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Blandon Law Immigration

Monday, February 8, 2010

Athletes, athletes. Ra, ra, ra!

     In honor of the Super Bowl, today I am blogging about how foreign athletes can enter the United States. (Yes, there are foreign-born football players: click here.)  The visa available -- which determines how long the athlete can stay -- depends on the level of ability as well as the purpose for coming to this country.  At the most basic level, a foreigner can enter with a visitor's visa (B-1/B-2).  This includes professional golfers or race car driver's who receive no salary, only tournament money. 
     Athletes who are internationally recognized or perform as members of a group that are internationally recognized enter with a P-1 visa.  The athlete can be an amateur, so long as the team is acclaimed.  In fact, minor league athletes can also qualify if they meet certain rules.  For example, participation renders the foreigner ineligible for U.S. scholarships under NCAA rules.
     Foreigners who want to stay for a period of up to three years and have outstanding abilities in their field can enter with an O-1 visa. Fortunately, if the employer continues to need the foreigner, there is no time limit.  An O-1 can keep obtaining extensions.  Of course, most persons will wish to apply for legal permanent residency and later citizenship.
     The requirements for residency are different than those for a temporary stay -- both for the employer and for the athlete.  An immigration professional must be consulted for that benefit.

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