Visas for Athletes
Athletes coming to the United States with the intention of engaging in employment will be required to obtain a nonimmigrant work visa or a green card. The most common work visas for athletes are the:
This visa is available to individual athletes of “extraordinary ability”. To obtain an O-1 visa, athletes must demonstrate that they possess “a level of expertise indicating that they are one of the small percentage who have risen to the top of the field of endeavor.” Examples of O-1 eligible athletes would be Wayne Gretzky, Ronaldo and Annika Sorenstam.
Athletes who cannot meet the “extraordinary ability standard” required for an O-1 visa may petition for a P-1 visa. To qualify for a P-1 visa the athlete must show that he is internationally
recognized and is coming to the U.S. to participate in a league or event with a distinguished reputation. Athletes under contract with the NHL, NBA, MLB, MLS and NFL need only establish that they have a major league contract to qualify for a P-1 visa.
The H-2B visa allows athletes who cannot meet the higher standards of the O-1 and P-1 visas to be temporarily employed in the U.S. However, to obtain an H-2B visa the sponsoring team must obtain a labor certification from the Department of Labor. Athletes playing under a
minor league contract typically are issued an H-2B visa but only for the duration of the season, up to a maximum of one year.
Professional athletes, such as golfers, tennis players and auto racers, who receive no salary or payment other than prize money from a tournament or sporting event are eligible for a B-1 visa, as business visitors.
An amateur athlete or group of athletes competing in an athletic event for which they will receive no payment, other than incidental expenses, are eligible for B-2 Visas as visitors for pleasure.
If you would like to learn more about your specific visa options please send a request to us at:
Leibl and Kirkwood PC
12625 High Bluff Drive
San Diego, CA 92130
Tel. (858) 481-5211
Fax. (858) 481-7271