P Visas

If you’re an athlete, artist, entertainer, or part of a group of athletes and entertainers, and you need to visit the U.S. temporarily, you may be eligible for a P Visa. This Visa is great if you need to visit the U.S. for an event, competition, performance, or a tour.

There are multiple P Visa classifications for the following individuals and group:

  • P-1A Visa for Athletes, Athletic Teams, and Their Essential Support Personnel
  • P-1B Visa for Members of Entertainment Groups
  • P-2 Visa for Performers Under a Reciprocal Exchange Program
  • P-3 Visa for Artists or Entertainers of a Culturally Unique Program

P Visa for Athletes, Athletic Teams, and Their Essential Support Personnel

International athletes need to visit the U.S. temporarily all the time, typically for major international events hosted in the U.S. such as the U.S. Open for Golf and Tennis, Wimbledon, the Masters Tournament, and the PGA tournament. The U.S. may also be the host of future Olympics and FIFA World Cups where international athletes and teams would need to participate. International athletes also frequently sign contracts with major U.S. sports teams such as in the National Basketball Association (NBA), the National Hockey League (NHL) and Major League Baseball (MLB), which require them to be in the U.S. during their contract. These athletes and teams may be eligible for a P-1A Visa.

To qualify for a P-1A Visa, individual athletes and athletic teams have to show proof that they have international recognition for their achievements. Examples of proof include:

  • Prior participation in a major U.S. sports league (such as the NBA, NFL, MLB, NHL, etc.) , international competition, or U.S. college or university intercollegiate competition (generally the NCAA)
  • Written statements from officials of major U.S. sports leagues or officials of the governing body of the sport with details about the international recognition
  • Written statements from a member of the sports media or expert in the sport with details of the international recognition
  • If the sport is internationally ranked, evidence of the ranking
  • Significant honors or awards in the sport, which an athlete or a team has received such as championships and individual achievement awards (rookie of the year, highest scorer, etc.)

Essential support personnel of P-1A Visa holders who are an integral part of their performance and cannot be replaced by U.S. workers are also eligible for a P-1S Visa. Examples include coaches, scouts, trainers, and other team officials and referees.

P Visa for Members of Entertainment Groups

Entertainment groups visit the U.S. temporarily for concerts, tours, competitions, and even events like county fairs. Groups may include musical bands, circuses, theater groups for plays and musicals, and dance groups such as ballet. These groups may be eligible for a P-1B Visa.

To qualify for a P-1B Visa for temporary stay in the U.S., the entertainment group has to show proof that it is internationally recognized and that 75 percent of the group has had a substantial and sustained relationship with the group for at least one year.

Examples of proof of international recognition include:

  • Past and future performances as a starring or leading entertainment group in events or for organizations with a distinguished reputation
  • Publications about the group in major newspapers, magazines and other published material
  • A record of major commercial or critical success
  • Awards or other forms of signification recognition of achievements from critics and other recognized experts in the field
  • The receipt or future receipt of a high salary compared to others in the field.

For circuses, aliens and essential circus personnel are exempt from the international recognition requirement and just need to be joining a nationally recognized circus such as the Ringling Brothers. In consideration of special circumstances, other nationally known entertainment groups may have the internationally recognized requirement waived if they are recognized nationally as outstanding in their discipline for a sustained amount of time.

The P-1B Visa is only available for members of groups. A solo artist or entertainer without any back-up performers would not be eligible for a P Visa and would instead try to qualify for another Visa such as an O Visa. If a solo artist or entertainer has backup performers they work with, they can qualify for a P-1B Visa if 75% of the group has been with them for at least a year.

P Visa for Performers Under a Reciprocal Exchange Program

U.S. and foreign organizations may have reciprocal agreements where they exchange artists or entertainers through a government recognized reciprocal exchange program. Examples of organizations that take part in such Reciprocal Exchange Programs include the American Federation of Musicians and the Actors’ Equity Association. These individuals may be eligible for a P-2 Visa.

To qualify for the P-2 Visa, the performer must show that the artists and entertainers possess skills comparable to the U.S. artists and entertainers taking part in the program outside the U.S. Unlike the P-1 Visas; however, no proof of international recognition is required.

P Visa for Artists or Entertainers of a Culturally Unique Program

Foreign artists or entertainers may want to come to the U.S. temporarily to perform, teach, or coach at a cultural event with a culturally unique program such as a unique or traditional ethnic, folk, cultural, musical, theatrical, or artistic performance or presentation. These programs may be commercial or noncommercial. These individuals may be eligible for a P-3 Visa.

To qualify for the P-3 Visa, an artist has to show that the program is culturally unique through testimonials and publications.

If you fall under any of these categories, you may be eligible for a P Visa.

Requirement to have a sponsor

In order to obtain a P Visa, you will need to have a U.S. sponsor. This can be a U.S. employer, a U.S. Sponsoring Organization, a U.S. agent or a foreign employer through a U.S. agent. This means that talent agencies, sports agencies, etc. you have already worked with may be able to do it for you. If they don’t qualify, you will need to find a U.S. agent that will sponsor you.

Difference from an O Visa

The O Visa is also available to athletes and entertainers. Here are some differences:

For individual athletes:

  • An O Visa requires proof of “extraordinary ability” and may, therefore, be harder to obtain for most athletes.
  • The P Visa has a lower requirement of “international recognition” and may be easier to obtain, but it is also limited to an individual event, competition or performance so it may not be suitable if you plan on staying in the U.S. for a longer period of time.
  • Individual athletes at the top of their field should be able to qualify for either P Visa or O Visa; however, it may be more beneficial to go with the O Visa if you plan to move to the U.S. and apply for a Green Card in the future.

For solo entertainers:

  • The P Visa is not available for solo entertainers unless they qualify for a P1-B Visa (with a group of performers), a P-2 Visa (reciprocal exchange program) or P-3 Visa (culturally unique program)
  • To qualify for a P1-B Visa, you need to have a group of backup performers and 75% of them must have been with you for at least a year. Otherwise, you should apply for an O Visa (which requires “extraordinary ability”) or another Visa
  • Solo entertainers at the top of their field (with or without a backup group) who want to move to the U.S. and apply for a Green Card in the future may want to look at the O Visa

For groups of athletes and entertainers:

  • The P Visa is the appropriate Visa for groups of athletes and entertainers, while the O Visa was designed for the individuals

Contact Los Angeles Immigration Center for More Information.

A P Visa is a great option if you are an athlete or a performer and would like to work in the U.S.; however, the process of obtaining a P Visa can be very complicated. If you are interested in P Visas and would like to learn whether you qualify, it is best to contact the Los Angeles Immigration Center to discuss your case.

To schedule a consultation with a Los Angeles Immigration Attorney, please call (310) 933-4455 or fill out our online form with a brief description of your situation.