P Visas for Athletes and Entertainment Groups

The P visa is a broad visa category for a variety of talented individuals such as professional athletes and individual or group performers. P visas applications must be submitted by either a U.S. employer or a sponsoring labor organization. In general, P visas are an attractive option for individuals and groups who do not meet the more stringent requirements of the O visa category. P visas also allow for “dual intent,” which gives the foreign national the legal flexibility to be present temporarily in the United States while also being permitted to explore options leading to permanent residency and, ultimately, naturalization.

P-1A: Internationally Recognized Athletes

P-1A applicants must establish that the foreign national or foreign group is coming to the United States to participate in individual event, competition or performance in which the individual or group is internationally recognized with a high level of achievement. The regulations further require that the “high level of achievement” must be evidenced by a degree of skill and recognition substantially above that ordinarily encountered. In essence, the achievement must be so high that is renowned, or that the individual or group is well known in more than one country for his or her skill. The initial period of authorized stay is limited to the time needed to complete the event. In most situations, the total aggregate stay is limited to 10 years.

P-1B: Member of Internationally Recognized Entertainment Group

For a P-1B visa, the performing group must prove international recognition and a high level of achievement in the field that is evidenced by a degree of skill and recognition substantially above that ordinarily encountered. In addition, at least 75 percent of the members must have had a substantial and sustained relationship with the group for at least one year.

P-2: Reciprocal Exchange Program Performers

An applicant for the P-2 visa must show that he is an artist entering the United States through a reciprocal exchange program recognized by the U.S. government. The applicant must also prove that he possesses skills comparable to those of the reciprocal United States artists and entertainers taking part in the program outside the United States.

P-3: Artist or Entertainer Part of Culturally Unique Program

P-3 visas are reserved for individual or group artists coming to the United States temporarily to perform, teach or coach as artists or entertainers, either individually or as part of a group, under a program that is culturally unique. The primary purpose must be the furthering of understanding or development of the individual’s or group’s art form by developing, interpreting, representing, coaching, or teaching a unique or traditional ethnic, folk, cultural, musical, theatrical, or artistic performance or presentation.

P-3 visas are commonly confused with Q (Cultural Exchange) visas. While both categories involve exchange of cultural ideas and traditions, the Q visa is only for international cultural exchange programs that have been designated as such by USCIS. In other words, the U.S. employer or organization must first obtain approval of the proposed Q visa program before the individual’s Q visa may be approved.

Derivative beneficiaries

In addition to the principal P visa holder, essential support personnel may also permitted in certain situations. For example, front office personnel, camera operators, lighting technicians, stage personnel, or individuals with critical knowledge of the services to be performed may qualify. Family members may also accompany the principal beneficiary to the United States via the P-4 visa.

Helpful Links:

P-1A Internationally Recognized Athletes

P-1B Member of Internationally Recognized Entertainment Group

P-2 Performer or Group Performing under Reciprocal Exchange Program

P-3 Artist or Entertainer Part of a Culturally Unique Program