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athletes, p-1 visas, and the nba (by josh wildes)

When the NBA Summer League wraps up, fans are always looking forward to the next season. After exciting, deep draft classes, many teams look more promising than ever. Interestingly enough, many of these teams constantly select international players from all over the world. Every year, more and more athletes who are not from America, including the 2014 first overall pick and Canadian citizen, Andrew Wiggins, are chosen to play the in NBA. They come from various places including Croatia, Greece, Australia, Cameroon, Serbia, Brazil, Switzerland, and France, etc. In fact, during Wiggins’ first season, there were 101 foreign players in the NBA. While their talent is unparalleled and they are getting ready for the next chapter of their lives, all of these players start their careers facing the same issue: getting a U.S. visa. 

There are a few different types of visas that NBA players and other athletes may be able to obtain. One of the main ones is the ‘P’ visa, which is a type of temporary employment visa often issued to international artists, athletes, entertainers, and their spouses and children. While it seems simple at its core, there are various types of ‘P’ visas that these athletes and their teams should consider. Here is a listing of the ‘P’ visa classifications that are issued by the United States Government:

P-1, Athletes and Entertainers     

These visas are issued to  athletes performing as individuals or teams,and/or  artists performing as part of an internationally recognized entertainment group. The team/group must be based abroad, and at least 75% of its members must have been with the group for one year or more. A petition must be filed with the U.S. Immigration Service, by a U.S. agent, presenter or employer, attaching a contract and itinerary stating where and when the group will compete or perform Like the O-1 visa (see next blog post), the P visa requires consultation with appropriate labor unions, or peer groups in occupations where there is no union. The maximum period of initial admission for an athlete is five years, for a team it is one year, and for an entertainment group, up to one year, if supported by contracts and itinerary.

P-2, Athletes and Entertainers (Reciprocal Exchange) 

Athletes and entertainers entering the United States to perform under reciprocal exchange programs are issued P-2 visas. This category is not petition based, and generally does not require labor consultation because the reciprocal exchange is customarily between two unions, one operating in the U.S. and one abroad.    

P-3, Athletes and Entertainers (Culturally Unique)     

Athletes and entertainers entering to perform in a culturally unique program are issued P-3 visas. The individual or group must show some evidence of distinction in the art form or sport (such as flamenco, Kabuki, or capoeira). Like the P-1, a majority of the group must have worked together for at least a year. A petition must be filed with the immigration service by a U.S. agent, presenter or employer, attaching a contract and itinerary stating where and when the group will compete or perform, and a labor advisory opinion from a union or peer group is required. The maximum period of initial admission is three years, if supported by proper contracts and itinerary, and P-3 status may be extended for a maximum stay of five years.

With offices in New York, New Jersey, Florida and California, Wildes & Weinberg, P.C., perhaps the United States’ premier law firm concentrating in the immigration and nationality field, grew out of the practice of Leon Wildes, Esq., a distinguished immigration practitioner in New York City. Its original clientele consisted of individuals, rather than corporations, who had been placed in deportation or exclusion proceedings, lost their American citizenship, or were otherwise in jeopardy. Founded in 1960, the practice expanded steadily as word of its outstanding achievements in individual cases spread in the international community, attracting clients from a broad range of nations.

Wildes & Weinberg prides itself on its international athletic clients, including Pelé, Greg Norman, Eric Cantona, Virginia Wade and more, including foreign NBA players. We are always excited for international stars to come play sports here in America. But, before they storm the courts and our media, we hope they choose the right Visa!

For more information on this or any other type of immigrant visa/issue, please contact Managing Partner Michael Wildes at

by Josh Wildes, Director of Communications

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