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the rise of esports and immigration law

Coupled with the rise of technology and gaming has been an increase in the internationalization of eSports, a form of competition involving video games. In fact, the Staples Center in Los Angeles has been known to sell out for the League of Legends World Championship in less than an hour. The future of eSports is visibly promising and every year, there is a greater influx of eSports athletes into the United States. What is often overlooked, however, is the need for these athletes, (yes eSports players are true athletes), to obtain the appropriate visa. The proper paperwork is crucial for any foreign athlete to be able to enter the United States to pursue his career, even if it’s just for one game or a small tournament. Even more complicated, however, is understanding the immigration laws and determining which visa is the right one. Luckily, these athletes have quite a few options, including the popular P visa and O visa.

Perhaps the most viable option is the P-1A visa, which is available for internationally recognized professional athletes. This visa allows eligible foreign athletes to enter the United States to take part in recognized events or competitions as an individual or as part of a team. If coming as an individual, the athlete must prove that he/she has attained a high level of achievement, “evidenced by a degree of skill and recognition substantially above that ordinarily encountered so that the achievement is renowned, leading or well known in more than one country.” The athlete can get the P-1A for the time of event, not exceeding five years. If coming as part of a team, the team must be internationally recognized in their specific sport and each member can get the P-1A for the time of the event, not exceeding one year.

Another possibility would be the O-1 visa, which is generally for those with “extraordinary ability” in science, education, business, entertainment, and/or athletics. The O-1 visa is granted for an initial period of up to three years and can be extended in increments of one year if the foreigner maintains status as extraordinary in his/her field. This visa also allows for dual intent to remain in the United States beyond the permitted stay. To be eligible, the foreigner “must demonstrate extraordinary ability by sustained national or international acclaim.” This requires proving that the foreigner is part of a small percentage that is at the top of a certain field.

There are many other options as well for eSports players and it’s important that they consult a proper lawyer before filing any applications. 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 many eSports athletes. We are always excited for international stars to come play sports here in America. But, before they enter the arena, we hope they choose the right visa! 

For more information on this or any other type of immigrant visa/issue, please contact

By Josh Wildes, Director of Communications

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