P-1A Visa for Athletes

P-1A Visa

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What is a P-1A visa?

A P-1A visa is a type of visa issued to individuals who are internationally recognized athletes coming to the U.S. temporarily to perform at a specific athletic competition as an athlete or as a member of an athlete group. 

This visa category is part of the broader P visa classification, which is divided into various subcategories:

  • P-1A visa – internationally recognized athletes and athletic teams
  • P-1B visa – internationally recognized entertainment groups
  • P-2 visa – artists and entertainers, as well as support personnel of exchange programs
  • P-3 visa – artists, entertainers, and performers participating in a culturally unique or traditional program
  • P-4 visa – spouses and dependents of P-1A, P-1B, P-2, and P-3 visa holders

The P-1A visa is specifically for athletes who have achieved a high level of recognition in their field of sport. 

To qualify for a P-1A visa, the athlete must demonstrate a high level of skill and recognition, typically through a sustained period of achievement and acclaim. 

The visa allows athletes to come to the U.S. to participate in a specific event or competition, and it is usually granted for the duration of the event.

Who is eligible for a P-1A visa?

To be eligible for a P-1A visa, an individual athlete or an athletic team must meet the following requirements:

Category Requirements
Individual athlete
  • International recognition:
    • High level of achievement in a sport, demonstrated by a degree of skill and recognition substantially above than ordinarily encountered
    • Athlete’s achievement is renowned, leading, or well-known in more than one country
  • Coming to the U.S. to participate in athletic competition
  • Competition in the U.S. must have:
    • Distinguished reputation 
    • Internationally recognized level of performance that requires participation of an internationally recognized athlete
Athletic teams
  • An athletic team as a unit has achieved international recognition in the sport
  • Coming to the U.S. to participate in athletic competition as a team
  • Competition in the U.S. must have:
    • Distinguished reputation 
    • Internationally recognized level of performance that requires participation of an internationally recognized athletic team
Professional athletes
  • Coming to the U.S. to be employed as an athlete by:
    • A team that is a member of an association of six or more professional sports team whose total combined revenues exceed $10 million per year. The association must govern the conduct of its members and regulate the contests and exhibitions in which its member teams regularly engage; OR
    • Any minor league team that is affiliated with such as association
Amateur athletes or coaches
  • Coming to the U.S. to perform as an athlete or coach as part of a team or franchise that is located in the US and a member of a foreign league or association
  • The foreign league or association must meet the following requirements:
    • The league or association must consist of 15 or more amateur sports teams
    • Participation in the league must make players temporarily or permanently ineligible under National Collegiate Athletic Association rules to:
      • Earn a scholarship in the sport at a U.S. college or university; or
      • Participate in the sport at a U.S. college or university
  • The league or association must be the highest level of amateur performance of that sport in the foreign country; AND
  • A significant number of the individuals who play in the league or association are drafted by a major sports league or a minor league affiliate
Theatrical ice skaters
  • Must be coming to the U.S. to participate in a specific theatrical ice skating production or tour as a professional or amateur athlete who performs individually or as part of a group

P-1A visa cost

The cost associated with obtaining a P-1A visa involves payment of the following government filing fees:

Form Filing Fee
Form I-129
P-1A visa
  • $205 per applicant

Government fees are subject to change, check the most current P-1A filing fees:

  • Form I-129 fee
  • Premium Processing fee (optional)
  • P visa fee (see “Petition based visa categories”)

P-1A visa checklist of documents 

The following documents must be submitted with a P-1A visa application (submit photocopies only):

Required evidence Acceptable documents
Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker
  • Completed and signed Form I-129 filed with USCIS
Consultation from labor organization
  • A written consultation from an appropriate labor organization
  • The consultation must describe:
    • Work or services to be performed in the U.S.
    • Applicant’s qualifications for such work
    • Letter of no objection to the approval of Form I-129 petition can be submitted too
  • A tendered contract with a major U.S. sports league or team
  • Copies of written contracts containing the terms of applicant’s employment in the U.S.
  • Nature of U.S. events or activities
  • Beginning or ending dates of the events or activities
For internationally recognized athletes or athletic teams Documentation of at least two of the following:

  • Significant participation in a prior US major leage season
  • Participation in international competition with a national team
  • Significant participation in a prior US college/university season in intercollegiate competition
  • Written statement from a major US sports league or official of the sport’s governing body detailing the foreign national’s or team’s international recognition
  • Written statement from the sports media or a recognized expert respecting international recognition
  • International ranking
  • Significant honors/awards in the sport
Form DS-160 confirmation page
Visa Application Fee
  • $205 visa fee payment
  • Visa fees are subject to change, check the latest P visa fees
If sponsoring family members Only if athletes’ spouse and/or unmarried children under 21 applying for P-4 derivative visas:

