. 

Apart from P-1 visa individual athletes, the original time for the stay is approved for the duration necessary to complete the event or performance, for no more than twelve months.

P visa for individual athletes is approved for five years with a possibility of extension for no more than ten years. 

Besides, you should understand that the event or performance may be the time of the non-immigrants contract, where the season is shorter than the deal for P-1 athletes or teams. On the other end, the duration of stay for P-2 visa holders is the time of the reciprocal program agreement. 

Keep in mind that apart from the above incidents, extensions are granted to complete additional performances, competitions, or comparable engagements not included in the original petition. 

Special Conditions

You can obtain p status as an alien athlete, artist, or entertainer if you follow the following criteria:

  • Obtain a report or consultation from a labor organization or present proof that a labor organization like that doesn’t exist.
  • Approval of the P petition is supported by a statement from a professionally related labor organization.
  • Issuance of the P-visa based on the approved petition by the U.S. consulate in the foreign country.

Remember that P visas are not issued to non-immigrants to freelance in the U.S. open market. Further, holders of these visas may not be permitted to perform services in particular competitions or events. 

Note that the USCIS provides that foreign employers who want their a P visa applicant admitted can only do so through a United States agent.  The agency also allows the use of U.S. agents by conventionally self-employed employees. 

Find an Immigration Attorney Near Me  

P performing athlete, artist, entertainer visa application process is not an easy one. The filing of Form I-129 and other necessary paperwork must be submitted one year before the intended event or performance. For this reason, you should do everything right to avoid missing out on the opportunity to showcase your talent on a national stage. If you or a loved one is interested and qualifies for a P visa, reach out to the California Immigration Attorney at 424-789-8809 for a no-obligation consultation.