P-1 Artists and Athletes Visas

P-1 Visas

The P categories, P-1, P-2 and P-3, are non immigrant visa options for those foreign nationals who will be coming to the US to perform in athletics or entertainment.


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 US to compete in individual events rather than as a team must show that he or she is internationally recognized. USCIS has defined “international recognition” as a “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.” A P-1 petition may be filed by a US employer or organization, a foreign employer, or by a US agent. The petition must include information about 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 US. employer or agent is filing the petition, it should be filed at the regional USCIS Service Center with jurisdiction over the petitioner. For example, if you are an employer located in Cincinnati, Ohio, you file the Petition at the Nebraska Service Center, in Lincoln, Nebraska. If you are located in Kentucky, you file the application at the Texas Service Center in Mesquite, Texas. 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 US sports league,
  • Participation on a national team at international events,
  • Participation to a significant extent in a prior season with a US 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,


  • Evidence that the alien or team has received a significant award for performance.

It must be noted that the Nebraska Service Center, in Lincoln, Nebraska, takes the position of “major U.S. sports league” to mean the MAJOR leagues therefore, will deny applications for athletes who are going to play in the “minor” leagues.


For an entertainer to obtain a P-1 visa, he/she must be part of an entertainment group. In most circumstances, individuals cannot obtain a P-1 . The group must be internationally recognized as outstanding in the area, and have a sustained period of achievement. It must be noted that the USCIS may waive this requirement for entertainment groups that are “recognized nationally” as being outstanding in their discipline for a sustained and substantial period of time.” In addition, the individual members must have been members of the group for at least 1 year. This requirement may be waived in certain circumstances (for example, circus personnel are not bound by this requirement as long as the circus group has an international reputation.) 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. 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 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.

Cultural Uniqueness

P-3 visas classification is for “culturally unique artists and entertainers, individually or in a group coming to the United States. To develop, interpret, represent, coach or teach their particular art or discipline.” Culturally unique has been defined as a style or artistic expression, methodology, or medium which is unique to a particular country, nation, society, class ethnicity, religion, tribe, or other group of persons.” In order to obtain a P-3 visa, an applicant must provide the following:

  • Affidavits or letters from experts regarding the authentic cultural uniqueness of the performance
  • Other documentation that the performance is culturally unique, such as material published in newspapers and trade journals
  • Evidence that each performance will be culturally unique.


Admission to the United States on a P visa is generally limited to a specific completion, event or performance. Therefore, it is imperative to devise a detailed schedule of events. The more events or competition, the longer the admission will be. Also, if a contract is signed for just one year, it is possible the authorized stay will be just for one year although the schedule could be for events for longer than a year. P Visas are also required to obtain a “consultation” with an appropriate labor group regarding the nature of the work to be done and the alien’s qualifications is mandatory before a P petition is approved. In general, obtaining a P visa can take a few months; however, premium processing is available. Many times, P applicants MUST use “premium processing” in order to be able to make it to their event or competition. It is CRITICAL to plan ahead in order to obtain a P visa, because visas are NOT issued overnight. The Fleischer Law Firm LLC would be happy to assist you in your quest for a P visa.

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