  • Marriage certificate (for spouses)
  • Birth certificate (for children)
English translation
  • If any supporting documents are in a foreign language, provide certified English translations.
  • Attach the photocopy of the original document in foreign language

How to apply for a P-1A visa

Applying for a P-1A visa involves the following steps:

Step 1. File Form I-129:

  • The U.S. employer or sponsoring organization must file a Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, with USCIS
  • The petition should include the supporting documents:
    • Proof of international recognition and achievements
    • Itinerary of the specific event or competition in which they will be participating,  including dates, locations, and other relevant details
    • Media coverage
    • Contracts or agreements with the U.S. employer or sponsor
    • Consultation from a labor organization

Step 2. USCIS Approval:

  • Once the petition is filed, USCIS will review the documentation and make a decision on whether to approve or deny the petition
  • USCIS may issue a Request for Evidence (RFE) during the review process
  • USCIS processing times vary, so it’s advisable to submit the petition well in advance of the planned event
  • If petition is approved, USCIS will issue a Form I-797, Notice of Action

Step 3. Visa Application at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate:

  • After USCIS approves the petition, the athlete can apply for a P-1A visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate in their home country
  • Applicant completes DS-160 Form online
  • Save the DS-160 confirmation page
  • Pay Visa Application Fee
  • Schedule an interview at the U.S. embassy or consulate 
  • Attend the interview with all required documents, including the Form I-129 approval notice, valid passport, DS-160 confirmation receipt, and other supporting documents.
  • Wait for Visa Issuance: After a successful visa interview, wait for the visa to be issued. The visa will be stamped in the passport

Step 4. Travel to the U.S.:

  • Enter the U.S. before the P-1A visa expiration date

P-1A visa benefits

The P-1A visa offer the following benefits:

  • Multiple Entries:
      • Athletes with a P-1A visa can enter the U.S. multiple times for the duration of the visa’s validity. This is particularly beneficial if the athlete is participating in multiple events
  • Support Personnel Eligibility:
      • Support personnel, such as coaches and trainers, who are essential to the athlete’s performance, may also be eligible for P-1S visas
  • Derivative Visas for Family:
      • Dependents (spouse and unmarried children under 21 years old) of P-1A visa holders may be eligible for P-4 visas, allowing them to accompany the athlete to the U.S. However, they are not authorized to work.
  • Length of Stay:
      • Individual athletes can obtain a P-1A visa that is valid for 5 years
  • No Cap on Visa Numbers:
    • Unlike some other visa categories (such as H-1B), there is no numerical cap on the issuance of P-1A visas, allowing eligible athletes to obtain the visa without being subject to annual quotas

How long does a P-1A visa last?

Individual athlete P-1A visas can be granted for up to five years.

Athletic team P-1A visas can be granted for up to one year.

Family of P-1A visa holders

The family members of P-1A visa holders (athlete’s spouse and unmarried children under 21), may be eligible for derivative P-4 visas:

  • P-4 Visa Eligibility:
      • The P-4 visa is designated for the immediate family members of P-1A visa holders:
        • Spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21
  • No Work Authorization:
      • Holders of P-4 visas are not authorized to work in the U.S.
  • Dependent Status:
      • Family members on P-4 visas are considered dependents of the P-1A visa holder
      • They are dependent on the principal P-1A visa holder maintaining their valid status
  • Duration of Stay:
    • The P-4 visa is generally granted for the same duration as the P-1A visa holder’s authorized stay
    • Family members are expected to depart the U.S. when the P-1A visa holder departs or at the end of the authorized period of stay

P-1A visa processing time

It can take about 3-4 months to obtain a P-1A visa:

  • Form I-129 processing time – 1.5 months – 2 months
  • Scheduling interview at the U.S. Embassy – 1 calendar day to 15 calendar days
  • Visa issuance – 7 days

To check the most current processing times for P-1A visa applications:

  • Visit USCIS Processing Times, choose Form I-129 and select your service center (service center is printed in the lower left corner of the Form I-129 receipt notice)
  • Visit Visa Appointment Wait Times page (enter the US Embassy/Consulate location, check the “Interview Required Petition-Based Temporary Workers (H, L, O, P, Q)” timeline)

Keep in mind that processing times are general estimates, and individual cases may take less or more time to complete.

Related Links:

P Visa for Athletes, Artists and Entertainers

Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker